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The Confederados

Article #198 • Written by Greg Bjerg

Immediately following the American Civil War, some Confederate southerners were unwilling to live under the rule of the triumphant Union. Reconstruction had gone badly for many of these former Confederates as their pre-war lifestyle was gone and replaced with economic impoverishment. Emperor Dom Pedro II of Brazil seized upon this opportunity by offering an alternative. He sent recruiters into Alabama, Louisiana, Georgia, South Carolina and Texas in search of experienced cotton farmers for his country. Many southerners saw this as their only option for happiness; to build a community with southern values in the jungle of Brazil. They would become known as the Confederados.

Dom Pedro offered the disgruntled Southerners a package of tax breaks and grants if they would immigrate to Brazil. General Robert E. Lee asked Southerners not to accept, but about 10,000 Confederates did take the Emperor up on his offer. Eventually about sixty percent of the Confederados trickled back into the United States, but of those who stayed permanently, most became part of a Confederate-values colony northwest of Sao Paulo that was named Americana.

Americana was as much a southern city as one could have in the jungle. Exploratory parties looking for good land to settle were met by cheering crowds and bands playing "Dixie." Emperor Dom Pedro came to meet the new arrivals. The colonists were ecstatic about what they saw and one wrote back to the Mobile Daily Register:

“I have sugar cane, cotton, pumpkins, squash, five kinds of sweet potatoes, Irish potatoes, cornfield peas, snap beans, butter beans, ochre, tomatoes and fine chance at tobacco. I have a great variety of fruits on my place. I have made enough to live well on and am better pleased than other.”

Confederate Memorial in Americana
Confederate Memorial in Americana

Slavery was still legal in Brazil-- which remained the case until 1888-- but it turns out that was not a deciding factor for the Confederados settling there. Primarily they used poorly-paid native workers who were more cost-effective than slaves.

Americana was far enough south that disease-infected mosquitoes were less of a problem than they were in Brazil's northern regions, but hostile natives were another matter. Settlers occasionally disappeared due to kidnapping natives, especially doctors and dentists. Eugene Harter in "The Lost Colony of the Confederacy" reports on one dentist captured by Indians who was fortunate to have his medical bag with him:

"On demonstrating his curative powers, he soon rose to the position of “medicine god” in the tribe and lived in privileged comfort among them for three years before escaping back to civilization. It cooled his ardor for Brazil. It was believed he soon returned to his native Georgia."

The Confederados, despite the usual problems of colonization, thrived in an environment that had defeated many settlers before them. Americana became an image of the antebellum period of the American south. Many of the first Baptist churches in Brazil were started there. They built public schools and provided education for their female children, something that was rare in Brazil. They flew the Confederate flag and enjoyed the traditional southern meals of biscuits and gravy, black-eyed peas and, of course, grits.

The settlers had very European names like Stonewall and Butler. They would bake pecan pies, have debutante balls, and sing southern hymns. Only recently was the Confederate flag removed from the city’s crest. In 1906, US Secretary of State Elihu Root made a quick stop in Americana, but had little to say to the expatriates. Root later told his biographer that he left Americana weepy and had told the Confederados they'd never be welcome in the United States again.

For many years Americana remained an insulated island of Confederate values in the Brazilian jungle-- a cultural time capsule-- but over time the old Southern ways became diluted. Second-generation Confederados began intermarrying and speaking Portuguese, and the land previously used to raise cotton was gradually switched to the native sugar cane. Only a few descendants still live on the land owned by their ancestors, with most scattered throughout Brazil.

Today Americana is a city of 120,000 people with Confederados' descendants making up only about one tenth of the population. But the ties to the old South live on. Fiesta Confederada is a celebration that takes place every year in Americana. The festival has Confederate flags, Confederate uniforms, food typical of the pre-war South and dances reminiscent of scenes from "Gone With the Wind."

Article written by Greg Bjerg, published on 24 June 2006. Greg was born and raised in Iowa and graduated with a degree in Journalism from Drake University. Sadly, he passed away on 20 March 2011.

Article design by Alan Bellows. Edited by Alan Bellows.
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27 Comments
Morgan
Posted 24 June 2006 at 03:07 pm

Most interesting sentence-- "Primarily they used poorly-paid native workers who were more cost-effective than slaves."

I had read before that as an economic system slavery didn't make a whole lot of sense, with too much up front costs, but I always had a hard time envisioning that until now.

Very weird and interesting place, though.


