Note from BW of Brazil: While people continue to believe that Brazil is a country in which the various races form one great, big, happy family, the truth is quite a bit more complicated. I can remember over the years reading various reports in which it was postulated that, if a segregated and racially hostile country such as the United States would follow the Brazilian example of widespread racial mixture, the problems would just magically evaporate. Even before having delved into the history of Brazil very deeply, I thought there was something wrong with this theory.
First, there were all of the classic studies showing that, in spite of the country promoting an image of itself as a ‘racial democracy’, there serious racial issues. From the socioeconomic studies showing how white Brazilians have a much better quality of life than non-whites, to a national discourse that said that whiteness is superior (generally, accepted by all), to the elite desire to whiten the skin color of the population, I was beginning to conclude that the Brazilian model is not one to be emulated because the very idea that Brazil is a racially harmonious country is predicated upon the black population accepting its position of inferiority.
This position of inferiority plays out in numerous ways. We saw a recent example of a dark-skinned black girl being shunned her colleagues (a situation that often happens with black adults as well). We see situations in which white or light-skinned Brazilians feel the liberty to attack darker-skinned people as well as situations in whites openly declare their “superiority”. The final nail in the coffin is seeing how the black population, having been thoroughly indoctrinated, accepts whiteness as superior.
The conclusion that I’ve come to after many years is that, as long as black and would be black Brazilians must continue living under a system which promotes whiteness as the standard while demolishing the rise of a black pride that challenges the system, prospects for the future point to a slow disappearance of blackness, which was the objective all along. But one environment that I’ve seen that seems to posit a challenge is that of the quilombolas. Some studies have shown that in these majority black communities (often composed of very dark-skinned people), in which the population is not endlessly assaulted by depictions of white supremacy in the media, these people have a better chance of appreciating their color and their culture with the right guidance and education. I’ve said it before: societies that preach racial integration while maintaining one race in a superior position to another means eventual death for the race placed in the inferior position.
In the piece below, check out what one man is doing to preserve traditions while educating his people.
Musician creates project to preserve traditions in quilombola community
The Quilombola community of Marinhos, in Brumadinho, in the metropolitan region of Belo Horizonte, becomes point of visitation of adults and children and a tourist attraction of the region
By Maria Irenilda Pereira
A house surrounded by plants, where the sound of drums receives visitors. The balcony is a biblioteca de literatura negra (library of black literature), the living room, a museum with pieces that preserve the history of the slave ancestors. In the kitchen, the smell of recipes that crossed generations overflows. In the year that marks the 130th anniversary of the abolition of slavery, which was already rebellion and resistance, consolidated itself as a reference in the quilombola community of Marinhos, in Brumadinho, in the metropolitan region of Belo Horizonte, becoming a point of visitation of adults and children, a tourist attraction in the region. There live Reibatuque and his parents, dona Leide and Mr. Cambão. A family that is synonymous with art, a group work and preservation of historical traditions of the community founded by the descendants of slaves.
Reinaldo Santana Silva, 42, better known as Reibatuque, is a musician and composer, born and raised in Marinhos. For him, the art comes from the cradle. “My mother and my grandparents created the carnival here in the 1960s. Then, I was always connected to music and cultural events in the community, which are Mozambique and the Congado”, he says.
“From the development of this project, they began to see themselves as black in the community. The girl who was ashamed of her hair, is no longer ashamed. They began to better understand themselves as black”
His parents, Antônio Alves da Silva and Leide Santana Silva are also artists. They play and sing in traditional festivities and help in the production of events that they believed stimulate the co-operativism in the community. “My father and my mother have created the festa da colheita (feast of the harvest), which is called ‘Quem planta e cria tem alegria’ (whoever plants and creates has joy). Many families have joined, get the land, plant and divide the food. They created the feast that sells part of this food. I learned with them this question of the collective”, he praises.
