Guilds of artisans, brotherhoods, and confraternities flowered in Western Europe during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. To be sure, a corporate spirit was part of the European ethos itself, as has been shown by the presence of burial societies of early Christians in Rome. Their importance greatly increased, however, in the late middle ages, a product of an age responding to the stoic doctrines of St. Francis and St. Dominic, coupled with an entirely secular phenomenon—the emergence of the city. Victims of famine and plague deserted the countryside for the cities, only to fall prey to unemployment, poverty, and enforced vagrancy. The establishment of confraternities of lay men and women had the dual objective of protecting members against such misfortunes and practicing works of charity. Such brotherhoods represented the birth of a social conscience in Europe.

The Iberian Peninsula did not remain immune to this corporate sentiment sweeping Europe. Furthermore, the societies of Spain and Portugal included different religions, races, and languages, and afforded opportunities for frequent intercultural contacts. By the fifteenth century there existed in the cities of Spain and Portugal Catholic brotherhoods that counted among their members blacks brought from Africa as slaves, as well as whites of Iberian stock.

Despite minor administrative differences, all brotherhoods possessed common features: first, an emphasis on the practice of Christian virtues in word and deed; second, a spirit of corporate responsibility for the physical welfare of those brothers (and their dependents) in need of alms, medical aid, provisions, clothes, and burial; third, when funds permitted, a commitment to charitable assistance for the poor and sick of the parish. With the expansion of Europe, Spaniards and Portuguese carried the institution of the brotherhoods to Africa, Asia, and the Americas.1

By the end of the sixteenth century Portugal—one of the smallest countries in Europe, both in terms of geographical size and manpower—could boast a series of coastal enclaves ranging from Amboina to the Amazon. Despite diversity of climate, topography, religions, ethnic groups, and prevailing economic, social, and political contexts, each settlement bore the Lusitanian imprint and shared common characteristics. The most apparent was a highly centralized administration: All petitions, reports, and recommendations were forwarded to Lisbon for Crown approval and official policy for all overseas settlements was made in Lisbon, with little or no consideration for varying local conditions. Another characteristic was the extent to which the Crown encouraged, often by benign neglect, the transfer of responsibility for spiritual and social services from the public to the private sector. The king, despite legal and moral obligations imposed by the Padreado Real, encouraged his subjects to build churches at their own expense rather than at the cost of the royal exchequer. A third characteristic was extreme conservatism in Crown policy towards overseas settlements. Those institutions, such as the town council (Câmara Municipal) and High Court (Relação), that had proved their worth in continental Portugal, were transferred to the tropics with only minor modifications to distinguish them from their counterparts in Portugal. This was the case of the charitable brotherhoods. The statutes of the Santa Casa da Misericórdia of Lisbon were adhered to by branches throughout the world. Even those brotherhoods established overseas without a parent house in Portugal modelled their statutes on those of similar organizations in the mother country. Thus it was that, when the time came to draw up Compromissos for their own brotherhoods, blacks and mulattoes in colonial Brazil—some of whom were illiterate, spoke little or no Portuguese, and adhered to African religious beliefs fused with Catholicism—followed almost to the letter those statutes drawn up in Lisbon and Oporto by white, “Old Christian,” Portuguese. Likewise they emphasized Catholic observance, social philanthropy for members, and charity for the needy.

Need for Social Philanthropy in Colonial Brazil

The colored brotherhoods of Brazil provided a cushion against a competitive, white-dominated society, not only for the black brought from Africa as a slave, but also for blacks and mulattoes born in Brazil, be they slave or free. The brotherhoods constituted a corporate response to a collective and individual need felt by blacks and mulattoes in the colony. This need can be discussed under three headings: religious education or spiritual succor, medical assistance, and the search for identity.

Despite the importance attached by the Crown to the propagation of the Catholic faith among pagans—be they Amerindians, Africans, or Chinese–in fact, local ecclesiastical authorities were extremely lax in the enforcement of royal edicts. Once collective conversion ceremonies had been held, the clergy were satisfied that they had complied with orders from Lisbon. Barely was basic instruction in the catechism or further spiritual guidance given to the new additions to the flock. In 1719 Dorn João V, horrified by high slave mortality between West African and Brazilian ports and the loss of so many souls without salvation, severely rebuked the bishop of Angola for failing to ensure that all slaves received baptism and spiritual instruction before embarking. The archbishop of Bahia and the bishops of Rio de Janeiro and Pernambuco were instructed to detail a priest to visit arriving ships and baptize all sick slaves. The king also ordered parish priests in Brazil to submit to the local Crown judge lists of masters who had failed to baptize and catechize their slaves.2 In all fairness it must be admitted that the clergy in Brazil faced an insuperable task. Masters disregarded laws requiring them to grant slaves one day a week for cultivation of their own plots of land. In the mining areas slaves were on these days forced to carry foodstuffs, and in the sugar plantations they were put to work mending nets, boats, or fences. There was no time in the week during which the clergy could gather the slaves for instruction.

Many slaves, moreover, had left the Mina coast and Angola as adults, and they experienced difficulty in learning Portuguese. Suggestions by the Count of Assumar (governor of São Paulo and Minas Gerais, 1717-1721) that the lay clergy should be made to attend Jesuit colleges and learn West African languages, or that a group of Jesuit missionaries be dispatched to the mining areas, were not implemented. The governor sharply reminded Dorn João V how absurd were kingly attempts to avoid the issue on the specious ground that African slaves were not natives of Brazil. Observing that all slaves had been transported in Portuguese ships, Assumar placed responsibility fairly and squarely upon royal shoulders and demanded action, if the king were to uphold his title “Propagator of the Faith.”3 The plethora of edicts, orders, and decrees issued from Lisbon throughout the eighteenth century went largely ignored by His Majesty’s subjects overseas.

In Brazil this failure is directly attributable to the very nature of the ecclesiastical bureaucracy. Unlike Spanish America, where bishops and archbishops had been appointed within the first century of conquest, the bishopric of Bahia was raised to a metropolitanate only in 1676 and remained the colony’s sole archbishopric. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries clerics in outlying parishes were beyond its effective jurisdiction or that of the bishops of Rio de Janeiro and Pernambuco. The establishment of bishoprics at São Paulo and Mariana in the eighteenth century was rather a palliative than a solution.4 Some members of the clergy led a life of concubinage, anarchy, and extortion, and charged outrageous fees for saying masses, officiating at baptisms or funerals, and giving communion. This condition was especially serious in Minas Gerais, where Assumar was led to observe that the “Mineral Church” (Igreja Mineral) was more powerful than the Catholic Church. Priests would only give the last rites to a slave on payment of a fee in gold, giving rise to the saying: “No matter how brutish he may be, the black who wears breeches and a jacket is eligible to receive Holy Communion.”5 In 1718 Dom João V ordered that each parish priest in Minas Gerais be paid 200$000 reis annually from the exchequer. This measure, designed to improve the quality of clerics and to reduce extortion, failed in practice.6 Nor did the introduction of permanent, salaried parochial appointments (congrua) prove more effectual.7 Such official concern did not result in any amelioration in the spiritual education received by slaves and free blacks and mulattoes in colonial Brazil, nor did it afford them the guarantee of the Last Sacraments or a Christian burial.

If spiritual provision for the black and mulatto was defective, no more to be envied was their physical condition, which depended in large part on the prevailing type of economy. The physical deprivation of the future slave began before he reached Brazil. Brought to the coast of West Africa from the interior, he had to contend not only with the rigors of the journey, but also with regions and peoples with diseases and dietary habits totally different from his own. This journey through different epidemiological zones proved fatal to many, even before they reached the coast. For the survivors there was the ordeal of the Atlantic crossing, terrifying in psychological as well as physical terms. Despite Crown legislation, such voyages were characterized by overcrowding, inadequate supplies of water and food, and insanitary conditions. Quarantine measures on arrival varied in effectiveness and slaves carried infectious diseases to the cities, the plantations, and the hinterland of Brazil. The individual who might have developed some degree of resistance to a certain disease in Africa, had little immunological defense against a different strain of the same disease in Brazil. Although blacks on the West African coast had been exposed to diseases carried by white traders since the fifteenth century, blacks from the interior confronted for the first time a European disease syndrome. They fell ready victims to influenza, smallpox, and measles.8

On arrival in Brazil slaves faced the problems of adapting to a new diet, new environment, and new working conditions. The black and mulatto, slave or free, was frequently the victim of official negligence in the enforcement of municipal edicts concerning the preparation and sale of uncooked foods. In Minas Gerais, after bitter public controversy, culminating in an official enquiry by doctors and surgeons, the Count of Galvêas (governor, 1732-1735) forbade the sale of cornmeal (fubá). Apart from containing stone fragments from the milling wheels, such raw meal, when given to slaves as their staple diet, was believed to cause diseases of the alimentary tract.9 The town council of Vila Rica introduced legislation to regulate the slaughter of cattle and distribution of meat as it had been discovered that rotten meat was often offered for sale to poor coloreds and slaves.10

Environmental factors contributed significantly to a high incidence of diseases among blacks and mulattoes. In the mining areas, where they stood in swiftly running cold streams for long periods while panning for gold and diamonds, kidney ailments and rheumatism were prevalent. The mining life of panning by day and whoring and drinking by night often led to knife fights, drunkenness, and venereal disease. On the sugar plantations and in domestic service, infested clothing induced diseases transmitted by fleas. Lowered resistance and cramped conditions contributed to pulmonary diseases. Epidemics of yellow fever struck the Northeast. Smallpox and leprosy were common. In the cities and towns the sanitary situation was deplorable. At death the slave and the indigent lacked the guarantee of a Christian burial. It was common practice to leave cadavers at doors of churches in the hope that the priest would order their burial. At best, poor blacks or mulattoes could expect superficial interment in a cemetery roamed by dogs. At worst, their bodies were dumped or floated out on the tide lashed to a spar.

The demands imposed by a white-dominated society did nothing to assuage the environmental difficulties experienced by the colored population of colonial Brazil. There are records of masters meeting the costs of medical treatment for slaves, an action induced less by humanitarian considerations than by hard financial reality. The slave represented an investment and was a token of social prestige. The free black and mulatto did not receive even this albeit dubious form of protection. Old and infirm slaves were often granted their freedom once they became incapable of profitable labor, for no reason other than that the master wished to evade financial responsibility for their welfare. Without a trade or skill, healthy young slaves also discovered that their ‘certificates of freedom’ were of little value. For many the only alternatives were vagabondage or reabsorption into the slave system as day workers. No town or city of colonial Brazil was immune from the threat posed to law and order by large numbers of prostitutes, petty criminals, and vagrants.11

Whether or not a corporate identity existed among blacks and mulattoes in colonial Brazil is still an unexplored subject. The process of their enslavement in Africa, different ports of their embarkation and disembarkation, their sale in Brazil (often as individuals), and their subsequent dispersion made difficult, if not impossible, any preservation of those strong tribal allegiances present in African society. Loss of an African identity and the impossibility of finding a surrogate identity in the New World were exacerbated by tensions resulting from ethnic miscegenation, socioeconomic pressures, and an official policy of discrimination against blacks and mulattoes. All survivals in colonial Brazil of African traditions in dance, song, music, religion, or social mores were persecuted. Any act that gave a black or mulatto person authority or dominance over other blacks or mulattoes was forbidden. An edict of 17x9 instructed parish priests in Minas Gerais not to accept blacks and mulattoes as godparents at weddings or baptisms.12 All sense of inner emancipation was stifled among them. Social and economic emancipation, even within the restricted bounds permitted to freedmen, remained unattainable for the vast majority of blacks and mulattoes during the colonial era.