Anthony Kendall
Posted 24 June 2006 at 06:39 pm

Morgan,
I've been thinking about that sentence for a while now too. What I've come up with is that if you allow native farm workers to have their own small plots for subsistence farming, then they would need very little money for their paid labor. So, in effect you are letting the land provide the extra payment for the poorly-paid native workers. Slaves, on the other hand, primarily depended on the "kindness" of their masters for their food and shelter, which as you mentioned are some major up-front costs. So I can see how it would be more expensive to use slave labor than paid labor.


aardvarkious
Posted 24 June 2006 at 08:26 pm

Not to mention that slaves aren't free- you have to pay for them.


Nilgan
Posted 24 June 2006 at 10:26 pm

Anthony Kendall,

You're getting close. What this is is actually an example of New Slavery vs. Old Slavery. Old slavery was typical of the black slave trade in the states. You pay a large fee for a slave on the amrket. Contrary to the common assumption, these slaves were relatively well fed and kept for. They were seen as a large investment that had to be taken care of. New slavery involves very poorly paid workers. The reason why this is more economically profitable for the confederados is that, as it was said, they dont have to pay the upfront fee. Aswell, they do not take as much care or spend money on food or shelter for the slaves, because they are so disposable. In some cases, maybe this one also, the slaves are NOT given a peice of land for subsistence, they must buy their food and other necessities from their boss which puts them further into debt. They then OWE money to their bosses and this carries on through until their death. A relative, sone or daughter then must pay the debt back or be forced to work for their parents' boss. It is an endless cycle and this is the reason why poorly paid workers are more cost-effective"


Matt Apple
Posted 25 June 2006 at 10:39 am

I think you guys are missing the point. A slave works only just enough to avoid the whip, the free man has reason to believe the the harder he works the more he will receive in return(in the long run). Slave labor has never been as productive as free labor.

But the real economic disadvantage for slave labor is that slaves have minds of their own and must be policed. The slave bosses are part of the overhead. It worked for a while in the south because the slaveowners spread the costs of policing their slaves, tracking down runaways and putting down insurrections with Slave Patrol statutes and the like. Its the same old story today, unprofitable industries getting propped up with subsidies.


Ogawaogawa
Posted 25 June 2006 at 11:01 am

I believe this would make a great Werner Herzog film.


cornerpocket
Posted 25 June 2006 at 12:07 pm

Is someone implying that slavery continues to this day, only under a different name? Like maybe, "exploitation?" And that might infer, ipso facto, that society has only come a long way if you can disregard poverty and subjugation as somehow 'self-imposed' and not an integral part of Capitalism.


Drakvil
Posted 25 June 2006 at 03:17 pm

For comparison: paid workers do their work and go home. They provide their own food and shelter, and when they are sick they don't (as often) show up in the fields anyway and do poor quality work. When one is missing (sick, injured, etc.) , there are other that will take their place. All the landowner must do is supply the tools, seeds, water and land. If the landowner mistreats them, many will stop showing up and the landowner loses money, so the incentive to mistreat anyone is much lower (does sadism need an incentive?)

With slaves, the landowner has to pay to buy the slaves, buy the food, provide lodging, clothing, care for them when they are sick, and hire guards to watch over them. The overhead is much higher and the incentive for the workers to do good work is based on how many people the landowner can pay to whip them... and if all the slaves work at the same slower speed, it becomes whip all or none.

With robots, you have to pay for the robots, spare parts, electricty and storage bays.

I also think that the confederado's dropping slavery was a survival tactic... if the natives see you whipping slaves and treating them poorly, they will see you as the bad guy and do what they can to thin your numbers and free the slaves.

As for slavery through indentured servitude or debt infliction, that exists solely through the tolerance of the government in place there.


GMan
Posted 26 June 2006 at 12:11 am

not as interesting as some other articles in my opinion...


alias
Posted 26 June 2006 at 02:58 am

Relating to the issue of the poorly paid natives being used instead of slaves, I have seen this happening closer to my own home, in India. A few weeks back I went with my parents up north of Bombay, where I live, to a small orchard farming territory because my dad wanted to look at some land. We walked around some big orchards, and all of them use this form of labour. The labourers are paid literally nothing, something like 10 rupees per bag of fruit they collect, and in a 10 hour working day, they manage to pick 5-6 bags, which translates to about 50 rupees a day, which is 1 US Dollar. The only other perk is that every month they get to take home 15 bags of fruit for themselves, most of them sell them to make some more money. These amounts are small, but this is how natives and tribals live. They are unwilling to come into civilisation, they are unwilling to accept modern amenities, even electricity and piped water. They choose to live simple lives, the way they have always lived, and so they don't ask for much money. Of course the employers will take advantage of this.


