Skip to main content
×
×
Home

Picturing Families between Black and White: Mixed Descent and Social Mobility in Colonial Minas Gerais, Brazil

  • Mariana L. R. Dantas (a1)
Extract

During the eighteenth century, the Rodrigues da Cruz and the Vieira da Costa families rose to relative prominence in the comarca of Rio das Velhas, a judicial district of the captaincy of Minas Gerais (Figure 1). Both families had as their patriarch a wealthy Portuguese man whose fortune was built on the gold-mining industry that dominated the regional economy in the early part of the century. Both families were also the product of relationships between Portuguese gold miners and slave women. The second and third generations of the two families similarly comprised freed or free persons of mixed European and African descent whose own standing in society relied in part on their families' ability to manage the social and legal implications of the circumstances of their birth. The Rodrigues da Cruz and Vieira da Costa families were thus part of a large and rising population of pardos (light-skinned persons) or mulatos (persons of mixed descent) in eighteenth-century Minas Gerais—not of solely Portuguese origin or descent (brancos), solely African origin (preto), nor solely African descent but born in Brazil (crioulo). Their ambiguous social standing could lie somewhere between the elite status of most brancos and the slave status of most pretos or crioulos.

Copyright
References
Hide All

1. For demographic information about the population of Minas Gerais, see Vidal Luna Francisco, Minas Gerais: escravos e senhores: análise da estrutura populacional e econômica de alguns centros mineratórios, 1718–1804 (São Paulo: IPE/USP, 1981); and Bergad Laird, Slavery and the Demographic and Economic History of Minas Gerais, 1720–1888 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), 81122 . For the population of the comarca of Rio das Velhas, see Dantas Mariana, Black Townsmen: Urban Slavery and Freedom in the Eighteenth-Century Americas (New York: Palgrave, 2008), 129134 . For a discussion of the emergence of the category pardo, see Nazzari Muriel, “Vanishing Indians: The Social Construction of Race in Colonial São Paulo,” The Americas 57: 4 (April 2001): 497524 ; and Mattos Hebe, “‘Pretos’ and ‘Pardos’ Between the Cross and the Sword: Racial Categories in Seventeenth-Century Brazil,” Revista Europea de Estudios Latinoamericanos y del Caribe 80 (April 2006): 4355 . For a discussion of other terms denoting ethnic and family background and skin color, see Libby Douglas and Frank Zephyr, “Exploring Parish Registers in Colonial Minas Gerais, Brazil: Ethnicity in São José do Rio das Mortes, 1780–1810,” Colonial Latin American Historical Review 14:3 (Summer 2005): 213244 ; and Libby Douglas, “A Culture of Colors: Representational Identities and Afro-Brazilians in Minas Gerais in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries,” Luso-Brazilian Review 50:1 (June 2013): 2552 .

2. In her latest book, Joanne Rappaport analyzes the historical and archival process by which persons of mixed descent (European and indigenous, in this case) can disappear from the records. Rappaport Joanne, The Disappearing Mestizo: Configuring Difference in the Colonial New Kingdom of Granada (Durham: Duke University Press, 2014).

3. Archival sources for the comarca of Rio das Velhas that were consulted for this study include notarial records (probate records, wills, and deeds) housed at the Museu do Ouro de Sabará, Arquivo Casa Borba Gato; parish records (baptismal and marriage certificates) housed at the Cúria Metropolitana de Belo Horizonte; and administrative records from the Municipal Council of Sabará and the Overseas Council, housed at the Arquivo Públic Mineiro. Many colonial documents have been lost over the years, leaving historians with only a sample of all the records produced in the eighteenth century and limiting the chance of finding specific individuals within the existing documentation.

4. While this paper focuses specifically on two colonial families, it draws from my broader research on Rio das Velhas during the eighteenth century. I base many of my findings on data collected from 350 probate records, 82 of which belonged to individuals who were either the parents of children of mixed descent or were themselves of mixed descent.