The presence of groups of runaway slaves (quilombos) and uprisings by blacks and mulattoes (infinitely rarer than the “running scared” correspondence of governors and town councils would suggest) might be advanced as evidence of psychosocial cohesion among such people. In fact, such alliances as there may have been proved temporary and too fragile to sustain challenge over a period of time. Several “revolts” failed for no other reason than the inability of different factions to agree on a single leader.13 Kings, viceroys, governors, and colonists tended to class all non-whites together as “enemies of the nation” (a term including Carijó Amerindians), but within such a sector itself there were strong and unresolvable tensions and antagonisms. Brazilian-born blacks and mulattoes expressed contempt for those born in Africa, as too did mulatto (pardo) for black (prêto), and freedman for slave. Even the freedman who had gained his freedom by the fruits of his own endeavors looked down upon his fellow who had received his “certificate of freedom” by the testamentary provision of an appreciative master.

Blacks and mulattoes were neglected by the Church, suffered physical deprivation and disease, and were robbed of any sense of corporate place. One response to all these needs was the creation of brotherhoods.

Founding of Black and Mulatto Brotherhoods

Brazil has often been described as a melting pot of races, but for the period prior to 1822, a concise and documented history of the black and mulatto, slave or free, has yet to be written. In part, this neglect stems from the absence of adequate documentary materials and the difficulty of access to potential sources of information. Public archives in Brazil contain extensive holdings of manuscripts of an official nature–notarial records, land grants, minutes of municipal councils, reports by Crown judges, and correspondence between king, viceroy, and governors. Vital for any social, economic, or political study of Brazil, such documentation contributes little to our understanding of the value systems and roles of the black and mulattoes in the colony. Nor are the narratives of European visitors to colonial Brazil more reliable. These frequently reflect the social and religious background of the writer, or show a naive tendency to view the black and mulatto as picturesque additions to the tropical landscape.

This dearth of information on the social position of the black and mulatto in Portuguese America enhances the value of the private archives of their brotherhoods as indispensable sources not only for an appreciation of the stresses and strains present in the multiracial society of the cities of colonial Brazil, but also for an understanding of the black and mulatto ethos during this period. But even here the path is by no means clear. Although many such brotherhoods date back to the latter half of the sixteenth century, I know of no extant records before the seventeenth century. Even after this period in many cases the only records that have survived are the Compromissos, or statutes, of the brotherhoods. Such statutes exhorted the scribe of the brotherhood to keep records of minutes of the governing bodies, of dues and subscriptions, of successful applicants for membership and of their deaths, of expulsions from the brotherhood, of masses said for the souls of former brothers, and the detailed ledgers of all business transactions. Negligence on the part of the annually elected scribes, ravages of documents by termites, and “spring-cleanings” and intentional destruction of papelada velha by modern janitors, have made such documents extremely rare for the colonial era. Moreover, in those few cases where registers have survived, custodians are reticent in granting entry to scholars. Finally, given the fact that brotherhoods were created and dissolved with extraordinary rapidity, or that they transferred their seat from one chinch to another, those records that have survived can in no way be regarded as complete but are merely representative of a voluminous source material that has been destroyed.14 It is inevitable that those black and mulatto brotherhoods, whose archives have been preserved to the present day and about which we are best informed, are those which enjoyed a high degree of prominence and stability during the colonial era. Their registers and ledgers are unique in the history of Portuguese America as documents drawn up by blacks and mulattoes specifically for themselves.

A considerable period elapsed between the arrival of the black in Brazil and the creation of a milieu conducive to the founding of his brotherhoods. Brotherhoods were essentially an urban phenomenon, and cities were slow to develop in Portuguese America. Moreover, despite the presence in Lisbon by 1500 of a substantial black and mulatto population (the fruits of a thriving slave trade from Guinea and Senegambia during the preceding three-quarters of a century), Portuguese authorities had been unprepared for the impact on Brazilian society and mores that resulted from the massive influx of slaves to the sugar plantations of Bahia and Pernambuco. There had been the need to assuage the lay and ecclesiastical officials and white colonists who feared that such associations of blacks and mulattoes would challenge white supremacy, undermine law and order, and foment revolt. Time had also been essential for a corporate spirit to develop among the slaves themselves. In 1589 two zealous Jesuit missionaries formed brotherhoods for black slaves working on the sugar plantations of Pernambuco, with the express object of improving spiritual instruction.15 Doubtless other brotherhoods were established on their own initiative by sixteenth-century blacks, but no records of their activities have survived. Only in the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries were these brotherhoods to make their presence felt in the urban life of Brazil. By the eighteenth century it would be true to say that for every such person, black or mulatto, male or female, slave or free, and of whatever tribal allegiance and place of birth (creole, i.e. born in Brazil, or African born), there existed a brotherhood where he could meet with his equals.

So many brotherhoods were founded and dissolved but failed to receive official sanction or to be the subject of Crown correspondence, that it would be well nigh impossible to make an overall count of colored brotherhoods in colonial Brazil at any date or place. At the beginning of the eighteenth century in Salvador the 34 approved brotherhoods dedicated exclusively to the Blessed Virgin Mary included 6 black brotherhoods of Our Lady of the Rosary and 5 mulatto brotherhoods.16 A report of 1789 listed 11 black brotherhoods in the city, excluding those dedicated to Our Lady of the Rosaiy. It is possible that the number of black brotherhoods in Salvador exceeded this number.17 Between 1711 when the first township in Minas Gerais was founded and 1780, some 11 black and 10 mulatto brotherhoods were active in Vila Rica, Sabará, São João del Rei, and Mariana (formerly Vila do Carmo).18 Rare was the town of eighteenth-century Brazil that did not count a brotherhood of Our Lady of the Rosary and a multiplicity of smaller brotherhoods dedicated to St. Anthony of Catagerona, St. Benedict, St. Ephigenia, and other saints to whom blacks and mulattoes were especially devoted. In the development of these brotherhoods it appears that those formed by mulattoes predominated in the eighteenth century. This may have been the direct result of the greater facility with which the mulatto was able to buy his “certificate of freedom” (carta de alforria), enjoy greater physical mobility, and consolidate his position within certain limits, both socially and economically. It must be emphasized that the development of black and mulatto brotherhoods varied considerably from area to area, depending largely on the predominant economy.19

Most brotherhoods sprang from the common desire on the part of a group of blacks or mulattoes to form an officially recognized corporate entity. But some brotherhoods were born of specific occurrences, as illustrated by the following two examples. In 1721, in an attempt to placate the Almighty and save Bahia from the storms that were devastating the city and the Recôncavo, a mulatto tailor took to the streets with a cross on his shoulders. A procession formed behind him and crossed the streets and squares of the capital until it arrived at the Ajuda chapel, where prayers were said. This group of devotees formed the nucleus for the brotherhood of Born Jesus da Cruz. Its seat was later transferred to the Hospicio da Palma, and its charter was approved by the king in 1751.20 The circumstances surrounding the foundation of the brotherhood of the Glorious St. Francis de Paula were even more curious. António Borges Monteiro, a priest of eighteenth-century Salvador, had been accustomed to taking his afternoon stroll in the parish of Nossa Senhora do Pillar and engaging in a few hours of conversation with an elderly friend living in the area known as Agua de Meninos. One day the priest stumbled on a Veronica made of tin and bearing the image of St. Francis de Paula. Taking it home he locked his find safely in a drawer, only to be confronted, three days later, by the same Veronica on the ground in the same place as before. Recognizing a miracle, Monteiro bought his friend’s house and ordered the vicinity to be cleared of scrub. This action resulted in the eviction of an urban quilombo made up of runaway slaves who had chosen that area because of the protection afforded by the undergrowth. Drawing on his own meager resources and alms, Monteiro built a chapel. After a chequered history, culminating in the closure of the chapel, in 1843 a group of “free creoles born in the Empire of Brazil” received permission from the archbishop to adopt this chapel as the seat of its newly established brotherhood.21

Whatever the motives leading to the establishment of different brotherhoods, all had to conform to the same procedures in order to secure official approval. Ecclesiastical privileges granted by the Papacy to the Order of Christ, concerning patronage of the Church overseas, had been incorporated into the Crown by a Bull of 1551. Known as the Padroado Real this spiritual and temporal union had conferred on the Portuguese monarchy a dual administrative role, first as Kings of Portugal, and secondly as “Governors and perpetual administrators of the Order of Christ.” Brotherhoods had to submit final drafts of proposed statutes to the king. After referral to the advisory body of the Tribunal of the Board of Conscience and Orders (Tribunal da Mesa da Consciência e Ordens), Crown approval was either granted outright (usually the case) or on condition that recommended amendments be adopted.

All Compromissos were subject to reform in the light of new developments. The brotherhood of Our Lady of the Rosary, founded in 1685 in the cathedral of Salvador, received royal approval for its statutes in the same year. Later the brotherhood was to build its own church in the Pelourinho and was to play a more prominent role in the community. The few chapters of the primitive Compromisso had merely served to indicate general guidelines. As such they were totally inadequate to meet the needs of the brotherhood in the capital, whose social and economic configurations were becoming increasingly complex. A new Compromisso of 1769 (approved 1781), intended to resolve problems of dissent among brothers, had the opposite effect, and only served to exacerbate internal tensions and antagonisms. This led the governing body of 1820 to revise the statutes and add new chapters, fearing that otherwise they would witness the extinction of the brotherhood.22 These circumstances were typical of the gamut of reform, revision, and rewriting of statutes experienced by governing bodies in response to changing external pressures, increased membership, and additional responsibilities. More drastic were statutory reforms resulting from a complete reappraisal of the composition and objectives of a brotherhood.