Marinhos is situated in the countryside of Brumadinhos, in the district of São José do Paraopeba, alongside three more comunidades remanescente de quilombo (remaining quilombo communities): Rodrigues, Sapé and Ribeirão. They were founded by former slaves who worked on the Fazenda Silva (Silva farm), located a few kilometers from the villages. Today, it is a stopping point on the tourist itinerary of Reibatuque. The Paraopeba railroad, bordering the communities, is also a local attraction. It was responsible for moving the economy and generating employment for many villagers in the past century.
The community formed currently for about 80 families, was officially recognized as a quilombola community in 2010, through a decree published in the Diário Oficial da União (Official Gazette) (DOU) on November 4th. On the same day, the communities of Ribeirão and Rodrigues won the same title. The Sapé quilombo had been recognized four years before.
Self-esteem and identity
In 2012, the voluntary work of Reibatuque to redeem tradições africanas (African traditions) and strengthen identidade negra (black identity) in the community, which was losing strength with the passing of time, becoming the Batuquenatividade project. “The idea was born of a necessity. Here is a quilombola community and children didn’t know the traditions of our people. Then, I put together my experience as a musician, my love for art, my pride of our negritude (blackness) and made the project happen”, he says.
The set of actions in the fields of art, literature, dance, music and tourism created by the artist involves residents of the Quilombo, mainly children and teenagers, in a social action that has transformed the life in local communities. “It is a volunteer project, without any link with the public power or another institution. It’s like this: you will do art class, you must take money to buy the material to do the workshops,” he explains commenting on the challenges of the work. If on the one hand, the money is short, on the other hand, creativity remains. For the workshop of percussion, he began to produce his own drums. “It was the way that we found so that each student had an instrument. It worked out. Today, we even sell some to the tourists who visit us,” he says.
The work, according to Reibatuque, has increased the self-esteem of young people and strengthened the social identity of the community. “It was incredible. From the development of this project, they began to se enxergar como negro na comunidade (see themselves as black in the community). The girl who was ashamed of her hair, is now no longer ashamed. They began to better understand themselves as black”, he says proudly.
Literatura Negra (Black Literature)
The community doesn’t have a quilombola community school, according to the musician. “Children and young people here study outside (the community), in traditional schools. Unfortunately, they don’t learn about our history, about our culture. In the books of literature, there’s only a history of whites, os super-heróis e mocinhos também são brancos (the super-heroes and good guys are also whites). Isso é muito ruim para a criança negra (this is very bad for the black child),” he regrets. To confront what he believes to be a failure of the educational system, Reibatuque mounted the space dedicated exclusively to literature negra (black literature). “Sometimes, people seek me to donate books. But, it’s always the same. Livros de brancos não nos interessa (books of whites don’t interest us). Here is the space of appreciation of our own,” he says.
In the books accommodated in a small bookshelf on the wall of the balcony of the bottoms of the house, the super-heroes are black, Rapunzel is black. It is there, in the Quilombê reading corner, that black children of the Quilombo will enter into a world that represents them, where blacks tell and take the leads in the stories. “The books were a conquest. We received a donation of a publisher from Belo Horizonte. It is so transforming the representation in the literature that children take the books and want to keep them.”
Coffee, drumming and prose
Tourism is the other arm of the actions developed by the resident, who is proud to have been born in lands that his black ancestors lived. In partnership with his fiancée, Jana Janeiro, Reibatuque created in 2015 Café, batuque e prosa (Coffee, drumming and prose), a tourist itinerary for experiencing the quilombola experience. “The goal is to bring people to them to see the reality of the residents of the community. And the community understands that it is important, that it can be selling a product or an exchange of knowledge,” he says.
The tour includes a day of immersion. “People come in the morning, my mother prepares a wonderful quilombo breakfast with quitandas (farmer’s market products) and teas. It’s an opportunity to appreciate our organic food, as the broa de fubá (cornbread) made at the water mill. We walk through the community, goes into other neighboring quilombola communities and show our reality. People come to respect us more and to look at these people with love.”