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The Confederados

The content below is from Season 2, Episode 30 of the Who’d a Thunk It? Podcast

RECOMMENDATION SEGMENT

  • Just yesterday I finished watching James Gunn’s Suicide Squad of 2021.
    • I expected to not enjoy this movie in the slightest.
    • The Suicide Squad movie from 2016 was OK I guess but I remember leaving that theater feeling disappointed.
    • This 2021 Suicide Squad movie was one heck of a ride. It was gruesome, funny, exciting, and overall a fun experience that I had from the comfort of my own home. This movie is theaters, but if you have HBOMax you can just stream it at home.
    • As a disclaimer: while this podcast tries to keep things clean for listeners of all ages, this movie is R rated fun. View Discretion is advised.
    • But I HIGHLY recommend you watch James Gunn’s Suicide Squat 2021. It made me remember what fun movies can be.

NOW FOR THE MAIN EVENT

  • This week’s episode is about a post-Civil War culture created in Brazil of all places.
    • Now most people have heard that Nazis fled Europe after WW2 and went to South America. As many as 9,000 Nazis are thought to have fled to South America in the final days of the Third Reich and the years that followed.
      • I might just have to do an episode on this Nazi migration on a later date.
    • But not many people know that the Nazis were not the first militarily defeated culture to flee to South America. The confederates of the American Civil War did it long before the world would even know what a Nazi was.
  • So let us talk about the American Civil War, more specifically what it meant to America’s culture.
    • First off: the Union North won. In 1865 General Ulysses S. Grant led the Union armies to victory over the Confederate South.
    • What was it fought over? *cough*
      • Well that tends to be debated on a social level in the states and the answer varies heavily depending on who you ask.
      • It seems for generations the South was handing out entirely different textbooks to their youth than the Union states were.
      • Thanks to a group called the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC), American Southerners to this day don’t believe the Civil War was fought over slavery.
        • Was it more complicated than that? I’m sure it was. Wars are always more complicated than just one sentence, but ultimately IDK. I wasn’t there.
      • But here’s what I was taught: the common explanation for the bloodiest conflict in the history of North America was fought over the moral issue of slavery. In fact, it was the economics of slavery and political control of that system that was central to the conflict. A key issue was states’ rights.
        • I took that explanation from PBS’s History Detectives. PBS also said:
        • “The Southern states wanted to assert their authority over the federal government so they could abolish federal laws they didn’t support, especially laws interfering with the South’s right to keep slaves and take them wherever they wished.
        • Another factor was territorial expansion.
        • The South wished to take slavery into the western territories, while the North was committed to keeping them open to white labor alone.
        • Meanwhile, the newly formed Republican party, whose members were strongly opposed to the westward expansion of slavery into new states, was gaining prominence.
        • The election of a Republican, Abraham Lincoln, as President in 1860 sealed the deal. His victory, without a single Southern electoral vote, was a clear signal to the Southern states that they had lost all influence.
        • Feeling excluded from the political system, they turned to the only alternative they believed was left to them: secession, a political decision that led directly to war.”
        • So according to PBS, it was fought over power. A politically and economically complicated struggle for power with slavery as a sort of focal point.
    • This episode isn’t about the moral, political, and historical facts surrounding the Civil War. It is about a little fun fact town in Brazil. However, seeing how racism is unfortunately (and frankly embarrassingly) still a major issue in my country, I thought it was important to give the facts about the American Civil War.
      • Yes, it was more complicated than a war over slavery, but the United Daughters of the Confederacy manipulated the American education system to paint the Confederates as simple victims, and it certainly wasn’t that simple either. Especially since virtually all of the United Daughters of the Confederacy founders had direct ties with the KKK.
  • *sigh of relief* OK I made it through the political part… are you still with me? LOL… OK good.
