Culture gaúcha

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By MÁRIO MAESTRI*

To proposal “Gaucho culture”, crucible of the apologetic myths of the southern ruling classes about the past, paradoxically has its roots ingrained in the work of the captive Campeiro

Gabriel Santos has just published the article “Gaucho culture seen by a foreigner”. Taking advantage of the current debate on two verses of the Anthem of Rio Grande do Sul, denounced as racist by black parliamentarians, as a “hook”, he proposes a fundamental solution to the problem that gave rise to that discussion. In his article, he explains how to build a unitary and solidary culture that unites all people from Rio Grande do Sul, Gremistas and Colorados, Greeks and Trojans. Which is no small feat for someone from Ceará who has just arrived in Porto Alegre, who confesses to being practically unaware of the issue under discussion and Rio Grande do Sul.

The debate about the “purity” of the Anthem Rio-Grandense is a few years old. In February 2021, I presented in an article the reasons why I believe that the two questioned verses cannot be classified as anti-black racism. I argued, then, that the proposal to clean up the Anthem had a political and social integrationist objective. I explain. It sought to popularize, among the southern black population, an anthem that, despite being proposed by the entire regional community, essentially expresses the values ​​of the ruling classes of Rio Grande do Sul, past and present. [MAESTRI, 18.01.2021.]

And, due to their classism and elitism, the Anthem and the other symbols, which suggest a non-existent and impossible past and a common and solidary future of the “gaucho people”, should be completely rejected. And, instead of accepting and patching them up, the working and democratic population should build and spread their cultural expressions, in contradiction and in opposition to the ruling classes, since the symbolic struggle is an important instance of class confrontation. Therefore, everything contrary to what was proposed by the young columnist.

 

a simple solution

Gabriel Santos addressed the origin of the proposal for a “gaúcha” cultural unit, a complex issue, despite acknowledging his lack of knowledge about the issue, which goes far beyond what he imagines. In the article, he notes that he was born in Ceará, traveled to Porto Alegre less than two years ago to study at UFRGS, and that he has “little familiarity with the gaucho culture”. It is understandable, therefore, that the article is built with a string of assertive statements and common sense, thus throwing water to the mill of manipulation of the conscience of the population of Rio Grande do Sul.

Which would not be surprising, if it were an article published in the mainstream media, a product of the venal penalty of a journalist performing his organic function of misinforming. But it's not the case. The essay was written and published by a regular columnist for the online magazine “Resistência”, a tendency of the PSOL. Group that broke, a few years ago, with the PSTU, proposing to be Marxist-revolutionary, before embracing the identity-conservative ideology, which guides this article from beginning to end.

 

We're all brothers

Gabriel Santos' thesis is simple, it ignores social and class contradictions and is based on a culturalist vision of “identity”, which I will try to reproduce synthetically. For the author, an identity arises from the need for singularization of a community, generally from the negation of another community. It would consolidate, throughout history, in the context of social relations, generally supported by a larger “historical event”. In the southern case, the Farroupilha War [1835-1845], which would have opposed, according to him, the South, as a whole, to the Empire, thus giving rise to Rio Grande do Sul’s rejection of the rest of the country, and not of a neighboring state , as in other parts of Brazil. It remains in the air, therefore, the suggestion that the person from Rio Grande do Sul embrace the thesis “RS is my country”, a movement that has a Facebook page, with a miserable troop of followers. [https://www.facebook.com/Sul.Meu.Pais]

After Farroupilha, still according to the author, the southern identity would have been consolidated with the proposal of its structural “whiteness”, born of the strong predominance of the “Euro-descent” of the South in relation to the rest of the country. In this process, when building the “Gaucho culture”, the “white identity”, therefore racial, proceeded to the exclusion of the “identities” of the original peoples and the descendants of Africans, without “political power” to assert themselves. Although blacks and natives are just as “gauchos” as “European descendants”, recalls Gabriel Santos.

 

They forgot me!

But let nobody worry. The young man from Ceará presents the definitive solution to this serious contradiction, when he responds positively to the question he asks about the possibility of having a “true gaucho culture”. Don't worry, the solution would be quite simple. To do so, it would be enough to break the “veil of whiteness” of the so-called “gaucho culture” and incorporate the “manifestations of non-white peoples” into it.