Philber
Posted 26 June 2006 at 03:45 am

Just a semantic point on an excellent article - I think it's Festa Confederada, not Fiesta


Dark Lord Ph8
Posted 26 June 2006 at 09:19 am

It might just be my upbrining as half hispanic/half Euro-mut in a predomintly white suburbs of the Northern US, but the idea of indetured servitude doesn't seem like such a bad deal. For example, a person beeing prosicuted who is unable to pay for the ride to the new world, barters they're way onto a ship pledging to work for a certain amount of time to pay for the trip. When they get to the new world, they already have food clothing and lodging for the first couple of years until they work off they're "debt". The only real problem I see is when that person is released from the contract, they don't have much to build off of money wise. However, most likely, they have been running errends and the sort to which the towns people will have met them and are able to employ them. Maybe I'm wrong. Please feel free to correct my point of view on this matter.

The Dark Lord Himself,

Darl Lord Ph8


dday
Posted 26 June 2006 at 10:10 am

Dark Lord Ph8 said: "the idea of indetured servitude doesn't seem like such a bad deal. For example, a person beeing prosicuted who is unable to pay for the ride to the new world, barters they're way onto a ship pledging to work for a certain amount of time to pay for the trip. When they get to the new world, they already have food clothing and lodging for the first couple of years until they work off they're "debt". The only real problem I see is when that person is released from the contract, they don't have much to build off of money wise. However, most likely, they have been running errends and the sort to which the towns people will have met them and are able to employ them. Maybe I'm wrong. Please feel free to correct my point of view on this matter.

The Dark Lord Himself,

Darl Lord Ph8"

Woa.... Or What!? Are the spelling/grammitcal errors meant to make up laugh?
Servitude whether it be by decree (slaves) or ipso facto (current capitalistic proletariate) is wrong (imho). Way wrong. Any methodology that creates a class based society where one class feeds off of the other, thereby not allowing the 'slave' party to be able to become normal is unjust. ...........Yes, I realize I have just called 98% of the current world unjust - so shoot me.................
Then again.... "It is a basic delision that men may be governed and yet be free." Mencken


anakin876
Posted 26 June 2006 at 10:28 am

Actually - the nearby cities of Piracicaba and Santa Barbara D'Oeste share a similar accent with Americana. When I was there learning Portuguese a woman in Piracicaba told me after one month that I no longer had an american accent. I still did have an accent - I just had the same one as her. The influence of the Confederados still lingers on.


Rex from Ars
Posted 26 June 2006 at 01:15 pm

Yes, it *is* "Festa Confederada", not "Fiesta Confederada".

Also worth mentioning is that Jimmy and Rosalyn Carter visited the Campo Cemetery in Americana in 1972 while Jimmy was governor of Georgia. One of Rosalyn's great-uncles is buried there, and was an original Confederado.


xircso
Posted 26 June 2006 at 03:50 pm

dday said: "Woa…. Or What!? Are the spelling/grammitcal errors meant to make up laugh?

I'm assuming that your spelling errors were for humor?

I agree that the form that dark lord mentioned is fairly just, not the best method but a good alternative. However, that is not what this system is (I believe). This system is one where the workers are native, so they do not owe they're new bosses anything to begin with. The debt only accrues over time as they work, don't make enough money and have to buy from the company store...which puts them further in debt. So yes, it is a vicious cycle as someone mentioned above I believe.
This is the method that Laverna (sp?) uses on the workers in Alaska on Malcolm in the Middle, if anyone remembers those episodes. They get paid well, but lose almost all of it, plus some, in buyin the necessities to survive.

Anyway, it was a good article, I had no idea that the Confederate way of life had outlived the Confederacy in other countries. Pretty good idea on Brazil's part too, if you ask me (which I know you all did).


noway
Posted 27 June 2006 at 11:14 am

cornerpocket said: "Is someone implying that slavery continues to this day, only under a different name? Like maybe, "exploitation?" And that might infer, ipso facto, that society has only come a long way if you can disregard poverty and subjugation as somehow 'self-imposed' and not an integral part of Capitalism."

No. Shut up.


