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Article

George Reid Andrews

The son of former slaves, João Cândido was born in the cattle-ranching country of southern Brazil. In 1895, at the age of fifteen, he joined the Brazilian navy, which at that time had a very clear racial hierarchy. While the officer corps was exclusively white, an estimated 80–90 percent of the enlisted seamen were Afro-Brazilian, many of them forcibly recruited against their will. Slavery had been abolished in Brazil only a few years earlier, in 1888, and many officers continued to treat crews as though they were in fact slaves. Conditions of service were extremely harsh; and even though whipping had been outlawed in the navy in 1890, it was still widely used as a means of discipline.

Brazil joined the naval arms race of the 1890s and early 1900s expanding its fleet to become the largest naval power in Latin America Cândido himself was sent ...

Article

The Congresso Afro-Brasileiro is not a permanent organization. Instead, the assemblies consisted of a series of conferences in which Brazilians from various fields gathered to exchange knowledge and discuss the African influence on the history and culture of Brazil. White and black Brazilian clergy, artists, students, intellectuals—anyone who had expertise on Afro-Brazilian issues—discussed such diverse topics as cuisine, folklore, music, linguistics, religion, and the history of the African presence in the country.

Organized mainly by Gilberto Freyre, the first Congresso Afro-Brasileiro took place in Recife in 1934, and was sponsored independently of the government. Some of the works presented at this first meeting were “The Slave Trade and England” by Jovelino de M. Carvalho, Jr.; “Xang “ by Edison Carneiro; “Deformations of the Bodies of Runaway Negroes” by Gilberto Freyre, and “Musicality of the Black Slave in Brazil” by Nair de Andrade.

The second ...

Article

Jamaica  

John W. Pulis

The island of Jamaica is one of four geological formations (along with Cuba, Hispaniola, and Puerto Rico) that constitute what is called the Greater Antilles in a grouping of island (Lesser Antilles) and mainland societies (Belize, Guyana, Surinam, and French Guiana) known as the Caribbean. Columbus sighted the island during his third voyage to the region (1494). He was shipwrecked during his fourth and final voyage (1502) near Saint Ann's Bay, where he established a settlement called Puerto Seco and named the island Xamaica after the Arawak xamac, meaning “land of woods and waters.” The Arawak was one of several native groups residing in the Caribbean. The tribe had originated in South America and migrated up the Lesser Antilles to populate Cuba, Hispaniola, Puerto Rico, and Jamaica centuries before Columbus arrived.

Columbus claimed the island for Spain but colonization lagged behind that of Hispaniola Settlements ...

Article

Aaron Myers

Minas Gerais was a densely forested region sparsely inhabited by Tupi and Guarani Indians before the arrival of Europeans in the seventeenth century. At that time explorers and bandeirantes (slave raiders) moved inland from São Paulo in search of Indian slaves as well as precious stones and metals.

Article

Juan Otero-Garabis

As a child, Esteban Montejo escaped a sugar plantation to live as a maroon until the abolition of slavery in 1885. His memories were published by the Cuban writer Miguel Barnet in Maroon's Biography (1966), considered a pioneering work of the Latin American testimonial genre. The first part of the book is one of the most detailed descriptions of the harsh working and living conditions of slaves on the sugar plantations. Montejo's account of his survival as a solitary runaway affirms that hunger and lack of shelter were preferable to living the life of a slave.

In the last part of the book Montejo narrates his experience in the Cuban Liberation Army during the Cuban War of Independence (1895–1898). His account underscores the important role played by the Afro-Cuban officials and soldiers, particularly of Antonio Maceo This section of the book also describes the ...

Article

The black press did not become established until the early nineteenth century in Latin America and the Caribbean. This was due to the oppressive system of slavery and to extremely high illiteracy rates. Indeed, learning to read and write was a punishable offense under some slave codes. Even after abolition, blacks and mulattoes (persons of African and European descent) encountered numerous obstacles to opportunities that involved writing, such as exclusion from higher education. Many of the most celebrated early black poets and journalists were largely self-taught. Those who did publish before the nineteenth century—notably Rosa María Egipcíaca da Vera Cruz in Brazil and José Manuel Valdés in Peru—were exceptions to the rule.

Materials published by the black community during the nineteenth century included abolitionist pamphlets chapbooks newspapers and periodicals During most of the century romanticism was the predominant literary ethos and poetry was the genre of choice in newspapers ...