Thus, with a culture of its own and common to all the “gaucho people”, we could finally live in the holy peace of the lord. However, for that to happen, it would be “necessary”, above all, “to discuss the role of the black and indigenous population in the Farrapos War and the role of the Black Lancers”. For Gabriel Santos, the answer to the racial riddle would be in “Porongos”, where “everything ended and also began”. Proposal that we confess we did not understand.

In the inclusion of “excluding identities” [that is, excluded] would be the “solution to the dilemma of gaucho culture”, of the state that he proposes as the “most racist in Brazil”. A solution that would elevate, we would say, “racist” Rio Grande do Sul to the advanced “multicultural” nirvana of Bahia and Rio de Janeiro, which have, respectively, the black-African and the black-mulatto as central nuclei of their “identity”. " and culture". Gabriel Santos literally proposes a cultural solution to social and class contradictions.

 

five major regions

If the knowledge of young university students in the capital is recent and scarce, certainly that of the “interior” of the State is almost complete. What I would recommend is going deeper into the study of the culture and history of Rio Grande do Sul, since “precaution and holy water don't hurt anyone”. Roughly speaking, Rio Grande do Sul is made up of large regions distinguished by geographic, social and historical determinations: the Coast, the Plateau, the Mountains, the Central Depression, the Campaign. These regions still maintain cultural, historical and linguistic particularities, permeated by social and class contradictions and their determinations of sex, age, nationality, ethnicity, etc. A “Gaucho culture” proposal should encompass the cultural expressions of all these regions. [MAESTRI, 2021.]

The proposal of a southern history, without deep social contradictions, with a population mobilizing as a whole, in defense of the soil homeland of the Empire's arrogance, during the Farroupilha War [1935-45], it was built by the ruling classes of Rio Grande do Sul, from the end of the XNUMXth century onwards. This apologetic narrative seeks, by denying the contradictions between exploited and exploiters in the past, to deny and stifle them in the present, as proposed. An instrument of political-ideological submission, it has been disseminated day after day, with indisputable results, by the State, educational centers, the mainstream media, etc., with the passive or active support of unions, parties and collaborationist political movements.

 

Rio Grande do Sul, the most racist state in Brazil

I begin my comment with the reaffirmation by the author of the national common sense that Rio Grande do Sul is the “most racist state in Brazil”. A gratuitous affirmation, like that of the black writer from Rio de Janeiro, living in Porto Alegre, who described the southern state as a kind of Mississippi in the pampas. He proposed, in an interview given outside Rio Grande do Sul, that there were neighborhoods in Porto Alegre where blacks did not have access, without ever clarifying which region of the capital he practiced, in boots and gourds in hand, the southern version of the apartheid. [MAESTRI, 2/12/2020]

The almost national consensus on Rio Grande do Sul as the most racist state in Brazil seems to be born from a false analogy and from the naughty desire to transfer this sad stain to the Far South. Rio Grande do Sul experienced a strong European colonial-peasant immigration, which still determines the social, economic and ethnic landscape of some of its regions. These territories are still dominated, in part, by a small family farm, which, in the past, never practiced the exploitation of enslaved labor. Because of this, they have a sparse black population.

 

Post-Slavery Memoirs

National common sense, with the indisputable contribution of the Estado Novo [1937-45], proposes that the high incidence of descendants of Italians, Germans, Poles, etc. have made those regions, in recent times, radiating centers of racism, fascism, Nazism. However, very few blacks lived there and, even during World War II [1939-1945], the vast majority of Germans and Italian-descendants continued to worry about their gardens and gardens and little about European politics, which meant nothing to them. Unlike the rich Italian-German urban colonial bourgeoisie. [GERTZ, 1987, 1991; GIRON, 1994.]

As far as it was possible for us to see, the regions with the strongest racist traditions in Rio Grande do Sul are certainly those of Luso-Brazilian and Brazilian colonization, which knew and strongly exploited slave labor. In this case, would be the municipality of Pelotas, in the 19th century, a very rich charqueadora region, supported almost entirely on the work done, which resisted the abolition of slavery until practically the institution's extortioners, while the rest of the province de-enslaved itself, selling its captives to coffee growing regions. [ASSUMPÇÃO, 2013.]

