The discovery of Gold at the end of the 17th century and in the first half of the 18th century in the lands of Minas Gerais, caused a significant change in the configuration of slave-owning colonial society, large contingent of people moved to the region in search of the “golden dream” of mining activity. Among this population, a huge portion of enslaved Africans were used, among other activities, in the hard work of mines and rivers in search of precious metals, under the command of slave masters.
Thus, a constant concern of the colonial authorities and ruling classes of the time was the fear of slave revolts., the assault on villages, the escape from captivity and the formation of Quilombos. The fear of the Portuguese Crown, of the repetition in Minas Gerais of the example of resistance and struggle of “Palmares de Pernambuco” was constant throughout the 18th century, a fear that will be renewed during the 19th century due to the “black revolution”, which takes place in Haiti in 1791.
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Between 1710 and 1798 there was the discovery and destruction of 160 quilombos in Minas Gerais
The historian Carlos Magno Guimarães (UFMG) informs us that between 1710 and 1798, available documentation indicates the discovery and destruction of approximately 160 quilombos in Minas Gerais. In this sense, we must understand the flight of blacks and the formation of quilombos as resistance to the slave system. And for that very reason, a form of organization systematically fought and repressed.
In the quilombos in Minas, subsistence agriculture, pastoral farming and some cases of mining activities were practiced (the activities varied according to region), they had an internal organization, exchanged and maintained a network of information and commercial exchanges with other sectors of the colonial society in Minas Gerais. .
Among the quilombos existing in Minas Gerais during this period, perhaps the best known is the case of the “Quilombo do Ambrósio” due to the number of its population and the intense campaigns for its annihilation by troops of captains of the forest. The Quilombo do Ambrósio is cited by researchers as part of what appears as “Campo Grande” and/or “Quilombo Grande” in documents and archives.
Researcher Tarcísio José Martins, who has studied the period and the quilombos of Minas Gerais for decades, indicates that it is not just a few quilombola nuclei, but that the “Quilombo Campo Grande” would be a junction or confederation of 27 existing centers and villages (in this aspect larger than Palmares), which had articulations with each other, in a territory that covered the South/Southwest to the Mineiro Triangle of the captaincy.
“Quilombo Campo Grande” would be a junction of 27 centers and villages
The conformation of Quilombo Campo Grande, according to Tarcísio José Martins, would be linked, among other reasons, to the avoidance of the colonial government’s imposition of a system of collection and taxation of taxes on residents of Minas Gerais towns from 1735 onwards, contributing to the population increase of the villages of Quilombo Campo Grande. Campaigns and wars against Campo Grande were intense, generating large investments by the colonial government in troops and supplements to defeat the quilombolas, until the mid-1760s.
Fight yesterday, resistance today
The history of Quilombo Campo Grande still seems distant from the general public and textbooks. However, we note the interest of new researchers in the subject in recent years, such as a study by academics at PUC-MG in cartographically reconstructing the location of quilombos in Campo Grande, through maps drawn up in the war campaigns, which are under the care of the Brazilian Studies Institute (IEB-USP) and the Overseas Historical Archive (AHU).
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The struggle for the memory and rescue of the history of black resistance in the quilombos is extremely necessary in times of historical denial. Such as the tribute carried out by the Landless Rural Workers Movement (MST) when naming Quilombo Campo Grande one of the largest camps in the Southeast region, located in Campo do Meio-MG. That resists 25 years against attacks by landowners and agribusiness. Yesterday’s struggle is today’s resistance!
*Marcos Bertachi is a historian, graduated from the Federal University of São João Del-Rei (UFSJ), taking a master’s degree in Geography from the Federal University of Alfenas (UNIFAL-MG).
**This is an opinion piece and the author’s view does not necessarily express the editorial line of the newspaper
Source: BoF Minas Gerais
Edition: Elis Almeida