5. For a theoretical discussion of the notion of social mobility in early modern Portuguese society, see Manuel Hespanha António, “A mobilidade social na sociedade de Antigo Regime,” Tempo 21 (2007): 121143 . For a discussion of the historiography on comparative race relations and social mobility in the Americas and an assessment of what historians have misunderstood about social mobility in Latin America, see Twinam Ann, Purchasing Whiteness: Pardos, Mulattos, and the Quest for Social Mobility in the Spanish Indies (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2015).

6. Fernandes Florestan, The Negro in Brazilian Society (New York: Columbia University Press, 1969); Mello e Souza Laura de, Desclassificados do ouro: a pobreza mineira no século XVIII (Rio de Janeiro: Graal, 1986); Carvalho Franco Maria Sylvia de, Homens livres na ordem escravocrata (São Paulo: Editora da UNESP, 1997).

7. Degler Carl, Neither Black nor White: Slavery and Race Relations in Brazil and the United States (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1971); Russell-Wood A. J. R., The Black Man in Slavery and Freedom in Colonial Brazil (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1982); Higgins Kathleen, “Licentious Liberty” in a Brazilian Gold-Mining Region (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1999); França Paiva Eduardo, Escravidão e universo cultural na colonia: Minas Gerais, 1716–1789 (Belo Horizonte: Editora da UFMG, 2001).

8. Guedes Roberto, Egressos do cativeiro: trabalho, família, aliança e mobilidade social (Porto Feliz, São Paulo, c. 1798–c. 1850) (Rio de Janeiro: Mauad Editora; FAPERJ, 2008); Reis João José, Domingos Sodré, um sacerdote africano: escravidão, liberdade e candomblé na Bahia do século XIX (São Paulo: Companhia das Letras, 2008); Furtado Júnia Ferreira, Chica da Silva: A Brazilian Slave of the Eighteenth Century (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009); Ferreira Furtado, “Mulatismo, mobilidade e hierarquia nas Minas Gerais: os casos de Simão e Cipriano Pires Sardinha,” paper presented at the meeting of the Associação Portuguesa de História Econômica e Social in Lisbon, June 10, 2010; Sweet James, Domingos Álvares, African Healing, and the Intellectual History of the Atlantic World (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2013).

9. Zephyr Frank's study of black social mobility in nineteenth-century Rio de Janeiro offers a rare view of families of African descent that prioritizes historical context and processes in our understanding of wealth accumulation and fluctuating opportunities for socioeconomic advancement. Frank , Dutra's World: Wealth and Family in Nineteenth-Century Rio de Janeiro (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2004).

10. Olival Fernanda, “Rigor e interesses: os estatutos de limpeza de sangue em Portugal,” Cadernos de Estudos Sefarditas 4 (2004): 151182 ; João Manuel V. M. de Figueiroa-Rego, “A honra alheia por um fio: os estatutos de limpeza de sangue no espaço de expressão Ibérica, séculos xvi–xviii (PhD diss.: Universidade do Minho, 2009); Dutra Francis A., “Ser mulato em Portugal nos primórdios da Época Moderna,” Tempo 15:30 (2011): 101114 ; Xavier Ângela Barreto, “Purity of Blood and Caste: Identity Narratives among Early Modern Goan Elites,” in Race and Blood in the Iberian World, Hering Torres Max S., Martínez María Elena, and Nirenberg David, eds. (Zurich; Berlin: LIT Verlag, 2012), 125149 .

