Confederates In Brazil

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edited from  Ron Harris (http://community.seattletimes.nwsource.com, and http://blog.eogn.com/):

UP TO 20,000 CONFEDERATES fled a crumbling South, taking slaves, cotton and watermelon seeds to new colonies in Brazil. Today, Brazilian descendants there don Civil War attire and sing old American songs to honor their family histories.

AMERICANA, Brazil – There’s not much left now to tell their story, save a small museum and scores of weather-beaten tombstones in a shaded cemetery far from the American towns and cities they once called home.

Historians say theirs was the only political exodus of American citizens in the history of the United States, though it is rarely mentioned in history books. In the latter half of the 1800s, thousands of Americans from all over the South left their homes and families in search of new lives in Mexico, Cuba and Brazil.

Many returned disillusioned soon afterward; others were wiped out or run off by locals. But in Brazil they carved out a foothold, and many prospered.

Each year, a dwindling handful of their descendants gather at a special memorial ground surrounded by seemingly endless sugar-cane fields in this city of 150,000, to pay homage to the men and women, most buried nearby, who came as pioneers.

An estimated 10,000 to 20,000 Confederates emigrated from the United States during the years right after the Civil War. The number would have been much larger, historians say, had not the still-revered Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee publicly urged Southerners to stay in the United States.

Still, the fever to leave spread, and thousands shipped out of emigration stations set up in Galveston, Texas, New Orleans, Baltimore, New York City, Mobile, Ala., and Newport News, Va.

Many chose Brazil, where the government promised cheap land in the hope that the Americans’ farming techniques would establish the country as a leader in a worldwide cotton market depleted by the Civil War.

Brazil was also attractive to many Southerners because it still practiced slavery – until the country abolished it in 1888. Many hoped to start a plantation system based on a life they had cherished in the South.

They established several colonies, one in northern Brazil 500 miles from the mouth of the Amazon River, which became the city of Santarem, another in Rio Doce near the coast, three more – Juguia, New Texas and Xiririca – in southern Brazil, and another just outside a town called Santa Barbara, 80 miles northwest of Sao Paulo.

One community, which bordered Santa Barbara, was dubbed Villa Americana by native Brazilians and officially became Americana some years later. In the interim, the Confederates introduced to Brazil baseball, peaches, pecans, various strains of rice, cotton and even a rose.

There were fortunes made in cotton and watermelon with seeds brought from Georgia. They also brought with them their rebel spirit. When a brief Brazilian civil war erupted in 1932 as the state of Sao Paulo tried to secede, many of the Confederate descendants, such as Roberto Steagall, fought on the side of the secessionists.

Today Americana is a city of 120,000 people. The ties to the old South live on. Fiesta Confederada is a celebration that takes place in the cemetery where the old Confederates are buried. The food served includes southern fried chicken, vinegar pie, chess pie, and biscuits. Banjos are played and Confederate songs are sung. The men wear Confederate uniforms, and the women dress in pink and blue and wear matching ribbons in their hair. The festival often looks like scenes from “Gone With the Wind.”

 

 

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