Membership and Society

The Membership of the brotherhoods reflected the heterogeneous nature of the black and mulatto population of colonial Brazil. The only conditions—common to all—imposed on an applicant were that he be God-fearing, of good character, and that he pay his annual dues regularly. Brotherhoods ranged from the rigorously exclusive to those practicing a policy of open admissions in the acceptance of members. The exclusive ones demanded that candidates meet specified ethnic, social, and even economic requirements. In Salvador, blacks established the brotherhood of Senhor Born Jesus das Necessidades e Redempção in the Corpo Santo church in 1752. Membership was limited to blacks from Dahomey, known as Gege in Brazil. The brotherhood of Nossa Senhora da Boa Morte, whose seat was in the Barroquinha church, admitted only Nago-Yorouba of the Ketu nation.23 Other brotherhoods had varying requirements—that their members be born in Angola, or in Brazil, or that they be slaves or freedmen. Some drew sharp distinctions between blacks and mulattoes. Such religious brotherhoods of laymen and women should not be confused with the “corporations,” or guilds of artisans, whose members had to meet professional requirements. Although the mulatto carpenters of Vila Rica were to adopt St. Joseph as their patron and would build a chapel in his honor, this cooperative achievement reflected the interests of a professional society and not those of the brotherhoods.24

The more liberal attitude of some brotherhoods towards applicants was exemplified by Our Lady of the Rosary of Salvador and by Our Lady of Mercies (Nossa Senhora das Mercês) of the Arraial do Tejuco in Minas Gerais. The Rosary admitted “everybody, regardless of social position and sex, both free and slave.” The brothers of Our Lady of Mercies did not distinguish between white, mulatto or black members.25 Whites of both sexes not only became members, but also became benefactors of black brotherhoods. In this attitude the Rosary and other black and mulatto brotherhoods following the same policy were infinitely more tolerant than the white Misericórdia and the Third Orders, who refused to admit as a brother anyone of “tainted blood,” or even a white if he were married to a black or mulatto woman.26 In the case of brotherhoods dedicated to Our Lady of the Rosary, St. Benedict, and other saints favored by blacks and mulattoes throughout Brazil, the overall policy on admissions could vary from area to area at different periods. The affiliate in one parish did not necessarily pursue the same policy as its namesake in a neighboring parish, although both shared the same patron.

Brotherhoods composed of different ethnic groups were not exempt from racial hostility among members. The brotherhood of Our Lady of the Rosary, whose seat was in the chapel of the Alto da Cruz in Vila Rica, had admitted blacks and whites during the first years following its founding in the early eighteenth century. In 1733, conflicts between brothers culminated in all whites renouncing their membership. They established a white brotherhood devoted to Our Lady of the Rosary in the chapel of Padre Faria.27 Nor was such dissent restricted to the poles of the ethnic spectrum. In the Arraial do Tejuco the brotherhood of Our Lady of the Rosary of Blacks had also admitted creoles. In 1771, after using “words less than decent, calling this brotherhood one of Negroes,” all the American-born brothers left the brotherhood of the Rosary and incorporated themselves as the brotherhood of Our Lady of Mercies. Although the freshly drawn-up statutes provided for the admission of “slave blacks and those born on the Costa de Guiné,” some creole brothers challenged this clause in practice. The dispute was only resolved after recourse to the local Crown judge (ouvidor), who ruled in favor of the admission of blacks into the creole brotherhood.28

Organization of the Brotherhoods

Brotherhoods were administered by a governing body, or Mesa, elected annually. Elections usually occurred in the latter months of the calendar year and were of the indirect type. A typical procedure was for the outgoing Mesa to meet in consistory. Each member of the governing body proposed two or three candidates he considered most suitable to occupy his position. His colleagues, “without any partiality or hatred” voted for one of the nominees, signifying assent or disapproval by white or black beans respectively. The nominee gaining most votes was duly elected. This practice was in sharp contrast to that of white brotherhoods, where it was customary for the entire brotherhood to be convoked for a secret ballot, or for an electoral committee to be chosen, which in turn selected and nominated suitable candidates. Despite the inherent potential evils of the electoral system adopted by black brotherhoods, namely, the creation of self-perpetuating oligarchies or interest groups, electoral “rigging” appears to have been less prevalent among colored brotherhoods than among white brotherhoods, whose electoral abuses often provoked viceregal and even Crown intervention. In the case of black and mulatto brotherhoods one condition concerning elections, invariably stipulated in the statutes, was that the priest of the parish where the brotherhood had its seat should be present. Election results were announced to the assembled brothers at the annual ceremony in honor of the patron saint.

The composition of the Mesa represented the different ethnic and tribal allegiances of the brothers. Even those brotherhoods who admitted whites as members, stipulated that the governing body be composed exclusively of blacks or mulattoes. The brotherhood of the Rosary of Salvador enforced the ruling that brothers born in Angola and those born in Brazil should be equally represented on the Mesa. The post of Juiz, or President, was to be the prerogative of one or the other group in alternate years. Moreover, in those years when a creole was scribe (escrivão), the other key position of treasurer was to be held by an Angolan, and vice versa. This ethnic division also applied to minor elective and appointed posts. The statutes of the brotherhood of Our Lady of Mercies of the Arraial do Tejuco, while admitting whites, mulattoes, and African-born blacks, nevertheless ruled that only creoles should occupy posts on the Mesa. Moreover, in filling such posts, preference was to be given to those creoles born in the immediate judicial area (comarca).

Basic qualifications for eligibility to serve on the governing body varied from brotherhood to brotherhood. Literacy was not a prerequisite, except for the posts of scribe and treasurer. Even here the ability to sign one’s name was accepted as proof of literacy.29 Statutes of black and mulatto brotherhoods, except those of slave membership, usually ruled that all members of the governing body be freedmen. Not only was it felt that as such they would be better able to exercise authority over their colleagues, but also they would be in a better position to bear the financial responsibilities of public service. The Compromisso (1820) of the Rosary of Salvador conceded that “any brother who, despite his bondage, is well behaved and whose captivity is mild” could serve on the Mesa, but remained barred from holding the posts of president, scribe, or treasurer. The same chapter affords an interesting comment on the role ascribed to women in such brotherhoods. Although single women were admitted, and husbands were encouraged to enroll their wives, the statute insisted that women be excluded from the governing body, “because of the nature of their sex.”30

The governing body of black and mulatto brotherhoods was usually composed of a president (two in those brotherhoods composed of more than one faction, e.g., Angolans and creoles), a scribe, a treasurer, and a varying number of brothers. Although some brotherhoods did crown “kings” and “queens,” for the most part such ceremonies were of a purely festive nature. They were not an integral part of the traditions and religious celebrations of the black and mulatto brotherhoods. Nor did such “kings” and “queens” hold administrative office in the brotherhoods.31 The president chaired all meetings of the governing body and represented the interests of the brotherhood to civil and ecclesiastical authorities. By statute he was required to attend in full regalia all public processions sponsored by the brotherhood, and to accompany the funeral cortèges of brothers. The scribe was responsible not only for keeping minutes of meetings, records of entries and expulsions of brothers and their dependents and of those brothers who had died, but also for the accounts ledgers, inventories of property owned by the brotherhood, and registers of masses said for the souls of deceased brothers. In short, he had overall responsibility for all bookkeeping and for conservation of the brotherhood’s archives. The treasurer was charged with all the financial affairs of the brotherhood, e.g., receipts of subscriptions and annual dues, collection of rents, or payments to priests for officiating at masses. Only with his approval could the scribe authorize the saying of masses (sufrágios) for dead brothers and their dependents. Such approval was given only after verifying that the dead brother had no debts outstanding to the brotherhood. With the passage of time, increasingly complex financial and administrative burdens prompted the more prominent black and mulatto brotherhoods to elect a procurador. Although lacking formal legal training, he was responsible for investigating bad debts due to the brotherhood and for making initial reports on legal cases involving the brotherhood. The remaining members of the governing body supervised the day-to-day affairs of administration, examined membership applications, visited properties belonging to the brotherhood, and ensured that sick and indigent brothers received assistance. They were bound by statute to attend funerals and all public ceremonies of the brotherhood.32

The Mesa was assisted by a secondary administrative body made up of brothers with experience on the governing body. This secondary body normally acted in a purely advisory capacity. At the insistence of an individual member, or at the behest of the entire brotherhood, the consultores were convoked to assess any policy advocated by the Mesa, if it was feared this might be prejudicial to the interests of the brotherhood. On occasion, the Mesa itself would call on the members of the secondary body for counsel. The role of the board of advisors was of great importance: first, it served as a check on financial extravagance or political self-interest by a majority group on the Mesa; secondly, it provided a sense of continuum in policy, thus offering a wealth of experience gained over several decades, from which the annually elected governing bodies could benefit.

The two major administrative bodies were assisted by numerous mordomos and mordomas, responsible for enforcing decisions taken by the Mesa. They were chosen annually on an ad hominem or ad mulierem basis and had specific duties, such as the preparation of the brotherhood’s church for festivals, visiting the sick, or taking food to brothers in jail. Female members of the brotherhood played a vital and essential role in providing social services for brothers and their families stricken by sickness or poverty.

Financing the Brotherhoods

Although the statutes and administration of black and mulatto brotherhoods in colonial Brazil were modelled on their white counterparts, at no time could these brotherhoods match the financial resources of the Third Orders of St. Francis, St. Dominic, and the Carmelites, or even of the parochial brotherhoods of the Santíssimo Sacramento. The outstanding exception to this rule was the black brotherhood of Our Lady of the Rosary, whose seat was in the Caquende chapel in the parish of Our Lady of the Pillar in Vila Rica. During the rebuilding of the parish church, the Holy Eucharist had been kept in the Caquende chapel. On May 24, 1733, at one of the most sumptuous religious processions ever witnessed in Brazil, the Eucharist was carried from the Caquende to the newly completed parish church. The brothers of the Rosary not only opened a new road between the two chapels for the procession and contributed to the heavy costs of the festivities, but they also sponsored the publication in Lisbon (1734) of a work entitled Triunfo Eucharistico written by Simão Ferreira Machado. Bearing the subtitle “an example of Lusitanian Christianity,” this volume meticulously described the baroque extravaganza.33

Such ostentation was unique, and even the brotherhood of the Rosary was later to rue its openhandedness. For the most part black and mulatto brotherhoods led a precarious financial existence. Monetary support came from four chief sources: subscriptions, pledges, rents, alms and bequests. All applicants and their spouses were required to pay a modest subscription on acceptance into the brotherhood, and to pay annual dues thereafter. Any member delinquent in payment of his dues was liable to expulsion and loss of privileges. Such payments were affected by die inflationary spiral in the Brazilian economy, especially in the eighteenth century. In 1699 the initiation fee of 320 reis, or one pataca, had been imposed by the brotherhood of St. Anthony of Catagerona in Salvador, whose governing body was limited to creoles and blacks born in Angola. The statutes of 1764 raised this to 1$280 reis. In 1686 statutory payment on formal acceptance into the brotherhood of the Rosary in the parish of the Conception in Salvador had been $400 reis; annual dues had been set at $100 reis. By 1820 its namesake in the Pelourinho was demanding 2$000 reis on election, and 100 reis as annual dues. In comparison, in 1844 the brotherhood of the Glorious St. Francis de Paula in Salvador set admission and annual dues at 2$400 reis and 160 reis, respectively.34 At best, the amount and regularity of funds derived from dues was problematical. Eighteenth-century Brazil was characterized by massive internal demographic upheavals. Victims of masters’ whims, slaves were moved from one part of the country to the other, in response to new economic developments. Although brotherhoods of freedmen could possibly count on more affluence among their members than could slave brotherhoods, nevertheless it is well to bear in mind that the free black or mulatto enjoyed greater physical mobility than his brother in bondage.

