08 January 2012

The Brazilian Confederacy

Leighton Gage
by Leighton Gage

Leigh Lundin: When writers claim excitement introducing a guest article, you can expect a great deal of hyperbole. Not in this case.

A couple of years ago, a group of eight international mystery writers banded together to form the blog, Murder is Everywhere. I'd already met Michael Sears, Stanley Trollip, and Yrsa Sigurðardóttir, and I was pleased to read other contributors, especially today's guest, Leighton Gage.

Leighton Gage lives in a small town in Brazil and writes police procedurals set in that country. A Vine in the Blood, the latest installment in his Chief Inspector Mario Silva series, was called “irresistible” by the Toronto Globe and Mail. Coincidentally, that was the very same word the New York Times used to describe the previous book in his series, Every Bitter Thing. Vine also garnered a star from Publisher’s Weekly.


I touched base with Leighton about the time my AOL account crashed and burned, but his daughter managed to send me a 'fita do Senhor do Bomfim', a ribbon I use as a bookmark.

Leighton created today's article, one I wish my mother, a student of American Civil War history, could read. Indeed, I felt a pleasant frisson of discovery when I first read this exciting bit of history by Leighton Gage.


The Brazilian Confederacy

One day, a couple of years ago, I was in an office in São Paulo chatting to a friend in English. A lady I didn’t know came up to us and joined in the conversation. She spoke with the dulcet tones of the American South, and I asked her where she was from.
    “I was born here,” she said, meaning Brazil.
    “Okay. Your parents, then?”
    “Here. And my grandparents too.”
And then she told me the story of the Brazilian Confederates, which, Dear Reader, I’m now going to pass on to you:

After the War Between the States many families from the old South were left landless and destitute. They hated living under a conquering army of Yankees. They were looking for a way out.

Dom Pedro II
Dom Pedro II
Dom Pedro II, the progressive Brazilian emperor of the time, offered it. He was interested in developing the cultivation of cotton, and he gave tremendous incentives to people who knew how to do it. Land could be financed at twenty-two cents an acre. Passage cost no more than thirty Yankee dollars. Scads of people from Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, Mississippi and Texas took him up on his offer.

Many of them settled in the State of São Paulo in the towns of Americana and Santa Barbara D’Oeste. The name of the former is derived from the Portuguese for “Village of the Americans” and the latter is sometimes called the Norris colony, named after Colonel William Norris, a former senator from Alabama who was one of the founders.
Colonel William Norris
Col. Wm. Norris

He's the gentleman in the photo at right. If you’re a Civil War buff, and would like to experience a vestige of the Old South, I suggest you go to Santa Barbara on the second Sunday in April. That’s when they hold a yearly party on the grounds of the cemetery. Yeah, that’s right, the cemetery, the one where all of those old confederates are buried.

You’ll find it behind the church that faces the square with the monument.

The folks in Santa Barbara really know how to stage a party.
monument
monument
 
gravestone
close-up
 
Santa Barbara church
Santa Barbara Church

You can eat southern fried chicken, vinegar pie, chess pie and biscuits. Banjos are played. Confederate songs are sung. The women dress in pink and blue and wear matching ribbons in their hair.

southern vittles
dining
 
down-home dancin'
dancing
There’s square dancing for the young folks. The men of all ages get drunk and replay the war, looking at first as if they’re celebrating a victory. But at the end of the performance the bearded actor, playing Gen. Robert E. Lee, falls down as if mortally wounded, a Confederate flag wrapped around him.

And, if you visit the church for the memorial services, you might even get to meet Becky Jones, who presides over the Association of Confederates.

Becky learned her English from her parents. They learned it from their parents. And so on. Prompted, she’ll tell you that (even) Damnyankees are welcome to the party, but they have to expect to be received differently than someone from the South.

She might tell you, too, about her grandmother, Mrs. MacKnight-Jones, who survived well into her nineties. Grandma learned from her parents never to call Abraham Lincoln by his name. In their household he was only referred to as "that man".

And that family tradition goes on until this very day.

14 comments:

Jeff Baker said...

I'd heard of this bit of history! And Harry Truman's mother refused to sleep in the Lincoln Bedroom of the White House because she'd lived through the Civil War and she didn't like "that man" either!

Leigh Lundin said...