11. Russell-Wood A. J. R., “Ambivalent Authorities: The African and Afro-Brazilian Contribution to Local Governance in Colonial Brazil,” The Americas 57:1 (July 2000): 1336 ; Ana Luiza de Castro Pereira, “Unidos pelo sangue, separados pela lei: família e ilegitimidade no Império Português, 1700–1799” (PhD diss.: Universidade do Minho, 2009); Rodrigues Aldair Carlos, “Honra e estatutos de limpeza de sangue no Brazil colonial,” WebMosaica 4:1 (January 2012): 7585 . The use of the term quality, or calidad, and its meaning has also been explored in the Spanish Americas. See McCaa Robert, “Calidad, Clase, and Marriage in Colonial Mexico: The Case of Parral, 1788–90,” Hispanic American Historical Review 64 (August 1984): 477501 ; Herzog Tamar, Defining Nations: Immigrants and Citizens in Early Modern Spain and Spanish America (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003), 2535 , 101; and Andrews Norah, “ Calidad, Genealogy, and Disputed Free-Colored Tributary Status in New Spain,” The Americas 73:2 (April 2016): 139170 .

12. Ramos Donald, “Gossip, Scandal, and Popular Culture in Golden Age Brazil,” Journal of Social History 33:4 (Summer 2000): 887912 ; João Fragoso, “Fidalgos e parentes de pretos: notas sobre a nobreza principal da Terra do Rio de Janeiro (1600–1750),” and Guedes Roberto, “De ex-escravo a elite escravista: a trajetória de ascensão social do pardo alferes Joaquim Babosa Neves (Porto Feliz, São Paulo, Século XIX),” in Conquistadores e negociantes: histórias de elites no Antigo Regime nos trópicos, Fragoso João L. R., de Almeida Carla Maria C., and De Sampaio Antônio Carlos J., eds. (Rio de Janeiro: Civilização Brasileira, 2007), 33120 and 337–376, respectively; Pereira Costa Ana Paula, “‘Homens de qualidade’: a caracterização social das chefias militares dos corpos de ordenanças em Minas colonial,” Militares e Política 2 (January 2008): 730 ; Mattos Hebe, “‘Black Troops’ and Hierarchies of Color in the Portugues Atlantic World: The Case of Henrique Dias and His Black Regimento,” Luso-Brazilian Review 45:1 (June 2008): 629 .

13. My discussion of the social category of pardo in this article is informed by the concept of racial formation developed by Michael Omi and Howard Winant and further explored in their Racial Formation in the United States, 3rd ed. (New York: Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group, 2014). I have elected to employ the term “social category” instead of “race” because in this article I am concerned with the social mobility of African descendants and do not focus on race relations in colonial Minas Gerais.

14. Relação dos homens abastados das comarcas de Minas, July 24, 1756, Arquivo Público Mineiro, Coleção Arquivo Histórico Ultramarino [hereafter cited as AHU], box 70, doc. 40. For a discussion of Portuguese migration and the formation of an economic and social elite in early eighteenth-century Minas Gerais, see Trindade Valadares Virgínia Maria, Elites mineiras setecentistas: conjugação de dois mundos (Lisbon: Edições Colibri; Instituto de Cultura Ibero-Atlântica, 2004), 263297 .

15. The couple's third child, Joana, was born in slavery. Registro de batismo de Joana, February 8, 1736, Cúria Metropolitana de Belo Horizonte [hereafter cited as CMBH], Paroquia de Sabará, Livro de Batizados 1726–1740, vol. 1. By the time Joana got married, Luiza was known as Domingos's wife. Joana Rodrigues da Costa and Manuel Gomes Coelho, July 29, 1762, CMBH, Livro de Assentos de Casamentos de Sabará 1758–1801.