The president and other members of the governing body were bound by statutory obligation to make a promessa under oath, at the beginning of their term of office, for payment of a specific amount into the communal coffers. This practice enjoyed wide acceptance in the eighteenth century, but is rare in statutes of an earlier date. Such “promises” had to be honored by the end of the year of office. Sums payable depended on the post occupied. In 1820, pledges made by officers of the Rosary in Salvador were as follows: president, 16$000 reis; scribe, 8$000 reis; treasurer, 4$000 reis; procurator, 6$4000 reis; “consultor,” 4$000 reis. The prestige attached to such posts and the willingness, even on the part of slaves, to meet these considerable financial responsibilities were noted by Henry Koster, who visited Brazil in the early nineteenth century.35 In 1818, the brotherhood of Our Lady of Mercies in the mining township of Sabará modified the chapter of its statutes concerning eligibility for the post of president. Whereas previously only blacks had held this post, the decline in gold production had reduced them to a state of poverty, and they were incapable of honoring such “promises.” The presidency was thrown open to whites and mulattoes.36

Income derived from rents on properties and lands was an important source of funds. White brotherhoods usually acquired such properties either by legacies or as the result of legal foreclosure for debts outstanding to the brotherhood. This was rarely the case for black and mulatto brotherhoods. In the early years in Minas Gerais the town councils frequently granted small plots of land within the urban limits to a colored brotherhood. This practice benefited both parties. The brotherhood gained a source of income from rents on houses built on these plots, and the municipality could be assured of clearing of scrub and proper development of the area. The primitive mining encampments grew demographically and in physical extent as the eighteenth century progressed. Land values soared, and town councillors began to challenge concessions made to brotherhoods by their predecessors, in the hope of repossessing lands for municipal profit. The mulatto brotherhood of St. Joseph and the black brotherhood of the Rosary, both in Vila Rica, were severely harassed in the 1740s and 1750s to present the titles to the lands they claimed to own by virtue of earlier municipal decrees. Despite the dubious legality of some of these concessions and charges by the king that town councils had exceeded their authority in making them in the first place, nevertheless the Crown invariably relented, to the extent of confirming the brotherhoods in their possession of such lands.37

Black and mulatto brotherhoods also received alms and gifts from brothers and well-wishers. One clause of the statutes was devoted to the procedure to be followed for the collection of alms through the streets on Sundays and holy days. This duty was the responsibility of one or more brothers and was frequently allocated on a monthly rotating system. Returns were meager.38 Financial support by whites for these brotherhoods was commonplace. The brotherhood of Our Lady of the Rosary of Blacks in Sabará, founded in the early eighteenth century, owed its survival to the generosity of its white protector and benefactor João Gonçalves da Costa. In 1772 the governing body of the brotherhood of Our Lady of Mercies gratefully accepted the land and the financial aid towards the building of their chapel in the Arraial do Tejuco that Dr. Luís José de Figueiredo offered. In a fit of pique in 1778 Figueiredo rescinded his offer and resigned from the brotherhood.39 The brotherhoods encouraged potential donors by emphasizing the social prestige to be derived from such gifts. In its statutes of 1820 the brotherhood of the Rosary in Salvador went so far as to create the largely honorary title of “Majordomo of Ceremonies” (Mordomo da festa). Major contributors towards the expenses of the brotherhood’s public religious ceremonies were so honored and were automatically inducted into the brotherhood.40

Such brotherhoods received bequests from whites, blacks, and mulattoes. The pattern of giving depended on the hue of the benefactor and was related to broader considerations about the nature of colonial society. In Brazil, as elsewhere in the Americas, the upper levels of society had more connections of all kinds than did the lower levels. Participation in the activities of socially inferior organizations was possible by members of the upper crust of society, without such interests carrying any implication of equality or blurring of social distinctions. Moreover, blacks and mulattoes often did not possess adequate financial resources to pay the dues of a variety of brotherhoods. In consequence, whereas a white might belong to six or eight brotherhoods, rarely would a black or mulatto belong to more than one or two. Moreover, whites in colonial Brazil were deeply imbued with two predominant emotions: first, a lively fear of “Hell fire”; second, a feeling of responsibility as Christians to encourage the propagation of the faith, even if the vehicles were socially unacceptable and “tainted with infected blood.” Doubtless a psycho-historian would look to the inequalities of a slavocratic society and inherent guilt complexes to explain white patronage of brotherhoods of freedmen and slaves. The significance of this difference in attitudes was that whereas the colored person made a bequest to a single brotherhood, the white distinguished between primary and secondary beneficiaries. The first category included the Misericórdia, the Third Orders, and the brotherhood of the Santíssimo Sacramento. A Tertiary of St. Francis might well order that his cortège be accompanied by brothers of the Misericórdia and that masses be said for his soul at the altars of the Santíssimo Sacramento in parishes throughout the city. The major part of his fortune would be left to such prestigious brotherhoods. His patronage of and membership in a black or mulatto brotherhood would be relegated to a secondary position. The best such a brotherhood could expect from a white member was a modest bequest. To have one’s name remembered is a perquisite of wealth. In colonial Brazil the pomp and piety of a funeral were regarded as indices of social and economic standing. By statute, all brotherhoods guaranteed attendance of their members at the funeral of a fellow. In addition, wealthy citizens swelled their cortèges by promises of small legacies to those brotherhoods of which they were not members, if they were present. When social prestige was at stake, racial considerations became of secondary importance.41

Functions of the Brotherhoods

Black and mulatto brotherhoods devoted much time and expenditure to religious activities. First priority for all newly formed brotherhoods was to secure a seat for its services and ceremonies. Some, by dint of communal effort, a financial “protector,” or a legacy, succeeded in building their own chapels from the outset. The Black brotherhood of Our Lady of the Rosary had built its own chapel in the first years following the raising of the mining encampment of Our Lady of the Conception of Sabará to the status of township.42 Its affiliate in Vila Rica built its own chapel in the Caquende with alms donated by “poor black slaves.”43 According to tradition, the church of St. Ephigenia in Vila Rica was built largely from the proceeds of gold dust washed out of their hair by devout black women.44 The black brotherhood of the Rosary of Porto Seguro was fortunate enough to be granted by the Prince Regent in 1810 the exclusive use of a chapel, formerly the property of the Jesuits.45 But the vast majority of black and mulatto brotherhoods had to be satisfied, at least in their early years, with permission to use an altar either in the church of another brotherhood or in the parish church. Two brotherhoods frequently shared the same altar. Feuds and rivalries between sharing brotherhoods were commonplace. Such antagonisms often precipitated the move towards the construction of a chinch for the exclusive use of a brotherhood.

The brotherhood of Our Lady of the Rosary of Rio de Janeiro had to overcome severe official opposition before building its own church. In the 1690s the brothers informed the king that the reason the brotherhood had not installed the statue of Our Lady, ordered from Portugal at a cost of 200$000 reis, was that their altar in the cathedral faced the sea, and all gilt work faded rapidly. They also alleged that the cathedral was inconveniently situated and that the majority of brothers were slaves and could not attend services. The brotherhood asked the king to grant the church of Nossa Senhora do Parto for its private use, offering to meet all maintenance costs. This appeal was evidently unsuccessful because in 1695 and 1698 the king asked the governor of Rio de Janeiro to report on the brotherhood’s petitions (the first made together with the brotherhood of St. Benedict) for permission to build its own church. Royal permission was granted on January 14, 1700, but this was not the end of the brotherhood’s tribulations. António de Brito Freire de Meneses (governor, 1717-1719) opposed the building. After further royal intervention, construction was started, only to run into financial difficulties and harassment by the Crown judge (juiz de fora). In the 1730s, when the Santa Cruz church was so dilapidated as to make the building of a new cathedral unavoidable, the brothers of the Rosary suffered the inconvenience of the bishop and his assistants celebrating mass in their church. Reprimanding the governor for his delay in choosing a site for the cathedral, the king observed that “it is not proper that the bishop and chapter of that city should be celebrating the divine offices in a borrowed church, and together with blacks.”46

Delusions of grandeur frequently led brotherhoods to exhaust their capital on building sprees. In 1739 Dom João V ordered that no parish churches in Minas Gerais were to be rebuilt or enlarged without prior approval both by the governor and the local provedor of the royal treasury. All plans submitted were to be in proportion to the needs of the respective parishes. In cases of proven excess the king threatened to withhold the customary contribution for church building made by the exchequer.47 Sometimes the building of churches received official support, as the first step towards consolidating groups in the backlands and bringing them under Crown control. In 1799 the black brotherhood of the Rosary on the island of Itaparica in the Bay of All Saints received encouragement from local ecclesiastical dignitaries for its petition asking for Crown sanction for the erection of its own chapel. The district Crown judge supported such a building because it would enhance the settlement of Itaparica and possibly would make it worthy of the status of “town” (vila). Early enthusiasm by the governor Dom Fernando José de Portugal rapidly waned. In 1800 he informed the Crown that such a chapel was not essential because the parish church was adequate for the resident population.48

Having built its own church, the next step for a brotherhood was to appoint a chaplain and a sacristan. The chaplain was responsible for all the religious activities of the brotherhood. He supplemented his basic salary with fees derived from the saying of masses for the souls of dead brothers, and also for officiating at baptisms, marriages, and funerals. The sacristan guarded the communal plate and jewels and ensured that altars were clean and suitably prepared for the saying of masses. He was forbidden to lend any article without the permission of the governing body.49 The chaplain served as an ecclesiastical presence within the brotherhood. Private churches of brotherhoods were beyond the jurisdiction of the Ordinary, but chaplains were not exempt from parochial jurisdiction. This division of authority frequently resulted in animosity between brotherhoods and parish priests, especially concerning protocol at processions. In addition to his duties, the chaplain played a watchdog role. Statutes of black brotherhoods stipulated that he should attend all sessions of the governing body. The white treasurer and scribe of the black brotherhood of St. Benedict in Salvador alleged in 1789 that such a calming presence was essential because brotherhoods of creoles and Africans were especially subject to “discords and partialities.”50

Division of jurisdiction over whether the parish priest or brotherhood chaplain should officiate at burials led to a clash in the early nineteenth century between the brotherhood of the Rosary in the Pelourinho of Salvador and the priest of the parish of the Holy Sacrament. The priest attempted to evict the brotherhood from its church, alleging that all burials fell within parochial jurisdiction, even when made in private churches. The priest claimed that canonic law permitted no exceptions to this rule, even for brotherhoods. The Rosary cited not only the ruling handed down by the High Court of Salvador in 1722 but also later judgments in favor of the brotherhood. These decisions, although recognizing that the opening of tombs fell within parochial jurisdiction, exempted the brotherhood on the grounds that its church was a patron church and not filial to the parish church. Furthermore, the erection of the Rosary church predated the establishment of the parish. This verdict was upheld by the Tribunal of Conscience and Orders in Lisbon.51

The major event of the brotherhood’s calendar was the annual service held in honor of the patron saint. The degree of ostentation depended upon what funds were available in the brotherhood’s coffers and upon the financial resources of the members of the governing body, who frequently bore personally the onus of all expenditure on this occasion. In the event of hardship a brotherhood either curtailed its celebrations or cancelled the festivity for that year. But in hopes of gaining additional prestige and prominence, and in ever greater efforts to outdo one another, brotherhoods were stimulated to cast financial caution to the winds. In 1686 the brotherhood of the Rosary in Salvador had been satisfied with a sung mass and sermon on the third Sunday of October, but by 1820 the now leading colored brotherhood of Salvador demanded more pomp. The church of the brotherhood was lavishly decorated. On the nine evenings preceding the second Sunday in October there was the Novena of Our Lady, accompanied by musicians or an organist. On the Sunday itself a procession formed outside the Rosary church and crossed the city to the Portas de São Bento, returning early enough not to give rise to “detriment and scandal.” Each brotherhood with a seat in the Rosary church accompanied the procession, in order according to seniority, with appropriately decorated floats. The Holy Sacrament was accompanied by the parish priest. Each member of the governing body had a set place in the order of procession, carrying his staff of office and shrouded in the cloak of the brotherhood. The cost of the float bearing Our Lady of the Rosary was met from communal funds. Jewels and diamonds decorating the statue were the responsibility of the treasurer and scribe. Payment for the sermon was made by the governing body, as, too, were such additions as the saying of the Te Deum.52