 

Pellets like Mississippi

In the 1990s, historian Agostinho Mario Dalla Vecchia collected dozens of testimonies from elderly black women and men from Pelotas about the post-Abolition decades, for the production of his master's and doctoral theses, which I had the privilege of directing. pages of transcribed testimonies set harrowing post-slavery memories that reaffirm the proposal that reality surpasses imagination. These valuable and pioneering testimonies about racism and the living conditions of the black population in the post-Abolition period in the municipality of Pelotas practically did not arouse interest in Rio Grande do Sul and in Brazil. [VECCHIA, 1993, 1994.]

I lived for many years in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. In these cities and in the center of Salvador, I witnessed physical attacks by the police on black children and young people that, in the center of Porto Alegre, would have caused a strong popular protest, even from Porto Alegre residents with racist undertones! Senator Paulo Paim, who always claimed to be black, due to his union combativeness, was consecrated electorally supported by workers in the “leather-footwear” sector of Vale do Rio dos Sinos, of strong German ancestry, his unconditional voters.

 

The black man stepped on the ball

Alceu Collares, “Negrão”, a Brizolist, was elected mayor of Porto Alegre and governor of Rio Grande do Sul with overwhelming votes. After holding an anti-popular state government, he was the object of racist jokes, often told by those who had elected him, whites and blacks alike. In the South, as in the rest of Brazil, there are broad racist cultural substrates, which are expressed in different degrees and ways. But would it be among the “gaúchos” that black citizenship would experience the pains of hell?

A 2020 study by the Security Observatory Network proposes that the states where the police kill, proportionately, more black citizens are, in descending order, Bahia, Ceará, Pernambuco, Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. In Ceará, the land of the writer, with a black population much lower than that of Rio Grande do Sul, the proportion of blacks among those killed by the police is 87%! A true genocide. [Observatório, 2020.] Supported by Mateus [7,1-5], I would ask Gabriel Santos: “Why do you observe, my dear friend, the speck in the eye of your brother from Porto Alegre and do not notice the beam that is in the Ceará eye?”

Also surprising is the article writer's proposal to have really encountered the black population only when he visited the outskirts of the capital. Rio Grande was one of the great slave provinces in Brazil. In the past, the black population of the southern capital, freed, free and enslaved, became the majority. [ZANETTI, 2002.] And, today, Porto Alegre is still a strongly black city. If our scribbler had carefully visited the shops, bars, banks, restaurants, not just in the Center; if he watched the passengers of city buses; if you raised your eyes to the buildings under construction, and so on, you would see the very strong participation of the population with some afro-descendancy in productive and social activities. A presence that disappears, but does not disappear, in the neighborhoods of wealthy classes.

Every Friday, Saturday and Sunday, the bars on the edge of Guaíba, which charge high prices, are occupied by a more wealthy Porto Alegre population and tourists, who are generally white. On the contrary, the popular bars of the new rambla from Rua da Praia, starting at Calda Júnior, are taken over by accustomed popular, with a strong representation of black people from Porto Alegre. The black population of Porto Alegre is certainly concentrated in some peripheral neighborhoods of the capital, with emphasis on Restinga, with an effervescent life and cultural production.

 

Conceptual accuracy

Before we get into the question of the so-called “gaúcho culture”, I remind you that, in the scientific approach to the question, it is recommended to speak of “southern Rio Grande culture” or “southern culture”, leaving aside the category “gaúcho culture”, not just for its polysemous character, despite the popularization of the use of the term. The “gaúcha” culture was and is produced by pastoral workers. Until a few decades ago, designated mainly as “pawns”, they were the dominant workforce on the farms of Fronteira, Campaign, Campos de Cima da Serra. And, paradoxically, these pastoral workers were and still are, in large numbers, black. This is because they descended and continue to descend ethnically and professionally from the “campeiro captive”, the enslaved pastoral worker, dominant in the southern large estates and farms, in the 2008th and 2009th centuries. [BOSCO, 2010; MAESTRI, XNUMX-XNUMX.]

 

Introducing the farmer as a gaucho

The proposed “gaucho culture”, crucible of the apologetic myths of the southern ruling classes about the past, paradoxically has its roots ingrained in the work of the captive campeiro. A reality recorded in the Rio Grande versions of the legend of the “negrinho do pastoreio”. By carrying out an apologetic fusion between the farmer and the gaucho-peão, fancifully twinned in the peasant labors, the organic intellectuals of the southern dominant classes laid the first stone in the proposal of a past without social contradictions.