16. Different scholars have explored the influence of Portuguese ideas and practices about matrimony on marriage and concubinage patterns in colonial Brazil. Some studies argue that the desire for respectability encouraged marriage; others argue that the bureaucratic procedures marriage required, paired with social and racial inequality between men and women, helped to promote concubinage. All agree, however, that concubinage and illegitimacy were common practices in colonial and post-independence Brazil, and were not necessarily correlated to race. See Kuznesof Elizabeth, “Sexual Politics, Race, and Bastard-Bearing in Nineteenth-Century Brazil: A Question of Culture or Power?” Journal of Family History 16:3 (July 1991): 241260 ; Ramos Donald, “From Minho to Minas: The Portuguese Roots of the Mineiro Family,” Hispanic American Historical Review 73:4 (November 1993): 639666 ; Nazzari Muriel, “Concubinage in Colonial Brazil: The Inequalities of Race, Class, and Gender,” Journal of Family History 21:2 (April 1996): 107124 ; Figueiredo Luciano Raposo, Barrocas famílias: vida familiar em Minas Gerais no século XVIII (São Paulo: Hucitec, 1997), 131163 ; and Goldschmidt Eliana Rea, Casamentos mistos: liberdade e escravidão em São Paulo colonial (São Paulo: Annablume Editora, 2004).

17. His children's baptismal records were copied into his probate record as evidence of their relationship to him. Inventário de Jacinto Vieira da Costa, June 10, 1760, Museu do Ouro de Sabará/Arquivo Casa Borba Gato [hereafter cited as MOS/ACBG)], Cartório do Segundo Ofício [hereafter cited as CSO], box 21, doc. 189.

18. Testamento de Jacinto Vieira da Costa, May 9, 1760, MOS/ACBG, Cartório do Primeiro Ofício, códice 14(24), 77–83.

19. In 1746 he petitioned the crown for permission to build a sugar mill on his land, declaring that it would not distract him from mining efforts but would be used to profitably employ slaves no longer fit for mining. Requerimento de Jacinto Vieira da Costa, February 11, 1746, AHU, box 46, doc. 11. For a synthesis of patterns of economic change in Minas Gerais during the second half of the eighteenth century, see Bergad, Slavery and the Demographic and Economic History, 1–25.

20. Although I have not been able to find Domingos Rodrigues da Cruz's probate record, it is possible to estimate the value of his assets based on that of his wife. Inventário de Luiza Rodrigues da Cruz, February 1, 1779, MOS/ACBG, CSO, box 49, doc. 372; Inventário de Jacinto Vieira da Costa, June 10, 1760, MOS/ACBG, CSO, box 21, doc.189. The real, or réis in the plural form, was the currency of eighteenth-century Minas Gerais. One thousand réis was registered as 1$000, and one million réis (often referred to as a conto de réis) was registered as 1:000$000. During the second half of the eighteenth century 1$200 réis (the value of the unitary measure of gold, the oitava), was equivalent to 3.5 grams of gold. Barbosa Waldemar A., Dicionário da terra e da gente de Minas (Belo Horizonte: Publicações do Arquivo Público Mineiro, 1985), 135 .

21. A useful overview of the organization of military forces in Brazil is Pagano Mello Christiane Figueiredo, Forças militares no Brasil colonial: corpos auxiliares e de ordenanças na segunda metade do século XVIII (Rio de Janeiro: E-Papers, 2009).

22. Inventário de Jacinto Vieira da Costa, June 10, 1760, MOS/ACBG, CSO, box 21, doc. 189.

23. Mercê feita a Jacinto Vieira da Costa do hábito de Cristo, April 28, 1760, Arquivo Nacional Torre do Tombo [hereafter ANTT], Registro Geral de Mercês, D. José I, Livro 14, fol. 454.

24. Metropolitan and colonial officials were inclined to limit access to positions of power and prestige in eighteenth-century Minas Gerais to men of quality, that is, to white persons who were not connected by blood or marriage to African descendants. In 1725, the Overseas Council advised King João V to prohibit the election of men who had the defect of being mulato up to the fourth degree, or who were not married to a white woman, to the offices of municipal councilor or judge. AHU, Parecer do Conselho Ultramarino, September 25, 1725, box 7, doc. 26. For a discussion of this document and its implications, see Nazzari, “Vanishing Indians,” 497–524.

