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Nine Constructing Identity Defining the ~ Descendants in Brazil John C. Dawsey Atthe time thatJudith MacKnightJones was writing Soldado descansa! (Soldier rest!) in the 1960s, designs of the Confederate flag could be found on ceramic pieces produced by Indians on the Island of Maraj6 in the Amazon basin, a discovery that suggested a twentieth-century vestige of Confederate exiles in the Hastings colony.1 Marajoara Indians are not the only people who preserved Confederate symbols in Brazil. William Griggs mentioned Harold Barnsley Holland, a respected manufacturer in Jacaref, who kept a set of instructions for making a Confederate battle flag in an old family trunk.2 More intriguing might be the sight of 200 or more people gathering at an old cemetery in the interior of the state of Sao Paulo, Brazil, where three flags are raised-the Southern Cross, the Stars and Stripes, and the Confederate battle flag.3 Toward the end of the Civil War various efforts were made, with encouragement of the Brazilian emperor, to organize Confederate colonies in Brazil . As a result, nine different settlements were established. The settlement in Santa Barbara, in the state of Sao Paulo, survived, even prospered, then largely dispersed during the early twentieth century. Until this day, descendants meet four times a year on the church grounds next to the Campo cemetery. Identity Construction Much of the literature relating to the persistence of the Confederate or American heritage in Brazil seems to be based on the notion of passivity, of a cultural tradition adapting to new sociophysical environments and perpetuating itself as best it can in the face of the new obstacles which are encountered. As time goes by, the old culture proves to be increasingly irrelevant . Things such as raising the Rebel flag, making biscuits, dressing in Confederate uniforms, parading in Gone with the Wind dresses, and meeting at the old cemetery serve no real purpose. They constitute cultural "surviv155 J. C. Dawsey als" which should not really have survived. Even in the United States, the sight of a few hundred people appearing to relive the Confederacy might lead some to raise doubts concerning the mental health of the group. Don't they realize that the Civil War ended more than a century ago? The preservation of American symbols also raises questions. If they want to be American, why don't they pack up and move to the States? Isn't that what many of their Brazilian neighbors are doing? This group of descendants would make things easier to explain, according to some, if, during their reunions and celebrations, they used only American symbols. After all, doesn't everybody want to be American? Maybe not, for, to complicate the matter, some descendants are likely to make emphatic statements such as, "I'm a Southerner, I'm Brazilian, I'm not American!" The temptation is to say that these people have an identity problem. Why do they go to so much effort to preserve relics of Confederate or American culture? They obviously have not adapted to their Brazilian environment. They are living in the past.4 There is another aspect to this. Not only is one tempted to question the validity of holding on to relics, but one is enticed by the idea that all of this is just pretense. Many of the descendants are Catholic, many have Italian or Syrian names, and many no longer speak English. Recently the Fraternidade Descendencia Americana (Fraternity of American Descendancy) promoted a celebration at Santa Barbara in which young couples danced according to Old South styles. The couples seemed to be relieved when the presentation was over and the lambada (contemporary Brazilian dance) music got under way. Indeed, the Old South dances had not even been taught to the youth by their parents. Researchers from Campinas had assisted the group. Likewise, the Gone with the Wind outfits worn once a year were not handed down from one generation to the next, nor were the patterns for making them. Researchers assisted. An outside observer has the impression that much, if not all, has to do with theater.5 "Under Erasure" In trying to deal with the identity of these descendants, one gets the feeling ofwalking on slippery ground. Are they "Confederate" descendants or "American" descendants? Do they descend from an American or from a Confederate colony? Did their ancestors, or did they themselves, attend Confederate or American schools in Brazil? Even those who emphasize that 157 Constructing Identity they are Southern and Brazilian, but not American...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780817389024
Related ISBN
9780817309442
MARC Record
OCLC
45730752
Pages
288
Launched on MUSE
2016-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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