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The Confederados Old South Immigrants in Brazil Edited by Cyrus B. Dawsey and James M. Dawsey University ofAlabama Press, 1995 288 pp. Cloth, $34.95 Reviewed by John Charles Chasteen, associate professor of Latin American history and associate director of the Institute of Latin American Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His recent work includes "The Prehistory of Samba: Carnival Dancing in Rio deJaneiro, 1 840-1917," in the Journal ofLettinAmerican Studies (1996) and Heroes on Horseback: A Life and Times ofthe Iuist Gaucho Caudillos (!995)· The tide says much about this book. It suggests that the Texans and Alabamans at the center of the story are not so much romantic exiles or incorrigible slavocrats as migrants much like other migrants. They are Confederados, defined in part by their Confederate past, in part by their acculturation to Brazil. Both aspects of the tide signal a refusal to indulge in the more mythically charged formulations ofthe topic that have provided tides for earlier treatments: Lost Cause, Elusive Eden, Confederate Exodus, Lost Colony of the Confederacy, and so on. The name one gives the object of study is never trivial, and here it is particularly important, for seldom has such a small group ofmigrating farmers attracted so much interest. These few thousand migrants had litde impact on the history of Brazil and none whatsoever on the subsequent history ofthe United States. Their experiences were not in the least extraordinary for nineteenth-century immigrants establishing themselves as farmers in a South American country. By rights, one might say, they should have litde claim on our scholarly attention. But the image of irreconcilable Confederates—people so attached to the institution of slavery as to emigrate from the United States after the Civil War to a country where they could still hold Africans as chattel—definitely exercises a fascination out ofproportion to the migrants' mark on history. Here is the gist of the story as outlined in Confederados. During the late 1 860s, somewhere between two and four thousand migrants from the U.S. South arrived in Brazil, a significant portion of the more-or-less ten thousand disgrunded exConfederates believed to have left the United States in that period. Ofthose who can be identified, by far the majority came from Texas and Alabama, more because of personal connections than because of "push" factors specific to those Reviews 79 states. Seeking good farm land, most went to various sparsely populated areas in southeastern Brazil, and they gradually relocated toward a settlement most often referred to these days as Americana, in the state ofSâo Paulo. Their descendants still gather occasionally at the setdement's old Protestant church and cemetery to commemorate their distinctive history. The people who gather there now are in most ways indistinguishable from millions of others in southern Brazil, a region of the country where immigrants and their descendants figure very importandy in the population. Few among the younger generation speak English anymore. When the Confederados get together, their neighbors around Americana do not pay a lot of attention, but their fondness for the Confederate batde flag and Gone with the Wind-style reenactments make for eye-catching Sunday supplements (and, more recendy, television programs), both in the United States and in Brazil. Invariably, the rhetorical hook of such representations is the image of die-hard defenders of the Lost Cause, but that image, the editors contend, is inaccurate. Although slavery was still legal in Brazil when the Confederados arrived, Brazilian law prohibited the importation ofslaves. Few ofthe immigrants ever acquired bondsmen, and the prospect of owning slaves probably was not a decisive inducement to Confederado immigration. The editors are quite right in wanting to push beyond sensational visions of the Lost Cause in exile, and the book does so quite effectively. The essays that compose roughly the first half examine the Confederados as agricultural migrants , tracing their departure from the United States and setdement in Brazil, with emphasis on economic motivations and personal networks (a number ofthe latter structured by Masonic connections). This section also includes a twentyfive page narrative by one ofthe migrants (Sarah Bellona Smith Ferguson), a fulllength version of which is published here for...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-1488
Print ISSN
1068-8218
Pages
pp. 79-81
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-04
Open Access
No
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