Rather than exemplifying the ideals of Catholic unity, such events often provoked dissent among participants. Protocol and processional order were rigid. Attempts by brotherhoods to “jump the queue” or angle for more advantageous positions were treated as serious breaches of etiquette and could provoke undying hostility between brotherhoods. Each brotherhood enjoyed certain privileges granted by the Crown and it jealously guarded these against infraction. On Maundy Thursday the Santas Casas da Misericórdia throughout the world celebrated the so-called “procession of the torches.” In 1759 the branch of the brotherhood in Salvador was shocked to hear that the black brotherhood of Our Lord of Affliction (Nosso Senhor dos Martírios) and the mulatto brotherhood of Our Lord of the Cross (Nosso Senhor da Cruz) proposed to emulate the Misericórdia, carrying a statue of Christ crucified to all the churches of the city. A special session of the governing body of the Misericórdia was convoked to draw up a formal document asserting the exclusive prerogative of the Misericórdia to hold this procession and to ensure that the relevant authorities prevented the coloreds from carrying out their plans.53

At the personal level, membership in a brotherhood almost constituted a socio-religious contract between brother and brotherhood. The following spiritual obligations of brothers may be taken as typical: the saying of the Rosary daily, communion, and monthly confession in the brotherhood’s church. He was also expected to attend the litany on Saturdays, the saying of the chaplet on Sundays, participate in the festivals of the brotherhood, and accompany the cortèges of dead brothers. Failure to comply with such requirements resulted in rebuke by the chaplain in the presence of the governing body. Repetition led to expulsion and the loss of the all-important privileges associated with burial. As a brother, any black or mulatto, no matter how poor, was guaranteed the administration of the Last Sacraments, a Christian funeral and burial, and the saying of masses for his soul. Provided all dues had been paid, these benefits were available not only to the brother, but to his wife and dependents under sixteen years of age. Once a year the brotherhood congregated for a mass for the souls of the departed.54

Slave or free, fortunate was the colored man or woman who did not at some time need social welfare. Value scales in colonial Brazil were not those of today. Social services received no priority, nor were public funds allocated for this purpose. Crown authorities remained unresponsive to appeals for aid. Municipal councils evaded social responsibilities whenever possible, alleging heavy expenditure on public works. Most councils in colonial Brazil did come to employ a doctor and a surgeon, whose services were supposedly available without charge to any citizen, but judging by the number of complaints, few benefited from this facility. By law all councils had to pay for the sustenance of foundling children under the age of seven. This duty they discharged with varying degrees of success by employing black or mulatto women as wet nurses for the initial three years. With these exceptions, the only medical and welfare assistance afforded to the community as a whole was by the exclusively white charitable brotherhood of the Misericórdia. Frequently maintaining the only hospital in a city or town, the Misericórdia fed, clothed, treated, and buried the poor without distinction of nationality, class, creed, or color.55

At no time, and at no place, did a black or mulatto brotherhood possess the financial means to undertake a program of social welfare comparable to that of the Misericórdia. The most such a brotherhood could do was to help members and their dependents. Any assistance was rudimentary and took the form of direct aid on a once-and-for-all-basis, rather than social reinvestment over a period of time. Governing bodies designated a brother to verify reports of need or sickness among members. He informed the governing body, which would organize a collection or try to provide funds from the communal coffers. At the death of an indigent brother, the brotherhood usually supplied a shroud free of charge and met all burial costs.

Blacks and mulattoes, slave and free, fell victims to the arbitrary and discriminatory form of justice meted out to coloreds. Denied the usual processes of law, the colored person was often convicted without defense. In 1731 the king reprimanded Luís Vahia Monteiro (governor of Rio de Janeiro, 1725-32) for his “despotic judgment” in waiving trials and, instead, summarily ordering the whipping of all slaves arrested for infringing new laws prohibiting slaves from wearing cloaks at night and carrying arms. Jails were overcrowded, squalid, and infectious, especially in that part reserved exclusively for blacks and mulattoes. Despite royal pressure, court scribes ignored cases of poor prisoners and gave attention instead to those promising more immediate and lucrative payment. To be poor and/or not white meant months and even years between arrest and trial.56 Medical assistance, a municipal responsibility, was inadequate, although some doctors were to claim that they voluntarily had given medicines, provisions, and free medical attention to prisoners.57 Jailers, who received a ration for each prisoner, kept funds and food for their own use. Majordomos of black and mulatto brotherhoods visited jails regularly and informed the governing body of brothers under arrest. In this aspect, as in all others, such brotherhoods cooperated to the full with the Misericórdia, which operated a comprehensive service of providing medical assistance and rations for those in jail. The majordomo would also approach the scribe of the Misericórdia to ensure that the names of the brothers were entered on the list of those whose defense was undertaken by the paid legal staff of the Misericórdia. Only during the period of the Empire in Brazil were black and mulatto brotherhoods to initiate organized and broadly based programs of social welfare. Such was the mutual insurance society (monte pio) for brothers and their dependents begun in 1844 in Salvador by the brotherhood of free creoles dedicated to the Glorious St. Francis de Paula.58

Black and mulatto brotherhoods attempted, funds permitting, to provide a broad range of social benefits for members. Many followed the example of the Rosary in the parish of the Conception in Salvador. A clause in its statutes of 1686 ruled that the governing body would entertain petitions from slave brothers asking for loans from communal funds to enable them to buy their certificates of freedom. Such loans were only to be made if the brotherhood’s financial position was unusually secure and on condition the petitioner could provide collateral or a guarantor. Moreover, the viceroy’s or governor’s permission had to be granted before loans could be made for this purpose. Both parties benefited. The slave gained his freedom and repaid the money to the brotherhood. The brotherhood improved the status of its members, and, hopefully, freedmen brothers would contribute more generously to the brotherhood. The brotherhood of Our Lady of the Rosary and Ransom in Rio de Janeiro, whose members were free and slave blacks and mulattoes, was founded for the specific purpose of aiding those brothers in bondage who wished to buy their freedom. In such cases the governing body applied directly to the king for royal permission to make the necessary loans. This was granted only after the king had received favorable reports from the governor and town council. The brotherhood also presented to the Crown appeals by slaves whose masters had refused all reasonable offers for manumission.59

That the black and mulatto brotherhoods honored, to the best of their limited ability, their statutory commitments to provide social aid for members and a Christian burial is indisputable. More difficult to assess is the question of whether or not the brotherhoods represented any conscious search for identity among their kind in the New World. This issue has been broached in studies of the slavocratic society of the English colonies in North America, but the Brazilian situation is as yet unexplored. In the absence of minutes of governing bodies of colored brotherhoods (an invaluable source for perception of values among members of elitist white brotherhoods), any answer must be largely based on official correspondence and copies of petitions to the Crown made by black and mulatto brotherhoods. Such petitions invariably dealt with two issues: first, the extension to their brotherhoods of privileges granted to certain white brotherhoods, above all the privilege of possessing a bier for funerals of brothers; second, the right to manage their own affairs without white intervention.

Throughout colonial Brazil the Misericórdia held the exclusive royal privilege to possess biers. Not only did the brotherhood derive considerable income from rentals of these biers but, in cases of proven indigence, it would perform burials as acts of charity. During the seventeenth century some brotherhoods appealed to the Crown for the extension of this privilege, alleging that fees charged by the Misericórdia were beyond the means of their members and that brothers had no alternative but to resort to leaving bodies at the doors of parish churches in the hope that the Misericórdia would give them a charitable burial. In the 1690s tire brotherhoods of the Rosary in Salvador and in Rio de Janeiro bombarded the king with petitions for the right to possess their own biers and, in the case of the Rio de Janeiro branch, for permission to build their own cemetery because the private church of the brotherhood only contained 12 graves. Emphasizing that every effort should be made so that “slaves can be buried with that decency accorded to Christians,” the Crown ignored the vehement opposition of the Misericórdia and granted the request of the black brotherhoods. This was on condition that the use of a bier by such a brotherhood should be for the exclusive use of members and their dependents, and should not be rented for gain. Despite abuse of these conditions, leading to a cause célèbre between the Rosary in the Pelourinho of Salvador and the Misericórdia, by the end of the eighteenth century many black and mulatto brotherhoods had been granted Crown permission to own biers for the funerals of brothers.60

The second issue concerned the posts of scribe and treasurer in the brotherhoods. Royal approval of the Compromisso of a black brotherhood was often conditional on the treasurer’s post being occupied by a white person, whereas mulatto brotherhoods usually had a treasurer of their own color. It was also common practice for the scribe of black brotherhoods to be white. In 1788 the governing body of St. Benedict in Salvador challenged this tradition, asking the Crown to revoke the statutory clause that incumbents of these posts should be white. The Mesa reasoned that by this date the majority of its members could read and write, which had not been the case at the date of foundation of the brotherhood. Despite bitter opposition by the incumbent whites, in 1789 the governor reported that the concession of this privilege would not constitute a precedent, for 6 black brotherhoods of Salvador already had blacks as scribes and treasurers. He did suggest that if the Crown saw fit to act on his recommendation, then it should be on condition that the incumbents of these posts be freedmen with some financial resources. In 1813-1814 in Rio de Janeiro, blacks occupied these posts in the brotherhood of the Rosary with the full sanction of the local “judge of chapels” (juiz das capelas), to the dismay of the parish priest.61

In such petitions the governing bodies of black and mulatto brotherhoods played a vital role in securing for blacks and mulattoes, slave and free, privileges normally considered the prerogative of white brotherhoods. It should be emphasized that in no case did the petitions contain racist overtones, being motivated solely by social and economic preoccupations. Perhaps more important than the concessions obtained was the fact that such petitions brought to the royal attention that there existed in the cities and towns of colonial Brazil a black and mulatto sector that was God-fearing, law-abiding, and stable.

