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Once upon a time...

... was born a nice girl. She was sweet and calm, a pretty girl with dark eyes. Unfortunately she wasn’t a little princess from fairy tales. She was born with the wrong color during slavery times. Yes, you’re right, she was a black little girl, and she was a slave. However her good manners conquered her owners, and they decided she should work not at plantation but inside their big home, where she’d have a better life.
It’d be perfect, but there was just a problem: the girl was pretty. Too pretty, and soon one of the sons of her owners decided to take her as his lover. It was half expected, so nobody was shocked when some time later she was pregnant. The girl had a nice and strong baby boy, and fortunately he was born after law had changed, so all babies born from slave mothers would be free. The baby’s father had to travel, so the girl (who was still a slave) stayed on the farm with her kid.
It’s said another son of her owners fell in love and decided to take her too, but they didn’t have any kid. Anyway he gave his name to her boy, which was a decent thing, since his brother, the kid’s father, hadn’t done that. It’s also said when his older brother finally came back from his trip there was a huge argument about who would keep her, and the younger son of her owners was killed. Nobody can prove that, because it happened long long time ago, but fact is the true father of her kid took her again, and they had more three babies, two girls and a boy.
But finally, after many years, freedom came for all, and she was set free. She wasn’t so young anymore, but her kids grew up to be decent people. One of the girls had died in childhood, but the other girl and boys took good care of her. One of the boys became an engineer, even without any help from his father. He and his brother and sister married nice people, and the girl had many grandsons and granddaughters to take care. She lived many years at her daughter’s house, cooking to kids, going to masses, maybe remembering her life at farm but never complaining about past times. The kids loved her, just as her sons and daughter and daughters-in-law and son-in-law, and it seemed to be a comfort for all she lived until her death.

It could be just a wicked fairy tale, but it’s not. In fact it’s my family’s story. The slave girl was my grandfather’s grandmother, she was named Marcolina but everybody knew her as "Mãezinha" (something like little mother). She was born on a farm at 1847, when there was slavery in Brazil. She really had babies with her owner, and they were born free because there was a law from 1870-and-something saying all babies born from slave mothers would be free. Her owner’s brother really named her older kid, and the fight between he and his brother also happened, although nobody know details of it. Anyway it’s said the younger guy was really killed by his older brother.
Why am I remembering it? Because today, May 13rd, we celebrate slavery’s end at Brazil. It was on 1888, that’s the year when Mãezinha was finally set free and could leave that farm with her kids. Life was hard to all of them, but it seems the little family she raised was successful, at least I’m here to tell you this story! She died at 1939, after 92 years of sacrifice and also happy moments, I suppose. My aunts, grandfather’s sisters, remember her, how she was calm and affectionate, her good manners, the way she dressed, always with long skirts... there are photos of her and her owner on a family’s album, here they are

That's Mãezinha

That's the farmer, her owner, it’s said his name was José

(yeah, I know, the images aren’t good at all, but I couldn’t scan them or everybody would kill me, I had to take photos from them!)

Many people celebrate end of slavery, of course it was a great thing, but there are problems related to it that aren’t solved yet. It’s proved black people still have less opportunities of studying or working than white guys. It’s a shame, Brazilians are so much mixed, race issues shouldn’t be a big deal to us. I had a History teacher who used to say everybody in the world could use Brazilian passports, because everybody could be Brazilians. One of my cousins had married a Japanese descendant man, and her kids have dark skin and those Japanese eyes! There are really black people among my cousins, just as whiter ones. The mixing of races is one of our most beautiful characteristics, in my humble opinion, so it stuns me to see race prejudice here, in a country nobody can say his/her blood is 100% pure. What do they mean by "pure"? "Pure" Brazilians have a strong blood, result of many mixings through generations, lovely skin colors, and I’m very proud of my origins. It’s a pity my family doesn’t know more about Mãezinha and other old generation members, after slavery’s end authorities destroyed most part of documents about it, maybe to erase its memory (a civilized nation shouldn’t have this "stain"). But it’s not a big problem, she lives on our blood, and it’ll never change.


( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
May. 13th, 2004 04:45 pm (UTC)
It is a wonderful story!
Tragic, in some ways, but in the long run, triumphant! Thanks for sharing it, Adriana.

You know, dargie, I have always known that I had American Indian blood in me, but it was 5 generations back, and very little is known except that she was a full-blooded Native American woman. About 15 years ago, a dentist told me that I had Native American ancestry about 5 or 6 generations back, and I couldn't believe that he knew without knowing any of my family history! You are only other person who's ever told me that same story. Isn't it incredible what you can learn about yourself from a complete stranger? I love that story.
May. 13th, 2004 04:52 pm (UTC)
Re: It is a wonderful story!
You're welcome, Dusty. I didn't know a dentist could say so much about one's genetic heritage, it's fascinating! I'd like to know more about my family, we just know things back to beginning to 20th century. What happened before will remain a mistery, anyway we know about Mãezinha and her life as a slave.
(Deleted comment)
May. 13th, 2004 08:07 pm (UTC)
Re: It is a wonderful story!
That's a really interesting site, Dargie! I hadn't read it entirely yet, but so far I'm thinking its info is really worth, even to people from other countries.
And about the "guilty" secrets of blood: it also happened here during decades, but concerning to African heritage. Jorge Amado, a Brazilian famous writer, once wrote a good book named "Tenda dos Milagres", and it was one of its plot lines. The story happened during the 1930s, if I remember correctly, and there were all those rich families at city, really proud of their European origins, but in fact all of them had African relatives. I don't remember exactly why, but one of the characters, maybe looking for revenge, decided to tell the truth behind those families to press, there was an article on newspapers talking about each family and its African relatives, from which part of Africa they had come, their African names, how they became free people... it was a huge scandal, nobody could deny his/her origins anymore, there were so many details. It's a fascinating book, and a bit sad too.
May. 14th, 2004 04:28 am (UTC)
...for the link...that's great! Yeah, he told me what was missing, but didn't give me a name for it. Fortunately, my mother thought it was pretty cool that we had Native American blood...she just wished we'd known more about her. Me, too...
May. 13th, 2004 04:48 pm (UTC)
You're welcome, Dargie. It's just the story of a family, so similar to many others, I suppose. All immigrants who came to our continent enriched our story and made us what we are now. I know I've African and Portuguese blood on my veins, and as my grandmother remembers, we must have a Frech touch on it too, but probably there's much more. I was born with blue eyes, and just after some months they turned to their brown color.
It's a pity there are people who don't appreciate this legacy, though. As you said, we can't change history, no matter how hard people sometimes try to hide it. Anyway it's a good thing lots of us understand there's nothing to be ashamed of, we must be glad to see how we could absorb many influences and make it part of our blood and culture.
May. 13th, 2004 06:55 am (UTC)
Wonderful pictures, amazing story. Wow, I'm very impressed! It's a wonderful family you have.
May. 13th, 2004 04:55 pm (UTC)
Thanks, Aline. It's not a nice story at all, I'm sure there was too much pain, but family survived despite it. And it's really good we've at least those photos, we've lots from beginning of 20th century, everybody looking so serious on them, but those two, they fascinate me!
May. 13th, 2004 05:06 pm (UTC)
Damn, Adriana your post left me all teary eyed now! What a moving story. It made me think that there's so much to do yet in our country, we have to be strong like Mrs. Marcolina. Thank you so much for sharing this with us.
May. 13th, 2004 08:10 pm (UTC)
You're welcome, Ana. As I said, it's just a story that happened to tons of families here. Yes, there are many things to be done here, I can't believe we still have race prejudice, but in fact I think it's mostly economic prejudice. Anyway the more educated black people are, the better the situation will become!
May. 13th, 2004 09:58 pm (UTC)
Yeah, racism is stupid, but in Brazil it's even stupider. Thank you for sharing the story of your family, it's a really nice thing to do!.
May. 15th, 2004 08:13 pm (UTC)
You're welcome, Fábio! Sometimes I can't believe why we've racism here, there's so much mixed blood through our veins! I hope it'll end one day, though.
( 11 comments — Leave a comment )