Palmares Article

Palmares Article - THE AFRICAN IN LATIN AMERICA Edited With...

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Unformatted text preview: THE AFRICAN IN LATIN AMERICA Edited With an Introduction by Ann M. Pescatello «u, r A I CD [In A VK'InDE KI..." V.._L 17 R. K. KENT PALMARES The quilombo, a pre—nineteenth-century phenom- enon, constituted the closest re—creation of African society in the new environment of Latin America. 'Ten major quilombos existed in colonial Brazil, but seven were destroyed within two years of their for— mation.1 Perhaps the most famous quilornbo in all Latin America was Palmares, in Brazil’s Pernam— buco—Alagoas area. R. K. Kent, Professor of African History at the University of California, Berkeley, has applied historicolinguistic evidence to the study of this African “state” within a state. He demon— strates that in Palmares were reflected many of the complexities of African culture, that it was an “African political system which came to govern a plural society and thus give continuity to what could have been at best a group of scattered hide- outs.”2 ' From R. K. Kent, “Palmares: An African State in Brazil,” Journal of African History, 6 (1965), 161—175 passim. Reprinted by per- mission of the Cambridge University Press. 1 All sources concerning Palmares and other quilombosare noted in Kent’s original article. 2 Kent, "Palmares: An African State in Brazil,” 1). 169. Rebels and Runaways 199' The foundation of Palmares appears to have taken place in 1605/06, possibly earlier, but certainly not later. As [a] report of 1612 indicates, the first Portuguese expedi- tion against Palmares attained little by way of military victory. Nothing else, however, is heard of Palmares until the mid-16305. . . . Increasing palmarista militancy after 1630 can safely be associated with slaves who took ad- vantage of the Dutch presence to escape and who eventu- ally found their way into Palmares. It is also certain that Palmares antedates the Dutch in Brazil by at least a quarter of a century. Given an earlier origin, and the absence of quilombo from the contemporary vocabulary, it is even less probable that Iagas were the founders of P-almares. . . ; ‘Negroes from Guiné’ were mentioned long before 1597 in connexion with attempted rebellion. . . . But the ‘Guiné’ of early Portuguese sources is not a fruitful geographical expression. It stood for nearly any-thing between a limited section of West Africa and the entire continent. '. . . With ' Loanda as the undisputed slave funnel from the 15805 until well into the seventeenth century, it is quite unlikely that more than a handful of palmaristas originated outside the Angola~Congo perimeter. Crioulos—in Pernambuco. of 1605—could not have been numerous either. All of this leads to the only plausible hypothesis about the founders of Palmares. They must have been Bantu—speaking and could not have belonged exclusively to any sub-group. Palmares was a reaction to a slave-holding society entirely out of step with forms of bondage familiar to Africa. As such, it had to cut across ethnic lines and draw upon all those who managed to escape from various plantations and at different times. The Palmares which emerged out of this amalgam may he glimpsed in a little more detail during the second half of the seventeenth century. . . . Dutch activities concerning Pallmares, from 1640 until . . . 1645, begin with a reconnaissance mission by Bartholomeus Lintz, . . . Lintz discovered that Palmar-es 200 THE AFRICAN IN LATIN AMERICA was not a single enclave, but a combination of many kleine and two groote units. The smaller ones were clus- tered on the left bank of the Gurungumba, six leagues from its confluence with the larger Paraiba and twenty leagues from Alagoas. They contained ‘about 6,000 Ne~ groes living in numerous huts’. The two large palamars Were deeper inland, thirty leagues from Santo Amaro, in the mountain region of Barriga, and ‘harboured some 5,000 Negroes’. . . . A second Dutch expedition left Selgado for Palmares on 26 February 1645. . . . It was headed by Iiirgens Reijmbach, . . . His task was to destroy the two groote I Palmares. On 18 March Reijmbach reached the first and found that it had been abandoned months earlier. . . . Three days later, his men located the second one. . . . This Palmares, . . . is equally half a mile long, its street six feet wide and running along a large swamp, tall trees along- side. . . . There are 220 cases, amid them a church, four smithies and a huge casa de conselho; all kinds of artifacts are to be seen. . . . (The) king rules . . . with iron justice, without permitting any feticeiros among the inhabitants; when some Negroes attempt to flee, he sends crioulos after them and once re- taken their death is swift and of the kind to instill fear, especially among the Angolan Negroes; the king also has another casa, some two miles away, with its own rich fields. . . . We asked the Negroes how many of them live (here) and were told some 500, and from what We saw around us as well we presumed that there were 1,500 inhabitants all told. . . . This is the Palmares grandes of which so much is heard in Brazil, with itswell—kept lands, all kinds of cereals, beautifully irrigated with streamlets.1 lEdison Carneiro, O Quilombo dos Paimares, 2d ed. (n.p., 1958), pp. 255—258. Rebels and Runaways . 