It is a recognized human phenomenon that newly arrived migrants tend to gravitate to those of the same language and place of origin who have preceded them. Notwithstanding the physical limitations of a slavocratic society, I believe this to have been the case of the slave and freedman in the cities of colonial Brazil. The brotherhoods were the only form of communal life legally permitted to them in the colonial period. For the slave they could be instrumental in securing his freedom. For the freedman they afforded a degree of protection against exploitation in a highly competitive society. The identity role played by brotherhoods varied. Those limited to Gege or Ketu membership consciously sought to preserve in the New World a culture and traditions that might otherwise have been lost or contaminated. For their part the brotherhoods of free creoles asserted the circumstance of birth in the Americas, and they sought the creation of an American social order, rather than harking back to African origins. Américanité and not Africanité characterized their life-styles and values. Such attitudes were not limited to blacks and mulattoes. In 1825 it was alleged that the white Third Order of Penitence in Salvador had excluded all European candidates from the elections of that year.62

The more open brotherhoods of St. Ephigenia, Our Lady of the Rosary, or St. Benedict came between the two extremes. Lacking in tribal or ethnic identity, these brotherhoods served as meeting places for coloreds, regardless of sex, civil status, pigmentation, or place of birth. Although each brotherhood was financially and administratively autonomous, nevertheless those dedicated to the same patron cooperated. A brother of the Rosary in Salvador benefited from reciprocity agreements with branches of the Rosary elsewhere. Should he die on a journey to Minas Gerais he was assured of a proper burial and the saying of masses for his soul. Present in all parishes of a city, the brotherhoods provided communal centers where blacks speaking only African languages, or with only a fragmentary knowledge of Portuguese, could congregate. Moreover, such brotherhoods actively encouraged “family enrollment” and stimulated corporate sentiment in a community otherwise highly susceptible to division. Whatever the degree of exclusiveness or otherwise of the individual brotherhoods, in all cases they stood for unity and the sharing of experiences and problems. On the common ground of religion, black, mulatto, and white brotherhoods met at the same funerals, processions, and civic functions.

Finally, consideration may be given to the relations between their brotherhoods and other legal and illegal organizations that brought blacks and mulattoes together. Militia regiments, composed of non-white or white companies exclusively, despite Crown efforts at integration, proliferated in the eighteenth century. In the cities the black soldiers of the Henriques constituted an integral part of the garrisons and served under officers of their own color. So far as I have been able to trace, there was no formal or informal relationship between the black and mulatto brotherhoods and the militia regiments of their own color, although it would be surprising if there should not have been soldiers who were brothers and vice versa. Groups of runaway slaves were common in the urban and rural areas of Brazil. There is no evidence that the black and mulatto brotherhoods assisted such runaways in any way, either by allowing their premises to be used for the harboring of runaway slaves or in supplying quilombos with foodstuffs or firearms.

In the cultural sphere it is intriguing to speculate that some of the black brotherhoods may have been staunch guardians of African languages and religions. This flew In the teeth of the rigorous prohibition against the use of African song and dance. Worship of the Orixá was forbidden in Brazil in the colonial period and was persecuted in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. It is possible that while outwardly practicing Catholicism, the more exclusive Yoruba-speaking brotherhoods did preserve these traditions. Indeed, given the history of religious syncretism in Brazil, it would be surprising if this were not the case. But at no time in the colonial era, when accusations and backbiting (murmurações) were the norm, was a black or mulatto brotherhood accused of such illicit relations or practices.


The vital role played by such brotherhoods in furthering the adaptation and social integration of the black and mulatto slave and freedman in colonial Brazil was recognized by the Crown, municipal councils, and colonists. The creation and proliferation of such brotherhoods was welcomed by the Crown as living testimony to the success of conversion by the Portuguese and justification for the privileges granted to the Portuguese Crown by the Papacy in the Padroado Real. Moreover, brotherhoods that built their own chinches served to distract attention from the fact that ecclesiastical tithes collected by Crown officials, and which should have been used in the construction of churches, were usually used for less holy purposes. For town councils, the building of chapels enhanced the appearance of towns and would be cited in petitions to the Crown for the concession of privileges or elevation to the status of “city.” Town councils were also mindful of their legal responsibilities to celebrate Corpus Christi and other civic festivals. The black and mulatto brotherhoods contributed to the splendor of such civic and religious functions, to which impressionable ecclesiastical dignitaries or visiting Crown officials would be invited. For the white colonist the very term “brotherhood” epitomized a familiar tradition that was both Portuguese and Catholic. This made it easier for him to accept with a degree of equanimity such congregations of slaves and freedmen, a circumstance that would otherwise have been total anathema to him, conjuring up visions of rape, arson, murder and pillage. The brotherhood represented moderation, authority, and stability among the black and mulatto population. Thus it was not infrequent for a master to pay the entry subscriptions and annual dues of his slaves to become members of a brotherhood.63

In this survey of black and mulatto brotherhoods in colonial Brazil many questions remain unanswered at the present stage of research. A major query is the numerical membership of such brotherhoods. The absence of satisfactory censuses even for Salvador before the late eighteenth century makes speculative any statements as to the proportion of blacks and mulattoes belonging to brotherhoods in the overall population of a town or city. Assessments of numbers of brothers in a given year were difficult even for scribes of brotherhoods because of the great mobility among blacks and mulattoes, both slave and free.64 Information on the social and financial standing and the civil status of brothers is fragmentary and inconclusive. That there was conflict stimulation between brotherhoods, especially intensive between those of similar socioeconomic status, is indubitable but difficult to document. A report of 1789 on the brothers of St. Benedict in Salvador caustically divided the membership into two classes: “those who practice a mechanical art, and those who are vagabonds and good for nothing, with no skill; all however are poor and wretched, and the majority are virtually reduced to begging enough food to keep alive; and even those who sustain themselves by the sweat of their brows are usually indigents, without permanent property or even movable possessions.”65 In discussing the question of the degree to which the brotherhoods represented a conscious search for identity, information on whether brothers had been born in Africa or were second- or third-generation “Americans” and freedmen, and hence “institutionalized” to some degree, would be invaluable. Certainly there is no evidence of official attempts to impose membership in brotherhoods of different ethnic groups, e.g. pardo and prêto, as had been the case of militia companies. This policy had been advocated in the belief that internal socio-ethnic divisions would preclude the possibility of blacks and mulattoes presenting a united front, possibly prejudicial to law and order.66 Finally, the absence of accounts ledgers makes impossible any conclusions concerning the extent of philanthropic assistance afforded by these brotherhoods and the impact of this on their sector.

Much research remains to be done into the phenomenon of cultural divergence in the overseas colonies of England, Spain, France, Holland, and Portugal. In Spanish and Portuguese America brotherhoods of Amerindians, blacks, and mulattoes were formed in cities and towns as well as on plantations, in rural parishes, and on isolated mission stations. So far as I have been able to establish, Brazil was the only area of the Portuguese empire in which the essentially European institution of the brotherhood was to be wholeheartedly adopted by a non-European population. This had not been the case in Goa, nor among the rice Christians of Macao in Portuguese Asia. The establishment of Luanda in 1575 did encourage the creation of colored brotherhoods in Angola, but both here and in Mozambique these were few in number. By the eighteenth century, the Atlantic islands of Santiago in the Cape Verdes and São Tomé and Príncipe in the Gulf of Guinea boasted branches of the brotherhood of Our Lady of the Rosary.67 Such foundations were sporadic and never equalled in number those in Brazil, where settlers initiated plantation slavery in the New World and where mines demanded vast numbers of blacks in the eighteenth century. Their presence makes it all the more difficult to understand why the Portuguese Crown was so reluctant to legislate on social issues in Brazil. No specific policy was proposed to provide for the peculiarities of a multiracial, multicultural, polytheistic and polyglot society with civic distinctions of slave and freedman. The colored brotherhoods constituted a direct response to a series of socioeconomic factors. The success of the response may be gauged by the survival of many of the black and mulatto brotherhoods to the present day and the prominent and respected position they occupy in the cities and towns of modern Brazil.


António Duarte Brásio, Os prêtos em Portugal (Lisbon, 1944); Hipólito Sancho de Sopranis, Las cofradías de morenos en Cádiz (Madrid, 1958); Ruth Pike, “Sevillian Society in the Sixteenth Century: Slaves and Freedmen,” HAHR, 47:3 (August 1967), 344-359; A.J. R. Russell-Wood, Fidalgos and Philanthropists. The Santa Casa da Misericórdia of Bahia, 1550-1755 (Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1968), pp. 1-41 and references there cited, to which should be added Leopoldo da Rocha, “As confrarias de Goa: Conspecto histórico-canónico,” Studia, 34 (June 1972), 203-479, and 35 (December 1972), 235-419.


King to Governor Assumar, April 29, 1719, APMSG, vol. 5, fol. 55; this was enforced by the governor’s order of September 23, 1719, APMSG, vol. 11 fol. 151v.


“. . . sendo certo q’ o tito mais legitimo, em q’ se funda o dirto que VMagde tem no dominio destas conquistas he unicamte com o fim da propagação da fee catholica. . . .,” Assumar to king, October 4, 1719, APMSG, vol. 4, fol. 234v. On attempts to overcome the language barrier see APMSG, vol. 4, fol. 231v-232, 234v; APB, vol. 6, doc. 127, and vol. 13, docs. 72, 72a, 82.


As early as 1720 Assumar had recommended the creation of bishoprics in São Paulo and Minas Gerais, APMSG, vol. 4, fol. 54v; vol. 5, fol. 69v-70 but action was only taken in 1745.


“. . . mas a Doctrina da Igra Mineral, Sr he athe agora muy differente da Catholica, porq’ desta he a regra a piede e virtude, e daquella a ambição, a avareza, o interesse; e como viessem outas pouco emportava q’ o negro soubesse se recebia pão, se N.Sr Jezu Christo; e estava tão introduzido este abuzo q’ ja corría neste Pais como proverbio, q’ o negro q’ tras calsão e jalleco he capaz de communhão, ainda q’ seja hum bruto.” Assumar to bishop of Rio de Janeiro, September 13, 1718, APMSG, vol. 11, fol. 50v-53.


King to Assumar, February 16, 1718, APMSG, vol. 4, fol. 36v-37.


APMSG, vol. 4, fol. 219v. Reports from throughout the mining areas with phrases such as “mizeravel estado destes povos . . . pella falta de extração de ouro,” resulted in the reform of all civil and ecclesiastical fees in 1735, APMSG, vol. 24, fol. 33-44v; vol. 35, doc. 133.


Russell-Wood, Fidalgos, pp. 260-262; P. D. Curtin, “Epidemiology and the Slave Trade,” Political Science Quarterly, 83:2 (June 1968), 190-216.


APMSG, vol. 37, fol. 36v-37; APMCMOP, vol. 6, fol. 155-156, 183v-190v; vol. 28, fol. 39-41, 76v-77; vol. 32, fol. 131, 229v; vol. 33, fol. 5-6, 36v-37, 63-64; vol. 77, fol. 9-10v.


Edital of June 11, 1723, APMCMOP, vol. 6, fol. 42; cf. fol. 47 and vol. 33, fol. 46v-47.


A. J. R. Russell-Wood, “Colonial Brazil,” Neither Slave nor Free. The Freedmen of African Descent in the Slave Societies of the New World, eds. D. W. Cohen and J. P. Greene (Baltimore, 1972) pp. 84-133.