In this reconstruction of the past, they carried out indecent expropriation of history, cultures, traditions created by workers from Rio Grande do Sul, with emphasis on the “campeiro captives”. More important than discussing the verses of the Anthem Rio-Grandense, which are not even racist, is certainly proposing the removal-replacement of the statue of the Laçador, at the entrance to Porto Alegre, which presents, as a figuration of the gaucho pawn, its social antagonist, the rancher. But, to propose this, we would need city councilors literally “knife in the boot”.

Even having its “gauchos”, due to the dominance of the peasant captives in pastoral activities, Rio Grande do Sul was never the land of gauchos, as are the Banda Oriental and the Argentine provinces of Buenos Aires, Corrientes, Entre-Rios. In the platinum regions, where the gaucho-pawn in pastoral work, ranchers would never accept the offensive designation of gaucho. By dominating in the south of Brazil the contradiction farmer-enslaved worker, the designative gaucho could, especially in the 20th century, replace the gentilicio “sul-rio-grandense”, as part of the ideological operation indicated. Which allows academics and journalists to refer to “gauchos farmers”, something like “banking bankers!!

 

The critique of “gaucho cultural” unitarism

Several historians and social scientists have already described the genesis of the proposal of “identity” and “culture” common to the entire population of Rio Grande do Sul, with the objectives indicated. It is impossible to reproduce, in the present text, even telegraphically, the complex process of construction of these invented traditions. [FREITAS, 1980; GOLIN, 1983.] Santos' proposal of the autism of the “gaucho culture” has no support due to the combat of Rio Grande do Sul, as a whole, against the rest of Brazil, during the so-called Farroupilha Revolution [1835-45], which it never involved the entirety of the southern territory, populations and social classes. [SILVA, 2011; LOPES, 1992.]

That conflict was a separatist movement of the large landowners of the Campaign, the Frontier and the north of Uruguay. The coast, Porto Alegre, the German colonial zone, the Planalto remained apathetic or supported the Empire, since the farroupilha movement did not interpret, and in some cases was opposed to, the interests of small, medium and large landowners in those regions. It was southern troops who first fought the uprising of insurrectionary ranchers. And, even more, the farroupilhas fought against the Empire, and not against the “rest of Brazil”, in good part revolted by other regency revolts that were also farroupilhas.

The large ranchers in the southern meridian were interested in increasing their large estates and the number of enslaved workers. The Rio-Grandense Republic never defended the abolition of slavery or freed captives, even Creoles. The captives who fought in the farroupilha troops did so against their historical interests, as they were obliged, under the promise of future release, to free themselves from life in the slave quarters. They fought in defense of the latifundia and slavery and were massacred and handed over to the imperials by the farroupilha chiefs, during the betrayal of Porongos and in the following months. [SILVA, 2011; MAESTRI, 2006.]

 

Tradition of the ruling classes

The Farroupilha War is part of the saga of the pastoral fraction of the southern ruling classes. There is no glory in participating in this movement promoted by the large slaveholding landowners. It must be rejected, as a whole, by the working and democratic world, since it contradicts the history and interests of subordinates in Rio Grande do Sul. The proposal, embraced by Silva, to incorporate the legend under construction of the “Black Lancers” to the glories and feats of the Farroupilhas, aims to integrate and associate the black community in praising the myths and hegemonic stories of the Rio Grande property classes. Thus, the entire southern population could sing, standing up, moved, the Anthem Rio-Grandense, united by common goals in the past and in the present. Bankers and bankers, bosses and employees, whites and blacks, rich and poor, and so on.

The glorification of the Black Lancers also serves to cover up the thousands of enslaved workers who chose to resist their oppressors, taking advantage of the conflict between the dominant factions of the Empire, fleeing and interning in Uruguay and Argentina or settling in the wilds of the province. As struggle and rebellion pay, the vast majority were never re-enslaved. [PETIZ, 2006.] But, for them, there is no space in the official southern “culture” and “history”.

The use of the farroupilha revolution as a southern identity reference was not a product of the pastoral classes defeated in 1835, but of positivist republican ideologues and politicians, at the end of the century and after the Republic. With an urban, pro-capitalist, industrialist and extreme federalist bias, after overcoming the pastoral oligarchy, in 1889, the positivist republicans sought symbology that represented, in an authoritarian and elitist bias, the entire State. To this end, they resumed praising the Rio-Grandense Republic, choosing the farroupilha colors for the southern flag. [BRASIL, 1882.] And, without any mercy, in the Federalist War, in 1893-95, they massacred the liberal ranchers of the southern meridian, sociological and biological descendants of the farroupilhas. In the southern past, there was not even peace and harmony between the dominant factions in strong dissent.