    • To better understand the culture in America during and after the Civil War it is important to understand just how bloody and destructive this war was:
      • The 1860 census counted about 31,500,000 people. The war caused Approximately 750,000 deaths.
        • That is about 2.5% of the population of the country dead over the span of 4 years.
        • Just to help wrap your head around that: Losing 2.5% of the American population today would be the equivalent of having 911 happen twice every day for 4 years. Just imagine what that did psychologically to the soldiers on the front line, the communities they left behind, and the families left behind.
      • 200,000 women were widowed and there were even more orphans left after the war
      • And the Ratio of Confederate deaths to Union deaths was 3:1 so the South got it much worse.
    • After the war much of the South was in ruins.
      • Lincoln declared the states of the Confederacy as territories before each state would eventually be accepted back in to the Federal government. He wanted the unionization of the States to happen as quickly as possible so he only required a 10% vote from each state. This left A LOT of southerners feeling underrepresented.
    • Much of the South was also ravaged by war. Plantations, farms, and even entire towns were destroyed. It was going to take a lot of work and not everyone was up to the task.
    • Rather than rebuild in a unified America that had abolished slavery, many Southerners preferred to move to entirely different countries.
      • This move was considered by Confederate leaders even before the Civil War ended. The confederates sent scouting envoys to many countries south of their own to find a land they could govern the way they wanted.
      • You could argue the South knew they were going to lose. Their military technology was about 2 decades behind the Union and only 56% of the male southern population was literate. The Union’s male literacy rate was 97%. So the South was at a major disadvantage from the start.
  • Even before the war, the confederates sent men like William Walker to parts of Mexico, California, and Nicaragua. There Walker incited revolution so he could over throw these areas and proclaim himself president.
    • The idea was for men like Walker to conquer lands south of the Confederacy and then let his old Confederate pals join him in their new lands. It worked for awhile (almost a year) until Honduran and British forces captured Walker and executed him by firing squad.
      • Confederate strategist even planned to invade Mexico and all of the Caribbean. If they won the Civil War or even negotiated a cease fire with the Union North, they planned to re-enslaving the black Caribbean people to create their confederate haven.
      • Had they succeeded they would have had control of the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea affectively making them one of the most resource rich nations on the planet.
  • The Para-Military group Knights of the Golden Circle held on to hopes of conquering land in the Americas for the confederacy after the Civil War ended.
    • A notable member of this group being John Wilkes Boothe (Lincolns would be assassin)
    • This group funded the transportation of Confederate leaders and war criminals alike to lands throughout Latin America.
    • But this group had little backing. Leader of the Confederate armies General Robert E Lee and the President of the Confederate states during the Civil War Jefferson Davis encouraged the Knights of the Golden Circle to give up any and all notions of conquest. They wanted their fellow confederates to try and rebuild the American South.
American Confederacy Is Still Alive in Brazilian City Americana
  • Despite their leaders encouragement to stay, some confederates decided to get outta dodge.
    • They lost the war, but they still saw themselves as confederates and not United States citizens.
    • First they went to Mexico. There they were welcomed by Austrian-Mexican Emperor Maximillian. Emperor Maximillian even gave these confederates citizenship and land to live on. But that didn’t last long.
    • The Civil War ended in 1865. Maximillian was only Emperor of the Second Mexican Empire from April 10th 1864 until his execution on June 19th 1867 at which point the Confederate citizenships were revoked and their land was taken back. Benito Juarez’s liberated Mexican forces kicked the confederates out of Mexico…
  • That’s when they Confederates set their sights even further South.
    • Upwards of 20,000 Confederates or Confederados as they were now dubbed, began to arrive in the Port of Rio de Janeiro as early as November of 1865.
    • The Emperor Dom Pedro II, nicknamed “the Magnanimous”, was the second and last monarch of the Empire of Brazil, reigning for over 58 years.