25. The Orphans' Court was the legal institution in charge of overseeing the succession of property in cases involving underage heirs. The quote, and much of the information available on Luiza Rodrigues da Cruz and her family comes from her probate record. Inventário de Luiza Rodrigues da Cruz, February 1, 1779, MOS/ACBG, CSO, box 49, doc. 372. The following marriage certificates are also available for her children: Luzia Rodrigues da Cruz and Bernardo José Freire, March 31, 1759, CMBH, Livro de Assentos de Casamentos de Sabará, 1758–1801; Ana Gonçalves and Manuel Rodrigues da Cruz, August 4, 1761, ibid.; Joana Rodrigues da Costa and Manuel Gomes Coelho, July 29, 1762, ibid. For a discussion of the definition of natural vs. legitimate child, and the laws regulating their right to inheritance, see Lewin Linda, Surprise Heirs I: Illegitimacy, Patrimonial Rights, and Legal Nationalism in Luso-Brazilian Inheritance, 1750–1821 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2003), 4270 .

26. As Ann Twinam has discussed for the Spanish Americas, notions of desirable and moral behavior, which supported claims to honor and distinction among white elites, were embraced and employed by non-elites to negotiate a middling position in colonial society. Twinam Ann, “The Negotiation of Honor,” in The Faces of Honor: Sex, Shame, and Violence in Colonial Latin America, Johnson Lyman and Lipsett-Rivera Sonya, eds. (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1998), 68102 . For a discussion of the circulation of similar notions and practices in colonial Brazil, see Muriel Nazzari, “An Urgent Need to Conceal,” in The Faces of Honor, 103–126; and Ramos, “Gossip, Scandal, and Popular Culture,” 887–912.

27. Jacinto Vieira da Costa to Joana Mina, November 29, 1756, MOS/ACBG, CSO, Livro de Notas N118, fol 56. The descriptor “Mina” was a general reference to the place and people of origin (the nação) of a slave, and referred to a region in Western Africa that corresponds to present-day Benin, Nigeria, Togo, and Ghana. See Sweet James, Recreating Africa: Culture, Kinship, and Religion in the African-Portuguese World, 1441–1770 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2003), 1330 ; and Carvalho Soares Mariza de, People of Faith: Slavery and African Catholics in Eighteenth-Century Rio de Janeiro (Durham: Duke University Press, 2011), 67100 .

28. In the region of Sabará, sixty percent of the slaves whose manumission was recorded by the notary office were women, and 54 percent of those women had purchased their freedom. Overall, two out of every three African slave women who obtained their freedom did so through purchase. This information is based on the consultation of 513 letters of freedom recorded by the notary public of Sabará between 1750 and 1808. MOS/ACBG, CSO, Livros de Notas L2, L56, L59, L75, L82, L89, N118, and L63-67. See also Dantas, Black Townsmen, 98–112. For similar observations elsewhere in Minas Gerais and colonial Brazil, see Schwartz Stuart B., “The Manumission of Slaves in Colonial Brazil: Bahia, 1684–1745,” Hispanic American Historical Review 54:4 (November 1974): 603635 ; Karasch , Slave Life in Rio, 1808–1850 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1987), 335362 ; and Libby Douglas C. and Paiva Clotilde, “Manumission Practices in a Late Eighteenth-Century Brazilian Slave Parish: São José d'El Rey in 1795,” Slavery and Abolition 21:1 (April 2000): 96127 .

29. Izabel Vieira da Costa to Thomé Mina, July 21, 1779, MOS/ACBG, CSO, Livro de Notas 13(63), fol. 99; Antônio Vieira da Costa to Cecília Mina, May 31, 1796, MOS/ACBG, CSO, Livro de Notas 34(sn), fol. 139.

30. Ownership of slaves was of great economic and social importance to former slaves, who might have been reluctant to surrender their own bondmen and women without compensation. See Frank, Dutra's World, 96–121; and Furtado, Chica da Silva, 146–161.

