Family and Frontier in Colonial Brazil: Santana De Parnaíba 1580-1822

By Retsö, Dag | Ibero-americana, July 1, 2005 | Go to article overview

Family and Frontier in Colonial Brazil: Santana De Parnaíba 1580-1822


Retsö, Dag, Ibero-americana


Alida C. Metcalf, Family and Frontier in Colonial Brazil: Santana de Parnaíba 1580-1822, Austin: University of Texas Press, 2nd ed, 2005.

The most interesting questions are often the simplest ones. In the case of Brazil, one such simple question concerns geographical space; how can abundant land resources so persistently co-exist with social inequality? To put the paradox simply; why are there fights over land in one of the world's largest countries, just as if land was scarce? The paradox has not vanished over time, it is not historical. Indeed, as Brazil became increasingly urbanized in the course of the 20th century the number of people claiming land has declined, potentially cooling down, it would seem, the issue of land reform and rendering it at the same time less necessary and more achievable. But on the contrary, as exposed in recent years by the struggle of the landless peasants' movement MST (Movimento dos trabalhadores rurais sem terra), it has even moved into a more intense mode than ever.

In her book Family and Frontier in Colonial Brazil: Santana de Parnaiba 1580-1822 Alida C Metcalf does not explicitly pose this sociospatial question. But for an economic historian grappling with the Brazilian puzzle, her book is an important contribution to its solution by bringing together two decisive formative elements in Brazilian society - family and frontier - into one analysis.

Metcalf is well acquainted with her area of study, the small municipality of Santana de Parnaíba, São Paulo. She is also enviously wellendowed with sources. Parnaíba and the province of São Paulo have left a relatively abundant wealth of historical records in the form of detailed censuses, property inventories and parish registers, which allows for both quantitative and qualitative approaches. Metcalf makes exquisite use of them. For example, her skilful handling of historical sources enables her to accomplish the difficult task of reconstructing slave families. The problem lies, of course, elsewhere, i.e., to which degree Parnaíba is representative or to which degree generalizations about colonial Brazil can be based on it. To the defence of the claim that they can, can be said, that the regional heterogeneity of Brazilian society has certainly been exaggerated in the past; the true contrasts are found, not necessarily between e.g., Maranhão and São Paulo, but in that social pyramid which Metcalf explores, between planters and slaves or between lawyers and their empregadas in the same geographical context. Somehow Metcalf, as a family historian with focus on Brazil, is of course obliged to dwell in the shade of the colossal figure of Gilberto Freyre - since the publication of Casagrande e senzala (1933) it is virtually impossible to speak about social relations in Brazil without using Freyre's lens, the family, as the focus for colonization and social stratification. But Metcalf also belongs to those post-Freyreian historians who rather depart from the conviction that Freyre's patriarchical family unit is less continuous and general than Freyre himself claimed. As to the frontier, Metcalfs claims to generality are more to the point. It is wellknown that the frontier is ever-present in Brazilian society; the exodus from the Northeast to the Amazon basin over the last century and a half is one example. It could be argued that São Paulo is a special case since it is not only a frontier society, but also a "border society" between the Freyreian plantation society typical of the Northeast, the family farm frontier land of the South and the wilderness of the interior. As was shown by Florestan Fernandes in his seminal work The Negro in Brazilian Society (1969), this location had peculiar consequences for ethnic relations, very much the same way that Metcalf shows how Parnaiba existed in a zone where urbanity, Portuguese colonial society and wilderness overlapped (pp 43ff). Metcalf clearly shows how this particular situation produced visible outcomes in a frontier town like Parnaiba. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Family and Frontier in Colonial Brazil: Santana De Parnaíba 1580-1822
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.