Brazil: An Inconvenient History Sheds Light on Brazil’s Slave History
Simply the notion that one man could hold another—or many—as his property, to do with whatever he pleases, seems so bizarre. How slaves must have hated their masters—think of how much you have hated an unreasonable boss, and you were getting paid to spend time with him or her.
When the Portuguese “discovered” Brazil, they enslaved the native people to work on their sugar plantations. After half the native population was wiped out by European diseases (and ethics), the need to import slaves arose, and they did exactly what the folks in the old country did—they imported slaves from Africa (Algeria, to be exact). Through interviews with historians, Brazil: An Inconvenient History exposes Brazil’s slave history, revealing that Brazil is a country that was built on the backs of slaves.
According to Brazil: An Inconvenient History, Brazil “imported” ten times as many slaves (4 million) as the United States, and engaged in slave trade far longer. With little leadership and regulation from Portugal, the overwhelmingly male population of Portuguese in Brazil were able to treat their slaves as cruelly as they wished, and apparently some of them wished to be very cruel, to the point of torture and murder.
African slaves lasted approximately seven years in Brazil, first working on sugar plantations and then being used in gold mining and coffee plantations. A slave owner is quoted as saying that if he got a year out of a slave, he had more than made his money back. Although the majority of slaves were men (it wasn’t as profitable to “grow” slaves from infancy), women were used as cooks and prostitutes.
Inarguably, Brazilian culture is rich with African and European influences, but at what cost? Jesuit priests and travelers, though their contemporaneous journals and letters, bear witness to the conditions under which slaves were kept and the way they were treated.