31. Information about the daughters' marriages is available in Luiza's probate record and the marriage certificates of Luzia and Joana. For laws regulating women's right to property, see Código Philippino, ou ordenações e leis do Reino de Portugal, Livro 4, títs. 56 and 96 (Rio de Janeiro: Cândido Mendes de Almeida, 1870; reprint, Lisbon: Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian, 1985), 832–835 and 949–954. See also Metcalf Alida, Family and Frontier in Colonial Brazil: Santana do Paraíba, 1580-1822 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992), 95100 ; and Lewin, Surprise Heirs I, 19–39.

32. Requerimento de Maria Rodrigues da Cruz, September 24, 1784, Coleção AHU, box 122, doc. 27. For a discussion of women of African descent as heads of household and their children's guardians, see Dantas Mariana, “Succession of Property, Sales of Meação, and the Economic Empowerment of Widows of African Descent in Colonial Minas Gerais, Brazil,” Journal of Family History 39:3 (July 2014): 222238 .

33. Patterns of marriage arrangements in early and mid eighteenth-century Minas Gerais likely ressembled what Muriel Nazzari has described for seventeenth-century São Paulo: wealthy families with children of mixed descent sought white Portuguese husbands for their daughters to whiten the family line and complement their economic standing with social prestige. See Nazzari , The Disappearance of the Dowry: Women, Families, and Social Change in São Paulo, Brazil (1600–1900) (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1991), 1539 .

34. Even after both parents had died, their descendants continued to benefit from their mining business. Months after Luiza's death, for instance, Antônio, her oldest son, declared that the deceased's mining plots yielded 164$700 réis of gold, an amount equivalent to the price of a young male African slave. Equal shares of that amount were allocated to the different heirs. Inventário de Luiza Rodrigues da Cruz.

35. Inventário de José Rodrigues da Cruz, November 11, 1783, MOS/ACBG, CSO, box 55, doc. 412. Records of mining lands concession held by the Rodrigues da Cruz children can be found in Cartas de Aforamentos, 1776–1809, APM, Câmara Municipal de Sabará, códice 203.

36. While historians such as Laird Bergad have highlighted the process of out-migration that marked late eighteenth-century Minas Gerais as a result of the decline of gold mining in the region, studies like that of Douglas Libby point to an alternative pattern of family permanence in Minas Gerais. Bergad, Slavery and the Demographic and Economic History, 89–100; Douglas Libby, “Family, Stability, and Respectability: Seven Generations of Africans and Afro-descendents in Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century Minas Gerais,” The Americas 73:3 (July 2016): 371–390.

37. Lewin, Surprise Heirs, 20–29, 42–57.

38. Inventário de Jacinto Vieira da Costa, June 10, 1760, MOS/ACBG, CSO, box 21, doc. 189; Testamento de Jacinto Vieira da Costa, May 9, 1760, MOS/ACBG, Cartório do Primeiro Ofício, códice 14(24), 77–83. Sales of property between parents and children, or to another family member, were not uncommon in colonial Minas Gerais. These transactions had added importance to families with children of African descent whose entitlement to the inheritance might have been challenged by the circumstances of their birth. See Dantas Mariana, “Inheritance Practices Among Individuals of African Origin and Descent in Eighteenth-Century Minas Gerais, Brazil,” in The Faces of Freedom: The Manumission and Emancipation of Slaves in Old World and New World Slavery, Kleijwegt Marc, ed. (Leiden: Brill, 2006), 153181 .

