Confederate Heritage is Alive and Well in Brazil

The gradual erosion of open celebrations of Confederate heritage throughout the United States stands in sharp contrast with a vibrant memory for the residents of Santa Bárbara d’Oeste and neighboring Americana, in Brazil’s south-eastern São Paulo state. Following Confederate defeat somewhere in the neighborhood of 5,000 white Southerners left for the promise of land and even the possibility of one again attaining slave-owning status in a foreign country. For close to thirty years the residents of this community have organized a celebration of their Confederate roots.

The images are right out of the Civil War centennial era, including the uniforms, dresses, dance, and large Confederate flags. All of it has a campy feel at best. Their memory of the Confederacy and the South is framed by a love for buttermilk biscuits and the “Dukes of Hazzard.” Very little attention appears to be focused on their ancestors themselves, many of whom were absorbed into Brazilian culture shortly after arrival. In fact, it’s not even clear what percentage of male immigrants actually served in the Confederate army. It also makes me wonder just how many of their ancestors wanted to put the whole Confederate experiment behind them and move on with their lives.

For Lost Cause devotees, who remain committed to a memory of the war void of slavery, these celebrations are ideal. There seems to be no awareness of why white Southerners left the United States after the war or the stated goals of the Confederate government. The images depict an ethnically diverse crowd, which reflects the current push to paint the Confederacy as a socially progressive experiment. Best of all there is no pressure surrounding this community to acknowledge the relevant history.

At the same time, it’s easy to see that this community doesn’t take themselves too seriously. Confederate heritage is clearly not a full-time occupation. I don’t anticipate a visit by H.K. Edgerton or a representative of the Sons of Confederate soliciting their support for so-called “heritage violations” in the United States. It’s as superficial a commemoration as they come, but they certainly look like they are having a lot of fun.

Americans have grown less and less tolerant of this silliness over the past few years because we can no longer afford to ignore the legacy of this history.

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10 comments… add one
  • Leo May 4, 2015 @ 5:54

    Great point!

  • Brad May 3, 2015 @ 18:25

    I used to live in Brasil, specifically São Paulo and they came to try to continue the lives they had pre-Civil War. You and the others who commented seem to want to fit it into your positions and some Confederate heritage thing, which is not what it is. It’s more a quaint remembrance of where their ancestors came from. When you live overseas, as I did a good part of my life, you try not to forget your roots and you celebrate your nationality with your fellow ex-pats. I see this as their celebrating something distinct about their heritage.

    As a matter of fact, several of the former Rebels returned home.

  • Kevin Dally May 2, 2015 @ 9:35

    Would someone PLEASE get them some authentic uniforms!

  • London John May 2, 2015 @ 6:26

    You mentioned earlier a Confederate officer who considered (but apparently did not take up) a commission in the Brazilian army attacking Paraguay. Is it known if any of the Confederados served in the Brazilian army – there’s no mention in the article? I’ve read that a large proportion of Brazilian soldiers in this war were black slaves who could be sent to take the place of a conscript.

  • Will Hickox May 2, 2015 @ 4:20

    Can we establish a fund to encourage and pay for Confederate heritage advocates to emigrate to Brazil?

    • jclark82 May 2, 2015 @ 10:11

      That’s not a fair trade though, Brazil’s provided the world Emerson Fittipaldi, Raul Boesel, Ayrton Senna, Helio Castroneves, Gil DeFerran and Tony Kanaan. Those guys have given me many happy hours of enjoyment on the race tracks of America.

      Giving them Chastain, Dunford and the rest is not remotely equitable and would certainly adversely affect US/Brazilian relations. Though getting these people out of America would be a benefit I wouldn’t want to burden another country with them.

      Jerry Sudduth Jr.

    • jclark82 May 2, 2015 @ 10:18

      Sending the Neo-Reb crowd to Brazil is not fair. Brazil has given race fans like me in this country Emerson Fittipaldi, Ayrton Senna, Raul Boesel, Helio Castroneves, Gil DeFerran and Tony Kanaan. Those guys for sure gave me a lot joy watching them race over the years.

      Sending the likes of Chastain, Dunford and Roden to Brazil is not only an absolutely unfair trade but would certainly cause an international incident permanently damaging US/Brazilian relations.

      Few countries deserve that crowd!

      Jerry Sudduth Jr.

    • Kris Jul 29, 2015 @ 12:24

      Can we do the same for African Americans ?

  • Pat Young May 2, 2015 @ 3:36

    I think the Brazil thing is more or less the equivalent of Dinkus Day in Buffalo or St, Patrick’s Day in Boston, an excuse to have fun with a vague nod to origins in another land.

    Your average Heritage advocate would be afraid to visit a festival with so many Latinos.

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