You can't imagine how pleased I was when Leighton sent in this article. My mother was a dedicated student of the American Civil War. She and her mother edited stories in the family history, which included ancestors who fought– and died– on both sides of the war.

To make way for industrial development, Shelby County, Indiana presently wants to (re)move the family cemetery that includes a number of GAR plaques– Grand Army of the Republic. Historical evidence is less clear on the Tennessee side. One family was wiped out and another fled ahead of the battles.

One story has it that a squad of soldiers rampaged through the property of a newly widowed ancestor, seizing food stores and threatening the woman and her children. When their commanding officer arrived, he was so outraged, he ordered his men to return the stolen food and add some of their own supplies to hers.

The War Between the States was a sad but crucial point in our history. I'm thrilled to touch base with others affected who created their own future.

Anonymous said...

Most interesting. I wonder how many other pockets of sidestream history can be found?

Janice said...

I suspect the Confederacy looks more romantic the further away one gets from the grim realities of the Old South.

A story about the original settlers would be most interesting.

Herm Gates said...

My grandmother spoke of an old family legend of her grandmother (I think) and that woman's brother who moved to South America. This article makes me wonder if it could be true.

Janet Rudolph said...

Went there when I was in Brazil, but not to a special 'party'.. they really do speak with a Southern accent. thanks for bringing this to everyone's attention. I find Brazil fascinating..

Leighton Gage said...

Janice: I know quite a bit more about the place, but it's all too esoteric for a post, so I kept it short.

Herm: You could write to the association. They have the list of all the colonists, and could undoubtedly tell you if that's where the lady wound-up.

Janet: You were there? Small world. I want to hear about that sometime. Next Bouchercon?

Thank you all for your interest. And special thanks to you, Leigh, for inviting me to post.

A sidebar: One of Brazil's most prominent pop singers (for many years now, as you'll note from the way she looks and the reaction of her fans if you follow the video link below) is a lady by the name of Rita Lee.

That's her real name and the place I wrote about is where she's from. She's a direct descendant of one of those old confederates, and I'll betcha he'd be mightily surprised if he could see what became of his great, great, granddaughter.

There's quite a bit of Rita on YouTube, but this is one of her more famous numbers:
Rita

Note: If that link doesn't work for you (I'm a real klutz about these things) just go to YouTube and search for Rita Lee.

Another note, this one for Nook users.

Don't buy the Nook Book.
Not yet, anyway.
The price is too darned high.

And, since Amazon is selling it cheaper, it's bound to come down.

R.T. Lawton said...

Leighton, love finding out new stuff about old history. Thanks.

David Dean said...

Fascinating stuff! Oddly, my father wanted to pick up and move from Georgia to Brazil in the '60's; though I don't think he knew anything about the town you write of, Leighton. What a strange world we live in.

Thanks for wonderful article and photos.

Leigh Lundin said...

Leighton, I'm glad we could host you and particularly happy to present such an interesting article. I love this sort of thing. It gives new meaning to 'the South shall rise again.'

Could the association post eMail and physical addresses? We might have a few who wish to contact them.

For those interested in historical mysteries, I wrote a post-Civil War article a year ago called Who Killed Laura Foster? Music fans might be surprised where that takes you.

Leighton Gage said...

Herm, Leigh and Anyone Else who might be interested in following up on the Brazilian Confederates,

Here's their website:

Confederates

It's interesting to peruse.
And you can, as you'll see contact them by email.

Velma said...

Footnote

This may answer a question that I, among others, had wondered about from the home page of the Os Confederados:

Chapter I, article 3rd, clause IV:
"- To promote the well being of all, without prejudices of race, sex, color, age, or any other kind of discrimination;"

C. B. (Doc) Jones said...

A note of interest is that "Rita Lee" is my first cousin and she was a daughter of Charles Finlay Jones who was born in Brazil also...Charles and my Father (Carroll B Jones M.D.) were brothers... My father came to the U.S. in the early 1920's and elected to remain here.

Uncle Charlie was a very strong fan of Gen. Robert E. Lee and his three daughters were named Rita Lee, Virginia Lee and Mary Lee Jones. C B Jones Jr, Melbourne FL

C. B. (Doc) Jones said...

My contact would be docjones35@bellsouth.net