 

Originating communities

Southern history was determined by profound social and class contradictions, which tended to permeate and organize, in a hierarchical way, the ethnic and national communities of the various regions of Rio Grande do Sul. The Guarani, Minuana and Charrua native communities were exterminated. Their lands were appropriated by Portuguese, Luso-Brazilian, German-Brazilian, Brazilian ranchers. Acculturated, these communities and their descendants were exploited in a semi-servile situation, as semi-salaried labor, etc. and they contributed to the formation of free caboclo communities, always under pressure from the landowners. [ZARTH, 1997.]

The early destruction-absorption of the original communities allowed them to be integrated, in a marginal and subordinate way, into the hegemonic southern stories and traditions. [CEZIMBRA, 1978]. In recent times, the study of the Guarani and missionary communities has advanced. [KERN, 1991.] The necessary integration of the native communities that still survive in Rio Grande do Sul is primarily social and economic. Apart from its particularities, the same demanded by the other exploited and marginalized popular sectors.

Africans and Afro-descendants constituted the essential labor force exploited in the latifundia, charqueadas, potteries, cities, etc., from the Luso-Brazilian occupation of the South, in the beginning of the 18th century, until almost the Abolition. The end, only in 1888, of the antagonismo between enslaved and enslavers, made it difficult for the captives to integrate into the founding myths of a past without class contradictions, especially when the romantic reconstitution of the pastoral farm was carried out. A plethora of conservative historians carried out literal ethnic cleansing, in relation to the enslaved worker, in the historical accounts of Rio Grande do Sul's past. [MAESTRI, 2018.]

 

landless farmers

Since 1824, thousands of landless peasants have founded, in regions unsuited to pastoral production, peasant agricultural units, living off the effort of family work. This migratory movement was resumed in 1850 and especially in 1870. In general, the settlers never became rich, being exploited by mercantile capital. A mythology was also created of a successful colonization, totally in contradiction with the harsh life of the Italian-Southern colonist, with emphasis on women and children, a reality exquisitely portrayed in the historical novel. the quadrillion, by JC Pozenatto. [1997]. The true history of these white and European communities was canceled when what is now called “gaucho culture” was formed.

Slave production and the peasant colonial economy provided the accumulation that gave rise to a relatively precocious and dynamic manufacturing and industrial production in several regions of Rio Grande do Sul – Porto Alegre, Rio Grande, Novo Hamburgo, São Leopoldo, Caxias do Sul. “Castilian”, “Portuguese”, “Brazilian”, “Italian”, “German”, “Afro-descendant” workers, etc. they were exploited in factories and industries, under harsh working conditions and low wages. There was also no space for them in the proposal of a unitary and solidary “gaucho culture”. Since the beginning of the XNUMXth century, the main southern agglomerations have housed a significant number of urban captives, freedmen, free blacks, poor free men of various origins, also ignored by the apologies of the southern fraternity. They produced and still produce a very rich cultural production, generally with strong black roots.

All these massacred, exploited, subalternized communities produced in the past a vast and extremely rich cultural production, singularized by determinations of region, origin, profession, gender, age, etc., about which we still know little. As just remembered, the cultural production of these communities was also repressed and silenced, in the present, whether they were the product of “European”, “white”, “black”, “Indian” communities, etc. On the contrary, especially in the 18th and 19th centuries, the ruling classes of the various regions tended, always, to register, synthesize, disseminate, consolidate and universalize their romanticized “identities” and “cultures”, which did not intend to include the subaltern classes. To keep them in submission, physical coercion was mainly used.

In the first decades of the 1933th century, with the advancement of the organization of the exploited classes, the hegemonic social segments made an effort to extend and encompass the exploited in their regional identity-cultural representations, adapted to their new needs. The construction of a common past for the entire population, purged of class contradictions, as already mentioned, served to reinforce the proposal, in the present, of a fraternal regional society. A society without contradictions or with class opposition overcome by consensus and concord. Coercion was associated with ideological control. Gilberto Freyre was consecrated with his 1969 apology for the tendentially patriarchal and consensual character of Brazilian slavery. [FREYRE, XNUMX] In southern Brazil, this movement achieved enormous success, not sugarcoating the slave order, but simply denying it.