For restrictive legislation see APMSG, vol. 4, fol. 238-239; vol. 11, fol. 124, 171v-172v, 184, 282v-284; vol. 27, fol. 14v-15, 127-130; APMCMOP, vol. 54, fol. 122v-123v. Fandangos were prohibited in Curitiba. See Octavio Ianni, As metamorfoses do escravo (São Paulo, 1962), pp. 147-148. On Bahia see Luiz dos Santos Vilhena, Recopilação de notas soteropolitanas e brasilicas (Bahia, 1922), I, 135-136. Despite restrictions, in 1738 Plácido Nunes S.J., and later the Count of Pavolide (governor of Pernambuco, 1768-1769) noted the survival of African religions in Brazil. See Luiz Vianna Filho, O negro na Bahia (Rio de Janeiro, 1946), pp. 57-58; René Ribeiro, Religião e relações raciais (Rio de Janeiro, 1956), p. 44. More tolerance was shown towards Bantu than Sudanese. In 1768 the Rosary of Salvador asked the Queen for permission to perform masked playlets, to dance, and to sing in “the idiom of Angola,” during festivals in honor of Our Lady. See Eduardo de Castro e Almeida, Inventário dos documentos relativos ao Brasil existentes no Archivo de Marinha e Ultramar de Lisboa, 8 vols. (Rio de Janeiro, 1913-1936), III, Bahia, 1786-1798, no. 12, 235.


APB, vol. 20, docs. 105, 105a; APMSG, vol. 4, fol. 218-219v; vol. 7, fol. 98; vol. 11, fol. 117v-120, 121-122v, 123-127; vol. 29, doc. 3.


The archives of the brotherhood of the Rosary, founded in 1686 in Salvador, contain only 2 registers for the colonial period: Compromisso (1820), and Livro de entradas e annoaes, 1798-1864. Cf. Aires da Mata Machado Filho, Arraial do Tijuco, Cidade Diamantina, 2nd. ed. (São Paulo, 1957), p. 231.


Serafim Leite, S.J., História da Companhia de Jesus no Brasil, 10 vols. (Rio de Janeiro and Lisbon, 1938-1950), II, 324. African slaves may have been in Brazil as early as 1532. In 1552 Padre António Pires referred to the “grande escravaria assim de Guiné como da terra” in Pernambuco, Cartas Jesuiticas, 2, Cartas Avulsas, 1550-1568 (Rio de Janeiro, 1931), p. 123 and note 67.


Black: N. Sra. do Rosário in the churches of the Desterro, Vitória, Sto. António, São Pedro, Conceição da Praia, and Ermida do Rosário. Mulatto: N. Sra. de Guadelupe, N. Sra. do Amparo, N. Sra. da Graça, N. Sra. do Rosário (Conceição da Praia parish), N. Sra. do Terço. Listed in Fr. Agostinho de Santa Maria, Santuario Mariano, e Historia das Imagens milagrosas de Nossa Senhora . . . em o Arcehispado da Bahia, & mais Bispados, 10 vols. (Lisboa, 1707-1723), IX, livro 1.


Sr. dos Martírios (in Barroquinha church); Jesus, Maria, José (church of N. Sra. do Monte do Carmo); Sr. da Redempção (Corpo Santo); Sr. da Resurreição (Jesuit College); N. Sra. do Rosário e São Gonçalo (N. Sra. da Vitória); São Benedito and Sta. Ephigenia (Rosário in Pelourinho), São Benedito (N. Sra. da Conceição da Praia); Santos Reis and Sto. António de Catagerona (São Pedro Velho; Sta. Ana and São Joaquim (Sta. Barbara), APB, vol. 78, fol. 275-286.


Fritz Teixeira de Salles, Associacões religiosas no ciclo do ouro (Belo Horizonte, 1963), pp. 31-37 and tables 1-5.


The few studies made of colored brotherhoods are: Manoel S. Cardozo, “The Lay Brotherhoods of Colonial Bahia,” The Catholic Historical Review, 33:1 (April 1947), 12-30; Teixeira de Salles, Associações; Russell-Wood, “Aspectos da vida social das irmandades leigas da Bahia no sáculo XVIII,” Universitas, nos. 6-7 (1970), 189-204; Luiz Monteiro da Costa, “A devoção de N. S. do Rosário na Cidade do Salvador,” Revista do Instituto Genealógico da Bahia, 10:10 (1958), 95-117; R. C. Smith, “Décadas do Rosário dos Pretos. Documentos da Irmandade,” Arquivos (Prefeitura de Recife), 4-10: 1-2 (1945-1951), 53-120, 142-170 (I am indebted to Ms. Patricia Mulvey for this reference, which I have been unable to consult); Alfredo Mendes de Gouveia, “Relação dos Compromissos de Irmandades, Contrarias e Misericórdias do Brasil, existentes no Arquivo Histórico Colonial de Lisboa, que pertenceram ao cartório do extinto Conselho Ultramarino, 1716-1807,” Anais do 1V Congresso de História Nacional, 7 (1950), 201-238.


Memorias históricas e políticas da Provincia da Bahia do Coronel Ignacio Accioli de Cerqueira e Silva. Annotador Dr. Braz do Amaral, 6 vols. (Bahia, 1919-1940), V, 241.


VOTRB, Compromisso da Irmandade do Glorioso São Francisco de Paula. Filial à Matriz de Nossa Senhora do Pillar, de criôlos livres naseidos no Imperio do Brasil. Anno de 1844. Bahia. Prólogo.


VOTRB, Compromisso da Irmandade de Nossa Senhora do Rosario dos Homens Pretos. Ordenado no anno de MDCCLXIX, e approvado no anno de MDCCLXXXI. Tendo ja sido pela Sé Cathedral da Bahia, erecta e confirmada no anno de 1685, e agora de novo accrescentado alguns capitulos, para melhor governo da Irmandade, reformando-se no anno de 1820. Bahia, fol. 11-12. Traditionally the branch of the Rosary in Sto. António has been accepted as the oldest in Salvador (Santa Maria, Santuario Mariano, vol. 9, livro 1, título 29), but in 1552 Padre António Pires noted a brotherhood of the Rosary in Pernambuco (Cartas Jesuíticas, p. 123). Cf. Edison Carneiro, Ladinos e crioulos. Estados sôbre o negro no Brasil (Rio de Janeiro, 1964), p. 88. Delay between incorporation and approval was common, e.g., the Rosary of Itaparica, in existence since 1725, still had not drawn up statutes nor sought royal approval in 1800, APB, vol. 91, fol. 328-329.


Pierre Verger, Flux et reflux de la traite des nègres entre le golfe de Bénin et Bahia de todos os Santos du dix-septième au dix-neuvième siècle (Paris and The Hague, 1968), p. 528 follows Carneiro, Ladinos, p. 88, in asserting the Redempção admitted only Gege. Carlos Ott states membership was restricted to Nagô, Formação e evolução étnica da Cidade do Salvador, 2 vols. (Salvador, 1955-1957), I, 65.


Francisco Curt Lange, “As danças coletivas públicas no período colonial brasileiro e as danças das corporações de ofícios em Minas Gerais,” Barroco, 1 (1969), 40. Cf. mulatto stonemasons at the Corpus Christi festivities in Montevideo in 1760, Revista del Archivo General Administrativo, 3 (1885), 150-154.


“Toda a pessoa de qual quer callidade que seja,” ACPB, Compremissio da Virgem Sanctissima May de Deus N.S. do Rosario, dos pretos da praya. Anno de 1686, cap. 4. Cf. “Toda a pessoa de qual quer qualidaae, e sexo que seja, tanto liberto, como escravo,” VOTRB, Compromisso (1820), cap. 3. Membership was not limited to Angolans and creoles (Ott, Formação vol. 1, p. 65), but positions on the Mesa were (Compromisso, caps. 5, 6). This chapter repeated almost verbatim the 1715 Compromisso of the Rosary of Vila Rica. See Francisco António Lopes, Os palácios de Vila Rica (Belo Horizonte, 1955), p. 195, which added a clause specifying that whites and blacks were eligible for membership. Cf. Teixeira de Salles, Associações religiosas, pp. 40-41.


Russell-Wood, “Colonial Brazil,” p. 116 and Fidalgos, pp. 138-144.


Teixeira de Salles, Associações religiosas, p. 34.


Mata Machado Filho, Arraial do Tijuco, pp. 80, 247.


Mesas could only be reelected under exceptional circumstances, VOTRB, Compromisso (1820) caps. 5, 8, 10, 12; ACPB, Compremissio, cap. 6; Teixeira de Salles, p. 41.


“Para Juizes, Procuradores, e mais Irmãos da Mesa se elegerão pessoas libertas e izemptas de escravidão, para que sejão promptes em exercer e satisfazer os actos da Irmandade; e vivão livre d’algua infamia a que está sugeita a condição servil, de que nascerá sem duvida magoa aos companheiros q’lhes forem afeiçoados, assim como prazer nos males dos que forem mal affectos. . . . Assim como tambem no cazo que algum Irmão sem embargo da sugeição seja bem procedido, e o seo captiveiro suave poderá ser Irmão da Mesa; mas em nenhum cazo será Juiz, Escrivão, Thesoureiro, ou Procuradores; por que estes rigorozamente devem ser pessoas libertas,” VOTRB, Compromisso (1820), cap. 16. Written by blacks for blacks, this is of exceptional interest as a guide to colored values and attitudes. The Rosary of Vila Rica permitted slaves to serve as juiz. (See Lopes, Os palácios, p. 196). The white brotherhood of N. Sra. da Boa Morte in the Carmelite church in Salvador reserved the post of “judge” as an honorary title for “noble ladies” (Santa Maria, Santuario Mariano, vol. 9, livro 1, título, 13, pp. 38-39).


André João Antonil, Cultura e opulência do Brasil por suas drogas e minas, ed. Andrée Mansuy (Paris, 1968), livro 1, cap. 9 and p. 132, notes 37-40; João Maurício Rugendas, Viagem pitoresca através do Brasil, 5th. ed. (São Paulo, 1954), pp. 170-171; Henry Koster, Travels in Brazil (London, 1816), pp. 273-275, 411. The 1715 Compromisso of the Rosary of Vila Rica stressed the festive nature of such posts. (See Lopes, Os palácios, 195-196.) Assumar’s edict of May 20, 1720, forbade coronations in Serró do Frio, where the practice had persisted despite earlier prohibitions, APMSG, vol. 11, fol. 288v. The emperor, king, and queen of the “nação do Sto. Rei Balthazar” were crowned in 1748 in Rio de Janeiro with the approval of the ouvidor gerat do crime. See M. Moraes Filho, Festas e tradições populares do Brasil (Rio de Janeiro, 1946), pp. 381-386. Cf. the cult of St. Balthazar and celebration of the “día de Reyes” in Montevideo in 1800: Carlos M. Rama, Los Afro-uruguayanos (Montevideo, 1967), p. 29. For such titles in quilombos see Stuart B. Schwartz, “The Mocambo: Slave Resistance in Colonial Bahia,” Journal of Social History, 3:4 (Summer, 1970), 313-333, and APMCMOP, vol. 54, fol. 114v-121v; APMSG, vol. 60, fol. 118v-119v; vol. 11, fol. 123. In King to Sabugosa, April 14, 1729, the king noted “e entre elles vos parecerão mais pemiciozos o Reynado dos Negros, e o viverem em cazebres sendo captivos, e os seus folguedos,” APB, vol. 24, docs. 46, 46a.


VOTRB, Compromisso (1820), caps. 9-12; ACPB, Compremissio, cap. 9; Cardozo, “The Lay Brotherhoods,” pp. 25-28.


