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People of Faith

Slavery and African Catholics in Eighteenth-Century Rio de Janeiro

Mariza de Carvalho Soares

Publication Year: 2011

In People of Faith, Mariza de Carvalho Soares reconstructs the everyday lives of Mina slaves transported in the eighteenth century to Rio de Janeiro from the western coast of Africa, particularly from modern-day Benin. She describes a Catholic lay brotherhood formed by the enslaved Mina congregants of a Rio church, and she situates the brotherhood in a panoramic setting encompassing the historical development of the Atlantic slave trade in West Africa and the ethnic composition of Mina slaves in eighteenth-century Rio. Although Africans from the Mina Coast constituted no more than ten percent of the slave population of Rio, they were a strong presence in urban life at the time. Soares analyzes the role that Catholicism, and particularly lay brotherhoods, played in Africans’ construction of identities under slavery in colonial Brazil. As in the rest of the Portuguese empire, black lay brotherhoods in Rio engaged in expressions of imperial pomp through elaborate festivals, processions, and funerals; the election of kings and queens; and the organization of royal courts. Drawing mainly on ecclesiastical documents, Soares reveals the value of church records for historical research.

Published by: Duke University Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. vii

List of Tables

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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xiii

The initial version of what would become this book was my doctoral dissertation for the Department of History at the Federal Fluminense University, Rio de Janeiro. I thank the History Department, where...

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pp. 1-16

I paid my first visit to the Church of Santo Elesbão and Santa Efigênia one Wednesday morning, back in 1989, and it was an appointment with a friend that happened to take me there. The church fronts onto a bustling street...

Part One

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pp. 17-110

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1. From Ethiopia to Guinea

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pp. 19-39

As Renaissance Europe probed its southern frontier through trade networks branching across the Mediterranean, its merchants, scholars, royalty, and commoners alike gazed in delighted wonder at the bags...

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2. Commerce with the Mina Coast

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pp. 40-66

The physical act of slavery—capture, dislocation to the markets, commercialization, forced labor—directly impacted millions of Americans, Africans, and Asians throughout the Portuguese Empire from the fifteenth...

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3. African ‘‘Nations’’ and Provenience Groups

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pp. 67-100

In colonial Brazil, as throughout the Portuguese Empire, there was not a clear distinction between civil and religious administration. This apparent ambiguity was part of the structure of the Padroado, a pact between the Catholic...

Gallery of Illustrations

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pp. 101-110

Part Two

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pp. 111-239

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4. Urban Life and Brotherhoods in the City

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pp. 113-145

By the closing decades of the sixteenth century, the city of Rio de Janeiro began to expand markedly. It strained its older limits at the hills to push restlessly outward toward the fertile lowlands, while the urban...

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5. Constructing a Religious Norm

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pp. 146-182

It is increasingly clear from a range of scholarship (not only this book but much recent work in the history of slavery) that the social formations, alliances, and institutions adopted by urban slave populations are far more complicated...

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6. Conflict and Ethnic Identity among Mahi

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pp. 183-221

In its last five chapters, the compromisso of the Brotherhood of Santo Elesbão and Santa Efigênia authorized the election of up to seven kings to compose the court of the Imperial State of Santo Elesbão. The only condition imposed...

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pp. 223-239

The writing phase of the work involved in transforming my doctoral dissertation into a book was completed in 1997. Much has changed since then. Not only have many exciting new works been published (or others brought...


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pp. 241-247


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pp. 249-292


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pp. 293-307


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pp. 309-321

E-ISBN-13: 9780822394303
Print-ISBN-13: 9780822350408

Page Count: 280
Illustrations: 12 illustrations
Publication Year: 2011