201 .I . . An undestroyed Palmares . . . remained free of further interference by Pernambucan authorities until 1672. The ensuing two decades can best be described as a period of sustained war which ended in the complete destruction of Palmares in 1694. . . . . . . Of the eight expeditions betWeen 1672 and 1680, two did hurt Palmares. . . . The Palmares of 1677 en— compassed over sixty leagues: In the northeast, mocambo of Zambi, located 16 leagues from Porto Calvo; north of it, at 5 leagues’ distance, mocambo of Arotirene; along it two others called Tabocas; northeast of these, at 14 leagues, the one of Dombabanga; 8 leagues north another, called Subupuira; another 6 leagues north, the royal enclave of Macoco; west of it, at 5 leagues, the mocambo of Osenga; at 9 leagues from our Serin- haem, northwest, the enclave of Amara,- at 25 leagues from Alagoas, northWest, the palamar of Andalaquituche, brother of Zambi; and between all these, which are the largest and most fortified, there are others of lesser importance and with less people in them.2 There was no doubt . . . that Palmares maintained its ‘real strength’ by providing ‘food as well as security’ for the inhabitants—largely tillers of land who planted ‘every kind of vegetables’ and knew how to store them against ‘wartime and winter’. All the inhabitants of Palmares considered themselves: subjects of a king who is called .Ganga-Zumba, which means Great Lord, and he is recognized as such both by those born in Palmares and by those who join them from outside; he has a palatial resi- dence, cases for members of his family, and is as- '2 Edison Carneiro, .“Relacfio das Guerras,” Revista do Institute HISIONCO e Geographico Brasileiro, 22 (1959), 303—329. 202 THE AFRICAN IN LATIN AMERICA sisted by guards and officials who have, by custom, casas which approach those of royalty. He is treated with all respect due a Monarch and all the honours due a Lord. Those who are in his presence kneel on the ground and strike palm leaves with their hands as sign of appreciation of His excellence. They address him as Majesty and obey him With reverence. He lives in the royal enclave, called Macoco, a name which was begotten from the death of an animal on the site. This is the capital of .Palmares; it is fortified with parapets full of cal- trops, a big danger even when detected. The enclave itself consists of some 1,500 cases. There are keepers of law (and) their office is duplicated elsewhere. And although these barbarians have all but for~ gotten their subjugation, they have not completely lost allegiance to the Church. There is a capela, to which they flock whenever time allows, and imagerts to which they direct their worship. . . . One of .the most crafty, whom they venerate as paroco, baptizes and marries them. Baptismals are, however, not identical with the form determined by the Church and the marriage is singularly close to laWS of nature. . . . The king has three (women), a mulnm and two crioulas. The first has given him many sons, the other two none. All the foregoing applies to the cidade principal of Palmares and it is the king who rules it directly; other cidades are in the charge of potentates and major chiefs who govern in his name. The second cidade in importance is called Subupmra and is ruled by king’s brother (Gana) Zona. . . . It has 800 cams and occupies a site one square league in size, right along the river Cachingi. It is here that Negroes are trained to light our assaults (and weapons are forged there) .3 Nearly three decades of peace had a number of important results in the internal evolution of Palmares. Rebels and Runaways 203 Instead of the two major palmars of 1645, there were now ten. There was a very substantial element in the Macoco of those native to Palmares, people unfamiliar with engenho slavery. Afro—Brazilians continued to enjoy preferential status, but the distinction between crioulos and Angolas does not appear to have been as sharp as it was in 1645. There was a greater degree of religious acculturation. The reference to a population composed mainly of those born in Palmares and those who joined from outside suggests that slaves had become less numer— ous than free commoners. . . . [T]he only slaves in Palmares were those captured in razzias. But they 'had the option of going out on raids to secure freedom by returning with a substitute. {T]he main ‘business’ of palmaristas ‘is to rob the Portugueses of their slaves, who remain in slavery among them, until they have redeemed themselves by stealing another; but such slaves as run over to them, are as free as the rest.’ The almost equally long years of peace and war be- tween 1645—94 point to Palmares as a fluctuating ‘peril’.' While not necessarily unfair to the merits of a particular event, the Portuguese took it for an article of faith that Palmares was an aggressor state. No written document originating within Palmares has come to light. It probably does not exist. . . . Pernambucan authorities did not view Palmares from the perspective of the moradores who were in cont-act with it. They were too far removed from the general area of Palmares. . . . The governors did, however, resPOnd to morador pressure. . . . Among the complaints most frequently heard were loss of field hands and domestic | servants, ioss'of settler lives, kidnapping and rape of white women. Two of the common grievances do not stand up too well. Women were a rarity in Palmares and were actively sought during razzias. But female relatives of the matador did not constitute the main target, and \ those occasionally taken were returned unmolested for i e 204 THE AFRICAN IN LATIN AMERICA ransom. . . . [C] lose examination of documents . . . failed to reveal a single substantiated case of a morador killed in palmarista raids. Settler lives appear to have been lost in the numerous and forever unrecorded ‘little’ entradns into Palmares. They were carried out by small private armies of plantation owners who sought to recapture lost hands or to acquire new Ones without paying for them. Some of the moradares had secret commercial compacts with Palmares, usually exchanging firearms for gold and silver taken in the razzias. . . . Loss of plantation slaves, through raids as well as es- cape, emerges as the one solid reason behind the morador— palmarista conflict. The price of slaves is known to have increased considerably by the late 1660s. The very growth of Palmares Served to increase its fame among the planta- tion slaves, ‘More and more Negroes from Angola’ . . . have now for some years fled on their own from the . mills and plantations of this Captaincy.’ But this growth was not one-sided. . . . ' The native-newcomer ratio was not identical in every mocambo of Palmares. The Macoco, at forty—five leagues from Porto ‘Calvo, must have had a far greater number of the native-born than did the mocambos of Zumbi, at sixteen leagues from Porto Calvo, and Amaro, at nine leagues from Serinhaem. Socio-cultural differences, more- over, between crioulos and recent arrivals from Africa were not sufliciently great to challenge the unity of Palmares, which stood against the Portuguese economic and political order. The diplomacy of Ganga-Zumba, an elected ruler, might have worked had the promise to return thOse who found refuge in Palmares been observed. It might have worked if Palmares had been contiguous to other similar states facing an intrusive minority. Again, it might have worked if Palmares had been a homogeneous society with hereditary rulers. None of these conditions were present. In its time and place, Palmares had only two choices. It could continue to hold its ground as an Rebels and Runaways 205 independent state or suffer complete extinction. Zambi’s palace revolt finally brought the unyielding palmarista and morador elements to full agreement. . . . The story of Palmares’ final destruction has been told in great detail. . . . The Paulistas had to fight for two years to reduce Palmares to a single fortified site. After twenty days of siege by the Paulistas, the state of Pernam» buco had to provide an additional 3,000 men to keep it going for another twenty—two days. The breakthrough occurred during the night of 5—6 February 1694. Some 200 pulmaristas fell or hurled themselves—the point has been long debatede—‘from a rock so high that they were broken to pieces’. Hand—to—hand combat took another 200 palmaristu liVes and Dyer 500 ‘of both sexes and all ages’ were captured and sold outside Pernambuco. Zambi, taken alive and wounded, was decapitated on 20 November 1695. The head was exhibited in public ‘to kill the legend of his immortality’. . . . in spite of hundreds of mocumbos which tried to come together, Palmares was never duplicated on Bra— zilian soil. This is (ample testimony of its impact on the Portuguese settler-and official. They organized special units, under capitdes—do—mato or bush-captains, to hunt for mocambos and nip them in the bud. And they sought to prevent, at ports of entry, an over-concentration of African slaves from the same ethnic group or ship. This policy was abandoned in the wake of the Napoleonic wars, and the immediate repercussion came by way of the nine Bahian revolts after 1807. The Well-established thesis that uninhibited miscegenation and the corporate nature of the Portuguese society in Brazil produced a successful example of social engineering must also take into account the historical role of Palmares. Palm=ares was a centralized kingdom with an elected ruler. Ganga-Zumba delegated territorial power and ap- pointed to office. The most important ones went to his relatives. His nephew, Zambi, was the war chief. Ganga— 206 THE AFRICAN IN LATIN AMERICA Zona, the king’s brother, was in charge of the arsenal. Interregnum problems do not seem to have troubled Palmares, the history of which spans about five genera- tions of rulers. Zambi’s palace revolt did not displace the ruling family. Assuming that Loanda was the main em- barkation point for Pernambncan slaves, which is con- firmed by the linguistic evidence, the model for Palmares could have come from nowhere else but central Africa. Can it be pinpointed? Internal attitude toward slavery, prostrations before the king, site initiation with animal blood, the placing of the casa de conselho in the rrnain square’, or the use of a high rock as part of man-made fortress lead in no particular direction. The names of mocambo chiefs suggest a number of possible candidates. The most likely answer is that the political system did not derive from a particular central African model, but from several. Only. a far more detailed study of Palmares through additional sources in the archives of Angola and Torre do Tombo could refine the answer. None the less, the most apparent significance of Palmares to African history is that an African political system could be trans ferred to a different continent: that it could come to govern not only individuals from a variety of ethnic groups in Africa but also those born in Brazil, pitch black or almost white, latinized or close to Amerindian roots; and that it could endure for almost a full century against two European powers, Holland and Portugal. And this is no small tribute to the vitality of traditional African art in governing men. ...
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Palmares Article - THE AFRICAN IN LATIN AMERICA Edited With...

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