39. Inventário de Antônio Vieira da Costa, February 27, 1796, MOS/ACBG, CSO, box 72, doc. 561.

40. Testamento de Jacinto Vieira da Costa, May 9, 1760, MOS/ACBG, Cartório do Primeiro Ofício, códice 14(24), 77–83.

41. Testamento de Pedro Alves Barbosa, November 28, 1760, MOS/ACBG, CPO, códice 15(25), fols. 123–127.

42. Valadares, Elites mineiras setecentistas, 297–336.

43. Carta patente de mestre do campo dos auxiliares, June 22, 1785, Arquivo Nacional da Torre do Tombo, Registro Geral de Mercês de D. Maria I, Livro 18, fol. 320v. For an overview of the participation of African descendants in colonial militias, see Fernando Prestes de Souza, Leandro Francisco de Paula, and Luiz Geraldo Silva, “A Guerra Luso-Castelhana e o recrutamento de pardos e pretos: uma análise comparativa (Minas Gerais, São Paulo e Pernambuco, 1775–1777),” in Temas setecentistas: governos e populações no império português, Antônio César de Almeida Santos and Andréa Doré, eds. (Curitiba: UFPR-SCHLA, 2008), 67–83; and Albert Cotta Francis, Negros e mestiços nas milícias da América Portuguesa (Belo Horizonte: Crisálida, 2010).

44. Martins Judith, Dicionário de artistas e artífices dos séculos XVIII e XIX em Minas Gerais (Rio de Janeiro: Publicações do Instituto do Patrimônio Histórico e Artístico Nacional, 1974).

45. Valadares, Elites mineiras setecentistas, 297–336; Dutra, “Ser mulato em Portugal,” 101–114; João de Figueirôa-Rêgo and Fernanda Olival, “Cor da pele, distinções e cargos: Portugal e espaços Atlânticos Portugueses (séculos XVI a XVIII),” Tempo 15:30 (2011): 115–145. The Pombaline reforms of 1773 ended the requirement of purity of blood that some Portuguese institutions had demanded, but they did not immediately displace the culture of discrimination the requirement had created. See Rodrigues, “Honra e estatutos,” 75–85.

46. Código Phillipino, Livro 1, tít. 88 § 13–21, 211–213. For a discussion of the implications of these laws and attempts to circumvent them, see Solange Maria da Silva, “Estratégias e práticas educativas dos negros na comarca do Rio das Velhas, século XVIII,” (Master's thesis: Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, 2011); and Dantas, “Succession of Property,” 222–238.

47. “Os que não forem de qualidade e nobreza devem assoldadarsse ou porem-se ao offício por ordem do juízo.” Quote from Livro de provimento dos órfãos, MOS/ACBG, 15v–16. This book, produced by the Orphans' Court of Sabará in the early eighteenth century, was a compilation of provisos intended to guide future procedures of the court.

48. Luzia Rodrigues da Cruz and Bernardo José Freire, March 31, 1759, CMBH, Livro de Assentos de Casamentos de Sabará, 1758-1801; Maria Josefa Freire and Joaquim Dias de Magalhães, February 10, 1790, ibid.; Maria Paula de Queiroz and João José Freire, August 15, 1793, ibid.

49. Registro de Batismo de Joana, February 8, 1736; Joana Rodrigues da Costa and Manuel Gomes Coelho, July 29, 1762; Joana Rodrigues da Cruz and Manuel Nogueira de Carvalho, October 9, 1772, ACBG/MOS, CPON, Livro de Notas 18(63) 1772/3.

50. Registro de batismo de Francisco, February 27, 1780, CMBH, Livro de Assentos de Batismos de Sabará; Cartas de Aforamento, February 17, 1798, APM, CMS 55.

51. Eufrásia Gonçalves da Cruz and Manuel Ribeiro Pinto, June 20, 1781, CMBH, Livro de Assentos de Casamentos de Sabará, 1758–1801; Josefa Gonçalves da Cruz and João Rodrigues Lamego, February 14, 1786, ibid.; Eufrásia Gonçalves da Cruz and Francisco Marques Cardim, August 27, 1788, ibid.; Joana Rodrigues da Cruz and Manuel Nogueira de Carvalho, October 9, 1772, ibid.

52. Inventário de José Rodrigues de Aguiar, January 16, 1787, MOS/ACBG, CSO, box 62, doc. 463.

53. “Lista de Teares,” Revista do Arquivo Público Mineiro 40 (1995): 65.