      • While looking up Dom Pedro (which I think is a really cool name to go by) I noticed his full name listed as: “Pedro de Alcântara João Carlos Leopoldo Salvador Bibiano Francisco Xavier de Paula Leocádio Miguel Gabriel Rafael Gonzaga de Bragança e Bourbon.” I tried my best pronouncing that full name. LOL but we all know I probably butchered it.
      • Dom Pedro wanted to modernize his country which was very behind the times for the 1860’s. He wanted more Europeans to immigrate to Brazil to boost the economy. When he heard of the Confederates plight he saw it as an opportunity to get his whole modernization project going. He especially wanted to start processing cotton as it was a boom crop at the time. And these confederates were adapt at running cotton manufacturing businesses.
      • Whereas other Southern American countries had outlawed slavery at the end of the American Civil War, Brazil still permitted slavery. The Confederates coming to Brazil seemed like it was just meant to be.
      • Dom Pedro had supported the Confederacy and now enticed Southerners to relocate to his country with cheap land and the promise to subsidize their travel.
    • The Confederados settled around major cities, but it didn’t take long for them to start creating their own communities.
      • They built five or six settlements across Brazil.
      • But things didn’t pan out quite as everyone hoped. You see moving to a completely different hemisphere comes with challenges.
      • Most of the Confederados found Brazil’s climate too hot and soil too inhospitable for cultivating the crops they were accustomed to growing back home… which was now over 4,000 miles away. Others failed to assimilate into Brazilian culture.
      • Then it seemed the final nail was being placed in the coffin of this Brazilian Confederacy when In 1888, Brazil outlawed slavery and many Confederados returned to the United States.
      • However, a few hundred Confederados remained, and their descendants still live in Brazil and celebrate their Confederate heritage today. One Confederado settlement, Americana, grew into a large city and still has that name.
Americana Brazil then
Americana Brazil now
  • Every year in April the city of Americana (with today’s population being 240,000) hold a large festival called Fiesta Confederada.
    • At this festival people of all races and ethnicities dance, drink beer, eat southern fried chicken while confederate flags are displayed everywhere from the pavement to the dresses the women wear.
    • The attendees are made up of the descendants of the original Confederado immigrants (now probably numbering in the 10’s of thousands) and native Brazilians. The confederados of today don’t just see themselves as Brazilian Americans, but as Confederates too.
    • White supremacist and racist icons such as the Swastika and KKK imagery is strictly forbidden from the festival.
    • Modern Confederados are fully aware that the confederacy fought for (among other things) the preservation of slavery. But they don’t see the confederate flag as a symbol for racism or slavery. They see it as a symbol of their heritage. The country their forefathers fought to create but ultimately failed to do so. Not to mention, they are all pretty much mixed raced themselves after 150 years of intermarriage with the local Brazilian people.
    • In America the Confederate Flag has been used in many different ways including the terrorizing of minorities. But the Brazilian Government supports Americana and their Fiesta Confederada as the Confederados of Brazil have only ever used the flag for celebration.
    • Today you can go down to Americana Brazil and see a woman with a dark complexion speak with a Southern American accent as she cooks some of the best southern fried chicken ever made… all while she has the confederate flag waving in the wind right next to the Brazilian national flag.
    • HISTORY IS WILD!
The dancers link arms and dance on a stage decorated in the Confederate flag at the festival which is held near Sao Paulo 
  • Similar to how the Swastika in Europe symbolizes something completely different as it does in India, it seems the Confederate Flag that symbolizes hate in America can symbolize a heritage that now can accept equality down in Brazil.
    • I hope you enjoyed this episode. It started out pretty heavy hearted, but I tried to have it end on a nice note. A weird note that may be hard to swallow for some, but a nice note none the less. I mean how can you call a Brazilian Festival that welcomes people of all colors and creeds to dance in cowboy boots atop a giant confederate flag while pounding brewskis and eating fried chicken a bad note? … you can’t lol.
    • Have a wonderful day Who’d a Thunkers!

CREDIT:

A brief overview of the Americana Brazil (under 5 minutes).
A longer overview (just over 11 minutes long).

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