APMCMOP, vol. 32, fol. 36-37v. In 1760 celebrations in Salvador honoring Our Lady of the Rosary coincided with those for the marriage of the Infante Dom Pedro and were unusually spectacular. See Vianna Filho, O negro na Bahia, 58.


St. Anthony of Catagerona waived fees in cases of proven indigence. Failure to pay for 2 years resulted in loss of privileges, whereas the Rosary allowed 9 years. Details on these and other fees are in Cardozo, “The Lay Brotherhoods,” pp. 25, 28; ACPB, Compremissio, cap. 4); VOTRB, Compromisso (1820) cap. 3, and Compromisso (1844) cap. 9.


VOTRB, Compromisso (1820) cap. 17; Cardozo, “The Lay Brotherhoods,” p. 28; Koster, Travels in Brazil, p. 410.


Teixeira de Salles, Associações religiosas, pp. 39-40.


The Câmara granted the Rosary petition in 1735, “pellas faisqueiras estarem tão diminutas que as esmollas não podem suprir a comservação da dita capella”—evidence of the early decline of gold production in this area, APMCMOP, vol. 32, fol. 36-37v; vol. 54, fol. 176-177; vol. 56, fol. 35v. The Rosary of Sabará had similar problems, APMSG, vol. 50, fol. 74-75. On St. Joseph see APMCMOP, vol. 43, fol. 8v-9; vol. 55, fol. 26, 27v-29v, 51-52; vol. 56, fol. 34v-35. 36-38v, 39v-40; vol. 60, fol. 64v; vol. 69, fol. 195-198v; APMSG, vol. 81, doc. 78.


Cardozo, “The Lay Brotherhoods,” pp. 26-28. A royal provisão of November 20, 1752, authorized the brothers of the Rosary in the Pillar church of Vila Rica to collect alms, APMCMOP, vol. 37, fol. 53-54.


APMSG, vol. 50, fol. 74-75; Mata Machado Filho, Arraial do Tijuco, pp. 247-248.


VOTRB, Compromisso (1820) cap. 7.


Occasionally blacks left bequests to white brotherhoods, Russell-Wood, Fidalgos, pp. 154, 159-172, 201-213.


APMSG, vol. 50, fol. 74-75.


APMCMOP, vol. 32, fol. 36-37v. In 1790 the queen asked the governor of Minas Gerais to advise if royal approval should be given to the church completed by the Rosary in the Arraial da Piedade of the parish of Curral del Rei, APMSG, vol. 19, doc. 135.


Augusto de Lima Jr., Vila Rica do Ouro Prêto (Belo Horizonte, 1957) pp. 199-200.


Royal order of July 24, 1810, APB, vol. 110, fol. 431.


ANRJ, Códice 952, vol. 6, fed. 250, 252; vol. 7, fol. 192, 194; vol. 9, fol. 290, 292; vol. 20, fol. 242; vol. 21, fol. 186; vol. 30, fol. 101. In Salvador in the early eighteenth century the Rosary suffered a similar intrusion while a parish church was being built. So impressed was the Visitor by the Rosary church that he tried to oust the brothers, who only regained full possession of their church after a Crown judge ruled in their favor, APB, vol. 21, docs. 45, 45a.


King to governor of Rio de Janeiro, April 2, 1739, APMSG, vol. 70, doc. 1-A and vol. 65, fol. 96v. In 1731 the king placed restrictions on the purchase of plate and ornaments for churches, APMDF, vol. 47, fol. 111, 135.


APB, vol. 85, fol. 161-162; vol. 91, fol. 326-329.


VOTRB, Compromisso (1820) cap. 14.


APB, vol. 78, fol. 275-286. Dom Pedro, while approving the 1820 Compromisso of the Rosary of the Pelourinho in Salvador insisted that the brotherhood’s chaplain could not celebrate the Novena without permission of the parish priest, VOTRB, Compromisso (1820) fol. 45. Cf. Documentos Históricos da Biblioteca Nacional do Rio de Janeiro, 91 (1951), 252-254.


ANRJ, Caixa 288, does. 34, 50.


ACPB, Compremissio, cap. 5; VOTRB, Compromisso (1830) cap. 4.


ASCMB, Livro 4 de Acórdãos, fol. 110v-111v. In Vila Rica the Third Order of St. Francis in the parish of António Dias charged that, at the annual festival of N. Sra. dos Anjos, the mulatto brotherhood of the Cordão in the Pillar parish had formed a procession through the streets carrying insignia whose use was the prerogative of the Tertiaries. After a dispute lasting 15 years, in 1761 the Crown judge ruled in favor of the pardos, José Ferreira Carrato, Igreja, iluminismo e escolas mineiras coloniais (São Paulo, 1968), pp. 88-89.


ACPB, Compremissio, caps. 7-9, 12, 14; VOTRB, Compromisso (1820) caps. 20 (listing 14 ‘official’ masses annually), 21, 22; Teixeira de Salles, Associates religiosas, pp. 74-76.


Russell-Wood, Fidalgos, chaps. 9, 11, 12; Teixeira de Salles, Associações religiosas, p. 80; ACPB, Compremissio, cap. 11; VOTRB, Compromisso (1820), cap. 23. On colored foundlings in Vila Rica, see Russell-Wood, A Craftsman of the Golden Age of Brazil: Manuel Francisco Lisboa (Belo Horizonte, 1968), pp. 29-35; and Lopes, Os palácios, pp. 187-190.


King to governor, February 23, 1731, ANRJ, Códice 952, vol. 26, fol. 91, 92. In 1745 the King ordered severe reprimands for scribes intentionally delaying cases of indigents. On October 5, 1745 the governor of Rio de Janeiro suggested one day a month when scribes should present such cases to a committee composed of the governor, judges, and provedor of the treasury, ibid., vol. 32, fol. 244, 246.


ANRJ, Códice 952, vol. 28, fol. 282; APMCMOP, vol. 28, fol. 137-138; vol. 78, fol. 2-4, 11v-17; vol. 90, fol. 76v-77v, 80-86v; vol. 99, fol. 26v-27.


VOTRB, Compromisso (1820) cap. 23, and Compromisso (1844) caps. 21-32.


ACPB, Compremissio, cap. 16; Cardozo, “The Lay Brotherhoods,” p. 26; ANRJ, Códice 952, vol. 3, fol. 202. Governors reported that the privilege of appeal to the Crown was abused by slaves who slanderously alleged maltreatment by masters, APB, vol. 7, docs. 288-300. Such brotherhood were precursors of post-independence manumission societies, Verger, Flux et reflux, pp. 518-521.


ANRJ, Códice 952, vol. 6, fol. 250, 252; vol. 7, fol. 18, 154, 192, 194; vol. 8, fol. 7, 34, 36; vol. 9, fol. 284. For the Salvador dispute see Russell-Wood, Fidalgos, pp. 216-219. In 1736 the King granted burial privileges to the brotherhood of St. Benedict in Salvador, BNRJ, Seção de manuscritos, 11-33, 32, 12, index no. 166. In 1781 the Queen asked the governor of Bahia to report on the petition of the black brotherhood of St. Ephigenia in the Franciscan church of Salvador, citing the precedent set by the Rosary and St. Benedict, APB, vol. 75, fol. 312, 317. On April 22, 1787 the “judge” and brothers of N. Sra. do Amparo of the parish of N. Sra. da Penha in Itaparipe signed a “term of obligation” to meet conditions imposed by the Misericórdia of Bahia, who had authorized the colored brotherhood to possess biers in view of the impossibility of using those of the Misericórdia because of distance, ASCMB, Livro 4 de Acóraãos, fol. 276v-277.


APB, vol. 78, fol. 375-286; ANRJ, Caixa 288, docs. 50, 52. In 1826 the Rosary of the Baixa dos Sapateiros in Salvador petitioned for the reform of its Compromisso on the same grounds (Cameiro, Ladinos, p. 88).


ANRJ, Caixa 288, doc. 22.


In 1799 the white António Pereira Arouca and 9 slaves of his household were brothers of the Rosary in the Pelourinho of Salvador; Captain José Cardoso Marques enlisted 6 of his slaves, VOTRB, Livro de entradas e annoaes, 1798-1864, fol. 24, 30. Cf. “Caza de Manoel Vieira Caldas, e nela sua mulher por Juiza em 12 de 8bro 1798 e deu de seu juizado 4$400 e dois mil reis de remissam e da o seu lugar a seu escravo nome Jozé Vieira o qual fica feyto Irmão” (Ibid, fol. 2v). On September 12, 1709, the King asked the Câmara of Salvador to report on the Rosary’s petition for privileges, identical to those granted to the Brotherhood of the Saviour in Salvador (AMB, vol. 136, fol. 172).


The scribe of the predominantly mulatto brotherhood of N.S.das Mercês in Diamantina commented on this uncertainty, Luiz Jardim, “A pintura decorativa em algumas igrejas antigas de Minas,” Revista do Serviço do Patrimônio Histórico e Artístico Nacional, no. 3 (1939), 71.


APB, vol. 78, fol. 275-286.


Russell-Wood, “Colonial Brazil,” pp. 118-122; Santos Vilhena, Recopilação de nostos, vol. 1, p. 247 and carta 7. Maintenance of social equilibrium by exploitation of tension was an administrative expedient and recognized as such by Antonil Cultura e opulência, livro 1, cap. 9; Vilhena, Recopilação, vol. 1, p. 136; and the governor of Bahia, Dom Fernando José de Portugal. See Alfonso Ruy, A primeira revolução social brasileira, 1798, 2nd. ed. (Salvador, 1951), p. 92. In the early nineteenth century the Count of Arcos opinioned that it was important to preserve tribal distinctions between coloreds and permit them to perform batuques because “proibir o único ato de desunião entre os negros vem a ser o mesmo que promover o govêrno, indirectamente, e união entre êles,” cited in Edison Cameiro, Candomblés da Bahia (Bahia, 1948), pp. 12-13. I cannot agree with R. Bastide and Florestan Fernandes, Brancos e negros em São Paulo, 2nd. ed. (São Paulo, 1959), p. 245 that such was Church policy towards brotherhoods. This shows total misunderstanding of the private initiative behind the foundation of brotherhoods and their administrative and financial autonomy.


F. Bowser, The African Slave in Colonial Peru, 1524-1650 (Stanford, 1974), pp. 247-251; Santa Maria, Santuario Mariano, vol. 10, livro 5, títulos 4, 5, 16, 17.

Author notes


The author is Associate Professor of History at The Johns Hopkins University. This article is based on materials consulted in the following Brazilian archives: National Archives, Rio de Janeiro (hereinafter abbreviated as ANRJ); National Library, Rio de Janeiro (BNRJ); Archives of the Basilica of the Conceição da Praia, Salvador (ÄCPB); Municipal Archives of Salvador (AMB); Public Archives of the State of Bahia, collection of Royal Orders (APB); Archives of the Santa Casa da Misericórdia, Salvador (ASCMB); Archives of the Venerable Third Order of the Rosary, Salvador (VOTRB); Public Archives of the State of Minas Gerais, registers of the Municipal Council of Vila Rica do Ouro Prêto (APMCMOP), registers of the Delegacia Fiscal (APMDF), and registers of the Secretaria do Govêmo (APMSG).