Dark Lord Ph8
Posted 27 June 2006 at 11:20 am

Please bare with me. Enlgish is my second language, being from Hell and all.

-The Dark Lord Himself


klone
Posted 28 June 2006 at 07:00 pm

Welcome to The Twilight Zone... Americana


Melon Head
Posted 28 June 2006 at 08:00 pm

alias said: "Relating to the issue of the poorly paid natives being used instead of slaves, I have seen this happening closer to my own home, in India. A few weeks back I went with my parents up north of Bombay, where I live, to a small orchard farming territory because my dad wanted to look at some land. We walked around some big orchards, and all of them use this form of labour. The labourers are paid literally nothing, something like 10 rupees per bag of fruit they collect, and in a 10 hour working day, they manage to pick 5-6 bags, which translates to about 50 rupees a day, which is 1 US Dollar. The only other perk is that every month they get to take home 15 bags of fruit for themselves, most of them sell them to make some more money. These amounts are small, but this is how natives and tribals live. They are unwilling to come into civilisation, they are unwilling to accept modern amenities, even electricity and piped water. They choose to live simple lives, the way they have always lived, and so they don't ask for much money. Of course the employers will take advantage of this."

Yes! THIS is the new slavery. The "Multinational style" slave industry that resulted from globalization


Salzano
Posted 13 March 2007 at 12:44 pm

dday said: "Woa…. Or What!? Are the spelling/grammitcal errors meant to make up laugh?

Servitude whether it be by decree (slaves) or ipso facto (current capitalistic proletariate) is wrong (imho). Way wrong. Any methodology that creates a class based society where one class feeds off of the other, thereby not allowing the 'slave' party to be able to become normal is unjust. ………..Yes, I realize I have just called 98% of the current world unjust - so shoot me……………..

Then again…. "It is a basic delision that men may be governed and yet be free." Mencken"

Are you a communist?

I suppose the 2% of the world that is not unjust (in your Marxist mind) would be Cuba and China.

Eviscerate the proletariat!


Ken E
Posted 09 April 2007 at 12:19 am

Here is one of those coincidences. Just a few hours ago I heard of an American businessman who has recently arrived in Australia on a crusade to stop slavery. He gave an example of a rice mill in India where four generations of women had worked for no pay. This was to pay off a debt incurred by the husband of the great-grandmother umpteen years ago. The debt was about the equivalent of $10 US in todays values. The "employer" says that the debt has not been paid off because of the value of the meals and housing provided to the the women. This is almost common in India and usually involves the "untouchable" caste as the victims. He also recounted the tale of an unpaid Tibetian "housemaid" and sex slave who was taken from North India to the USA by a church pastor. When the pastor went away after 4 years, she managed to phone her family in India to tell them of her experience. The family were horrified, especially as the pastor had just been there and had just taken the first woman's 15 and 14 year old sisters back to the USA with him. The woman was 19 years old at the time she made the phone call.

The businessman estimate that there are up to 100,000 slaves in the USA right now, most of them women, nearly all of those forced to work as prostitutes or as domestic servants and concubines and most of them aware that they will be treated as illegal immigrants if they go to the police. I would guess that there are at least several hundred in Australia in the same position.

As for the import of Americans such things were common in South America in the 19th century and 110 years ago radical Australian socialists founded a "New Australia" colony in Paraguay. More recently I hear of Amish people from the USA starting anew in Paraguay.


Michael Pollock
Posted 06 May 2007 at 12:57 am

Eventually most people will consider capitalism as unjust as most people now consider slavery and feudalism to have been, and they'll wonder why more people now did not see how bad it really was.

I think it's doubtful that China and Cuba are non-capitalist, they just aren't US style capitalists.


spencer
Posted 20 July 2007 at 07:46 am

anakin876 said: "Actually - the nearby cities of Piracicaba and Santa Barbara D'Oeste share a similar accent with Americana. When I was there learning Portuguese a woman in Piracicaba told me after one month that I no longer had an american accent. I still did have an accent - I just had the same one as her. The influence of the Confederados still lingers on."

I am an American who lived in Americana for 6 months and while I was their, I was invited to teach English and be a guest speaker at a couple of English schools. Wierd how some of those peoples grand parents had been fluent in English and now they are all trying to learn it again. FYI, being able to speak English in Brazil is like a status symbol. I talked to hundreds of Brazilians while I was their and I never met anybody that told me that they were a descendent of the "Americanos," although I heard about the Americanos alot. It's one of the richest cities in Brazil and the poeple their are awesome.

