Skip to comments.Confederacy lives way down south of Dixie
Posted on 10/09/2003 7:46:13 AM PDT by stainlessbanner
American expatriates plant roots in Brazil after loss in Civil War
AMERICANA, Brazil -- The monument could stand on any small-town courthouse square in America's Deep South, the names etched in white marble calling up memories of the bloody war that split the United States more than 140 years ago.
But this monument isn't in Vicksburg or Antietam. Tucked beneath shade trees on a picturesque hilltop, it is more than 4,000 miles south of the land once known as Dixie.
The families memorialized here were Southern survivors of the Civil War who left America in the wake of defeat and resettled in Brazil, hoping to build new lives in a fertile land that resembled the one they left behind.
Their arrival signaled the start of a strange new pocket of culture in this far-away corner of South America, a mix of Southern drawl and clipped Portuguese, of American notions about farming and education layered with European customs filtered through a Brazilian lens.
"My grandfather came from Texas and built his house in the middle of a forest," said Maria Weissinger, 86, one of the few American descendants remaining with living memories of the original Southern settlers. "He spoke no Portuguese, and the people here spoke no English. For years they couldn't pronounce his last name, so they just called him, 'John of the Woods.' "
The settlers also brought with them a deep affection for the American South that lives on today, centered on the shaded cemetery where the monument stands. Descendants of the settlers -- who call themselves "Confederados" -- hold an annual festival in a pavilion near the cemetery that draws hundreds to a feast of fried chicken, biscuits and grits. The celebration is complete with old-time dances and period costumes, the men dressed in Confederate gray and the women in billowing hoop skirts.
There is also an unabashed pride in the Confederate flag. The Confederate descendants have heard of the controversy the emblem has stirred in Georgia and other American states but insist the connection for them is one of family history, not ideology.
"We aren't saying we want to fight that war again," said Allison Jones, 60, an engineer whose great-great-grandfather, William Hutchinson Norris of Oglethorpe, Ga., was one of the first Americans to settle here in 1866. "For us it's a way of honoring our ancestors. It was the flag of that time, not the flag of today. Our flag is the Brazilian flag, but this was the flag of our ancestors."
Although there are no exact numbers, some accounts estimate that as many as 10,000 Americans moved to Brazil after the Civil War. Recruiters for the Brazilian government crisscrossed the South after the war, luring would-be immigrants with promises of subsidies and tax breaks from Brazilian Emperor Dom Pedro II, who was anxious to capitalize on their expertise in raising cotton.
Many who left America were probably horrified at the devastation of the South, not to mention the prospect of living under the rule of the conquering army. Some may also have been drawn to Brazil because the South American nation at that time had not yet abolished slavery; it finally did so in 1888.
But the 4,000-mile journey was followed by hardship. Although the region where they came to live resembles the rolling hills of Tennessee and Georgia, tropical diseases took their toll, along with the difficulties of adapting to a new culture.
Local historians estimate that as many as 60 percent of the Americans eventually returned home or succumbed to disease.
But many of those who stayed prospered, as their farms produced bountiful crops. Slowly, over the years, the Americans intermarried with Brazilians -- many of them immigrants from other nations like Italy -- leading to estimates that as many as 200,000 people in the region today can claim American ancestry. Their legacy lives on most notably in the city's name -- Americana.
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It is in the breaking news sidebar!
Old habits die hard.
that is a GOOD thing.
Just a few of the links I found on a search. I hadn't heard of them before either.
I'll second that.
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