 

Pastoral democracy and production without work

The liberal-pastoral latifundium, which had dominated society in Rio Grande do Sul in the 19th century, at the end of that century, lost economic hegemony, for mountain production, manufacturing and industry, and political hegemony, for positivist republicanism. -Rio-Grandense Republican Party. Paradoxically, in this moment of depression of the large estates, the pastoral farm became the basis of the regional mythology of a past common to the entire population, due to the strength of the “myths” of “pastoral democracy” and “pastoral production without work”. , of platinum origin. [SARMIENTO, 1996.]

The ranch was proposed as the “social cell” of Rio Grande society, where economic domination would not have occurred, since the “physical environment” and the modality of “pastoral work”, born of the “nature of the soil”, made the practices creations a playful and pleasurable activity, which required little effort, in which “bosses and employees” participated, side by side, in true communion, that is, farmers and farmhands. [GOULART, 1978.] Thus, an imaginary and imagined world without class contradictions was built, on which Traditionalism and the Center for Gaucho Traditions [CGT] were built. The Farroupilha Revolution became a reference in southern history as an example of the convergence of the entire population in favor of the defense of Rio Grande do Sul. All this materialized and synthesized in the diffuse proposal of a unitary “Gaucho culture”.

In the construction of this narrative, the peasant captive, in particular, and the enslaved worker, in general, were jettisoned from the southern past by the organic intellectuals of the dominant classes. Especially from the 1930s onwards, leading historians of the dominant classes, such as Souza Docca, Amir Borges Fortes, Moisés Vellinho, Riograndino da Costa e Silva, etc., presented Rio Grande as an exclusive product of free labor. As a matter of fact, the elimination of the enslaved worker from southern history continued practically until the 1990s, even when postgraduate courses in history were created in Rio Grande do Sul.

 

There is no southern black culture

It is a mystification to propose a solution to the “dilemma of gaucho culture” by introducing elements of “black culture” into the current unitary “white-European” cultural complex. A process that would create a truly unitary “gaúcha” culture common to all Rio Grande residents, in the so-called “most racist state in Brazil”. This, above the class and social contradictions and the multiple particularizations of origin, sex, classes, etc. of the past and present of southern society, as we have seen. The identity claim to divide the population into “black”, “white”, “European” etc. cultural groups is equally fanciful and apologetic. singular, independent and in contradiction.

History and societies are not organized by cultures. On the contrary, cultures are produced in the historical process, in a permanent process of interaction, rocked by deep material and economic determinations. Africans enslaved in the South arrived from multiple regions of the African continent, practicing diverse cultures and languages. Their speeches and cultures entered into interaction, often contradictory, with each other and with the popular standards of the Brazilian language, creating varied communication instruments, about which we know little.

The participation of the enslaved population was a determining and central element in the construction of southern society as a whole. Its cultural productions became deeply embedded in the world of Rio Grande do Sul, giving rise to complex realities and processes, about which we also need to expand our knowledge. Proposing, from an exclusivist identity perspective, the participation and culture of the captive, during slavery, and of the black, after Abolition, as a separate and refractory block in southern society, is literally to de-ossify and disrupt the history of Rio Grande do Sul . It's practically pretending to paint a hanging wall with a brush.

 

The batuque is from Rio Grande

A small example. Little is known about the origin of batuque in Rio Grande do Sul, the greatest expression of the permanence-adaptation of African culture in Brazil. Commonly, records of “batuques” in newspapers and official documentation from the 19th century do not differentiate between captive festivities and religious ceremonials. These strongly clandestine religious practices, of which we have some positive records, for the southern province, already in the 19th century, spread in the South, in urban areas, especially in the beginning of the 20th century, it is believed that from Rio Grande and Pelotas, former slave centers. [CORRÊA, 1990.]

Our columnist will be surprised to learn that Rio Grande, with a strong population of European origin, has more than 65.000 houses of worship, more than Rio de Janeiro and Bahia. A phenomenon that would be propitiated by the greater acceptance, in relation to the rest of Brazil, of the practice of cults of Afro-Brazilian origin. There is a strong incidence of houses of worship in the Italian Colonial Region, with Caxias do Sul having around “more than two thousand houses in Umbanda and Batuque”. [Pioneer, Caxias do Sul, 15/11/2016.] The enormous penetration of batuque, of African origin, in Rio Grande do Sul society, means that many fathers and mothers of saint today are descendents of Italians, Germans, Portuguese, etc. The depredations of houses of worship, generally by fanatical evangelicals, constitute an aggression against a religion of African origin and the southern population that practices it, from all origins.