The people from Americana sound like normal brazilians but the people from Piracicaba talk weird. The first time I heard someone from Piracicaba speak I thought to myself "I'm pretty sure that guy is Brazilian, but he sure did sound like an American speaking Portuguese with a bad accent and a southern drawl." Gees, what I wouldn't do for some Calda de Cana and Coracao de Frango right now (translation - Sugar Cane juice and Chicken hearts). P.S. If you haven't been to Brazil, put it on your to do list. That place is awesome!!


Edson
Posted 23 March 2008 at 04:22 pm

The cemetary of the American Confederates if locates in the agricultural area of Santa Bárbara d' Oeste and not as it was said in the city of Americana


Arlean Kelley
Posted 07 April 2014 at 12:11 am

This is so interesting. Spencer, (1) how long did it take you to learn Portuguese. As a Florida-born and raised American very interested in the Confederados and have been for years. (2) Do you know what time of year the convention is held? And question (3), how safe is the area for a retirement age woman alone?

I could be tempted to go there myself and stay for six months.

anakin876 said: "Actually - the nearby cities of Piracicaba and Santa Barbara D'Oeste share a similar accent with Americana. When I was there learning Portuguese a woman in Piracicaba told me after one month that I no longer had an american accent. I still did have an accent - I just had the same one as her. The influence of the Confederados still lingers on."

I am an American who lived in Americana for 6 months and while I was their, I was invited to teach English and be a guest speaker at a couple of English schools. Wierd how some of those peoples grand parents had been fluent in English and now they are all trying to learn it again. FYI, being able to speak English in Brazil is like a status symbol. I talked to hundreds of Brazilians while I was their and I never met anybody that told me that they were a descendent of the "Americanos," although I heard about the Americanos alot. It's one of the richest cities in Brazil and the poeple their are awesome.
The people from Americana sound like normal brazilians but the people from Piracicaba talk weird. The first time I heard someone from Piracicaba speak I thought to myself "I'm pretty sure that guy is Brazilian, but he sure did sound like an American speaking Portuguese with a bad accent and a southern drawl." Gees, what I wouldn't do for some Calda de Cana and Coracao de Frango right now (translation - Sugar Cane juice and Chicken hearts). P.S. If you haven't been to Brazil, put it on your to do list. That place is awesome!!


Bill Wilson
Posted 27 May 2014 at 09:10 pm

Dark Lord Ph8 said: "It might just be my upbrining as half hispanic/half Euro-mut in a predomintly white suburbs of the Northern US, but the idea of indetured servitude doesn't seem like such a bad deal. For example, a person beeing prosicuted who is unable to pay for the ride to the new world, barters they're way onto a ship pledging to work for a certain amount of time to pay for the trip. When they get to the new world, they already have food clothing and lodging for the first couple of years until they work off they're "debt". The only real problem I see is when that person is released from the contract, they don't have much to build off of money wise. However, most likely, they have been running errends and the sort to which the towns people will have met them and are able to employ them. Maybe I'm wrong. Please feel free to correct my point of view on this matter.

The Dark Lord Himself,
Darl Lord Ph8"

Indentured servants often lived worst than slaves because their sponsors knew they'll be gone after 7 years so wanted to get the most out of their labors at the least cost. It was common back then for teens to become indentured apprentices to learn a trade from a local craftsman. Many were ill-treated so ran away after a few years to strike out on their own. Benjamin Franklin did that after getting fed up with the printer he worked for. The early plantation owners had a constant problem with keeping field hands. The indentured workers who were brought over from Europe soon fled to the towns and the natives didn't like the work for low pay. Few folks owned slaves then with most as house servants or trained to be skilled craftsmen so they lived comfortable lives. Nobody considered using Africans as slave labor in the fields until a slave ship bound for a Craribbean island got blown off course in a storm and washed ashore on a southern coast. The Africans were housed in a nearby town and properly looked after while they waited for the ship's owner to retrieve the cargo. He never did and the locals didn't know what to do with them, so auctioned off the lot to recoup the expense of their room and board. The plantation owners who bought them found that they were good workers plus didn't try to run away so others began importing African slaves for field labor.

Slaves were a considerable investment so most slave owners only had a handful or two at most, usually a couple with their children. Quite often they lived just as well or bad as their owners depending on how their crops turned out. They fared better after the Civil War because most had learned to read, write and cipher along with learning other skills required to run a farm.


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