Slavery in the Serra Gaúcha

Image: Omar William


Today, the great-grandchildren of Italian immigrants live well, but many do so by exploiting those in need.

We, born, raised and residents of the Serra Gaúcha region, need to stop, look at our origins and rethink what we are, what we do and what we want. Except, for now, for the erasure of the indigenous trajectory, our region is on the verge of completing 150 years due to the arrival of Italian immigrants. And let's be objective about our great-grandmothers.

Many of us have already had the opportunity to visit the house where our ancestors were born, invariably an unhealthy mansion in which several families shared common areas in the few moments when they weren't working a lord's land to receive Tuesday, and look there. Illiterate, but without fault, they had little to defend themselves in a moment of intense political, economic and social reorganization that not only Italy was going through, but practically all of Europe impacted by the second Industrial Revolution.

Some could even afford to decide to migrate to 'Mérica, but many were expelled because they were a burden on the nation that was being established. In addition, there are records that some were expatriated for crimes committed. But da Romai I was so good people.

The Italians who went to São Paulo replaced the black slaves in almost the same horrendous conditions, while the Italians who arrived in Rio Grande do Sul were lucky enough to be able to make their own luck. But that meant cutting down a forest, facing animals, epidemics, among a thousand other fears. With a lot sparagnate and as much contempt for education, little by little capital accumulated, as well as discrimination, racism, xenophobia. The region became a power of wealth and false moralism.

The pride of an ethnic and moral superiority dazzles the great-grandchildren. There is no shortage of gringos praising themselves for the narrative of overcoming their great-grandfathers. Few of these good citizens are interested in researching that the great grandfather he had to burn his lungs out working in a coal mine for a few bucks that would allow him to start farming in the colony, which he grandpa had to be added by Tuesday in the German colony to pay the bills, which the other grandpa he begged to be able to help with the installation of the railroad in exchange for a few pills that would provide a little security in addition to the daily barter.

But those who know the story beyond the stereotype know how to transpose the understanding of past precarious conditions into an exercise in empathy for those who live in the same situation contemporaneously – and with the addition of electric shocks and pepper spray in case of attrition. And there are those who think it's bad that they didn't sweep the barracks and sought relief in drink.

Today, the great-grandchildren of Italian immigrants live well, but many do so by exploiting those in need just as one day happened to their own bisnonnos. They burp polyphenols saying that welfare policy is for bums, when in fact they are only here because the bisnonnos The landless had help from the government – ​​and a lot –, be it to obtain a lot, to acquire tools, to be entitled to installments and even amnesties.

They decant citrus notes to say that baiano around here is no good, as if 150 years ago they had not been ours bisnonnos who submitted to brutal conditions in order to survive, just like the Bahians do now, just like those from the west of Santa Catarina, those from the southern border, everyone who comes here, because it's always the poor who submit, it's always the poor who have no choice and have to submit to the gringo who looks down on them, the poor who are people full of uncertainties, who bet everything to start their lives over, abandoning family members and leaving for a distant, unknown, inhospitable place.

A community with a history of precariousness like ours, voting for a policy of oppression, pointing fingers, judging without evidence, rejecting those who think differently and humiliating those who depend on help can only reap losses. And the damage of this exacerbated prejudice will come, in the difficulty in selling our wine, in the disappearance of tourists. We are already headlines Folha de S. Paul, we get endless minutes of spotlight on the National Journal, we have petitions and disclaimers coming from all over the country.

If Serra Gaúcha is unable to understand its difficult past and revert it into a culture of respect for others, if it does not reflect on the image it is consolidating in Brazil, the damage will come. And there will be no wine to drown the sorrows.

*Edson Balestrin is a retired judge.

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