We still have a long way to go before we know the multiple cultural expressions of African and black origin in the South, which are impossible to define based on a non-existent common denominator. We know almost nothing about the life of the small quilombos that swarmed in different regions of Rio Grande do Sul. We know more, but still insufficiently, about the cultural life of the multitudes of enslaved workers who lived and died under slavery, in different times and regions of the Rio Grande. The same happens with the history of their descendants in post-slavery, who died in recent years in large numbers, under the indifference of our intelligentsia, with not many exceptions.

 

african kaleidoscope

We know even less about the contributions of Africans to southern society. Often, the population of slave quarters and quilombos was a kaleidoscope of African nationalities. The cultural and linguistic heritage brought in the bulges of slave ships was passed through the meat grinder of society and slave production. In the testimonies recorded by Agostinho Dalla Vecchia, there is an impact on the scarce memory of the times of slavery and the almost absolute lack of knowledge about everything related to Africa. Some respondents did not even know what Africa was.

Although African idioms have been lingua franca in different regions of Brazil, their contributions to the various patterns of spoken Portuguese are limited to a few words and syntactic determinations. [CARBONI & MAESTRI, 2003.) Our scarce knowledge about the cultural contribution of the captives who arrived from the different regions of Africa cannot be filled with synthetic constructions of invented traditions, with political and ideological objectives. On the contrary, it can and should be enriched by a systematic study of the abundant sources and records of the trajectories of black Africans and their descendants in the South. Reality, however, about which a strong lack of interest remains.

The last slave quarters are collapsing in Rio Grande do Sul, under the advance of agro-industry, without carrying out archaeological surveys. Real estate launches occupy and destroy the backyards of urban manor houses, generally a work and living space for domestic captives. [MAESTRI, 2001.] I hope I am wrong, but perhaps an archaeological survey of a southern “black cemetery” has never been carried out, which would provide very rich information on cultural practices, origin and living conditions of African captives and “creoles”.

 

And the charqueadas went away

In Pelotas, on the remains of the charqueador space, along the right bank of the homonymous stream, luxury residences are now built, with small private ports. Paradoxically, it is not just a question of neglecting the history of slavery, since with real estate speculation, important records of the memory of the regional ruling class also disappeared.

Above all, the cultural productions of individuals, groups and communities, in the context of their multiple singularities, differentiate and antagonize each other under social and class determinations and contradictions. In the past, feelings, expectations, habits, etc. they differed and were essentially in opposition if they were produced by a slave worker, by a captain of the forest, by a factor, by a slave owner, even though they were all black.

At present, there is no identity between the white boss and the white worker, just as the black boss has no mercy on the black worker. Middle-class white and black Rio Grande do Sul residents, even when they don't go hand in hand, have essential identities and structural oppositions to workers of any color. Apart from possible differences in treatment, a maid is, essentially, a maid, as the mistress is, always, a mistress, no matter whether one or the other is white, brown, black, or Asian. Not for nothing is the huge support for the miserable minimum wage, among those who don't live on it, of course.

The proposal of unity and social cohesion of Rio Grande society, based on the incorporation of diverse community cultural productions, to produce a cultural complex common to all Rio Grande residents is a pacifying and collaborationist social fantasy. It strengthens, as proposed, the effort of the propertied classes to stifle social and class contradictions, more easily keeping the subalterns in domination. A program that achieves high achievement in Rio Grande do Sul.

In the context of gender, ethnicity, nationality, etc., the world of work must build its own traditions, identities and symbols, freeing itself in its struggle from cultural and ideological shackles. In this process, above all, it must demand and create the conditions for recognizing and revealing the true history of Rio Grande do Sul, in which the world of work occupied a central and dominant position, with emphasis on enslaved workers in the XNUMXth and XNUMXth centuries, without ever really enjoying the riches it created.

* Mario Maestri is a historian. Author, among other books, of Sons of Ham, sons of the dog. The enslaved worker in Brazilian historiography (FCM Editora).

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