November 20 1695–1995
National Black Consciousness Day 300 Years of Resistence
Quilombos — Our forefathers bequeathed to us the oral tradition! telling one to the other the history of a people, that is, a group of black slaves who fled from the plantations in the northeastern region of Brazil and founded an independent village. That place of difficult access, called Palmares, rests in Serra da Barriga, which, today in the State of Alagoas, was at that time a capitancy of the state of Pernambuco.
The black men and women, who escaped from the terrible holocaust of slavery, were called the quilombolas. They rallied together the indigenous people and the white allies, and the free Republics that were formed by these groups were called quilombos.
Palmares — History records many qullombos; nevertheless, the Quilombo of Palmares, the greatest in extension and duration and spreading across various points of the sierra, endured practically 100 years, between 1600 and 1695. Around 1654, the Quilombo of Palmares was composed of many villages where the escaped Africans lived in freedom. Among them were:
The total population of Palmares in that period reached 20,000 habitants who represented 15% of Brazil's population. With the quilombos, the maintenance of African identity and of the costumes functioned as the cement of the communities, stimulating numerous slave escapes from the surrounding sugar plantations.Macaco — in Serra da Barriga, with 8,000 habitants
In Palmares, the Africans would sing:
Zumbi — One of the most famous leaders of Palmares was Zumibi, who was born in 1655 in one of the villages of Palmares. As a child, he was captured by soldiers and given to Father Antonio Melo from the parish of Porto Calvo. He studied Portuguese and Latin, was an altar boy, and was baptized with the name of Francisco.Rest Africans, whites won't come here,
At 15 years old, in 1670, he fled from the parish and returned to Palmares. He became a great leader by having overcome ordeals and by not "whitening" himself. Courageous, with the capacity to organize and command, he became a myth among African Brazilians — not a hidden myth, but one that revealed. Zumbi means: the force and spirit of the present .
The defeat of Palmares was only possible when the authorities of the colony appealed to the frontier explorer, Domingos Jorge Velho, who armed an expedition against Palmares in 1694. After much fighting, Zumbi was martyred and died on November 20, 1695.
Black Consciousness — For many, this date is just another day marked on the calendar. For blacks, however, it carries a whole special feeling. Today, 300 years later, November 20th is a day of denunciation, protest, and resistance.
Denounce the slave situation under which our people still live in the second largest black, i.e., African, nation in the world which is Brazil. We were enslaved during the colonial period, and, as a race we were rejected during the Republic. We are 50% of Brazil's total population and are part of the 70% who live at the margin of the system. For us, the famous and modern Social Contract [i.e., the Constitution] does not exist.
Protest against "the ideology of the racial democracy," which remains a lure that prevents black people from being conscience of their situation and, therefore, makes them alienated from the white standard,
Resistance is in the spirit of Zumbi and present in the hopes of our people!
Hey, Zumbi! your people did not forget
The Latin American Agenda 96
Text prepared by Grupo Atabaque, SP
from the journal Sem Fronteiras;
We hope to have them translated into English soon.
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Translated with the assistance of Dr. Doris Turner, Professor of Portuguese, Department of Modern and Classical Language Studies, Kent State University, Kent, Ohio.