54. Copies of the birth certificates of some of Jacinto's children are included in his probate record. Inventário de Jacinto Vieira da Costa.

55. Testamento de Pedro Alves Barbosa, November 28, 1760.

56. Jacinto Vieira Alves da Costa and Joana Ferreira da Silva, June 22, 1777, Arquivo Eclesiástico da Arquidiocese de Mariana [hereafter AEAM], Livro de Dispensas Matrimoniais-Sabará. Couples commonly requested a marriage dispensation when there was reason to believe there was an impediment to their union according to the laws of the Church.

57. Appendix to Inventário de Jacinto Vieira da Costa, April 8, 1780, ACBG/MOS, CSO, box 21, doc. 189.

58. The sample collected for this study included documents from the early 1730s, the early 1750s, and the early 1780s, Cúria Metropolitana de Belo Horizonte, Livros de Assento de Batismo de Sabará.

59. Of the 418 unmarried mothers, 325 were declared slaves, 22 appear as preta forra, 25 as parda forra, 33 as crioula forra, and 5 as merely forra.

60. Of the 129 married mothers, 53 were recorded with no particular description, 47 were declared slaves, 5 preta forras, 12 parda forras, one as cabra forra (freed mixed-race person), and 21 as crioula forra.

61. Monteiro da Vide D. Sebastião, Constituições primeiras do Arcebispado da Bahia, edições Federal do Senado (São Paulo: Typographia 2 de Dezembro, 1853), 2829 .

62. Soares, People of Faith, 7; Libby, “Exploring Parish Registers,” 213–244.

63. For a discussion of the complexity, reasons for, and practices of passing, see Cope R. Douglas, The Limits of Racial Domination: Plebian Society in Colonial Mexico City, 1660–1720 (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1994), 4967 ; and Twinam, Purchasing Whiteness, 60–64.

64. Furtado, for instance, has discussed the lengths to which the son of a freed slave woman went to hide his mother's African descent in order to enter the magistracy in Portugal. Furtado, Chica da Silva, 53–68. António Manuel Hespanha argues that in Portuguese society during the Antigo Regime, when the social hierarchy was organized around the notion of estates, social mobility occurred only when kings granted individuals a mercy or favor that could place them within a superior class of people. Hespanha, “A mobilidade social,” 121–143. Yet, as Ann Twinam and María Elena Martinez have shown, in the colonial setting the crown alone could not promote a change in individual status, public opinion and memory shaped in part by the archives, also affected mobility. Twinam Ann, Public Lives, Private Secrets: Gender, Honor, Sexuality, and Illegitimacy in Colonial Spanish America (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1999); Martinez María Elena, Genealogical Fictions: Limpieza de Sangre, Religion, and Gender in Colonial Mexico (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2008); Twinam Ann, “Purchasing Whiteness: Conversations on the Essence of Pardo-ness and Mulatto-ness at the End of Empire,” in Imperial Subjects: Race and Identity in Colonial Latin America, Fisher Andrew B. and O'Hara Matthew, eds. (Durham: Duke University Press, 2009), 141166 .

65. Guedes, Egressos do cativeiro, 239–313.

66. Joaquim Dias de Magalhães and Maria Josefa Freire, February 10, 1790, CMBH, Livro de Assentos de Casamentos de Sabará, 1758–1801; João José Freire and Maria Paula de Queiroz, August 15, 1793, ibid.

67. Requerimento de confirmação de patente, November 10, 1798, AHU, box 146, doc. 54.

68. Kraay Hendrik, Race, State, and Armed Forces in Independence-Era Brazil: Bahia, 1790s–1840s (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2001), 8283 , 88–97.

69. Information about the family of Maria Rodrigues da Cruz and Manuel Teixeira de Queiroz is available in Queiroz's probate record. Inventário de Manuel Teixeira de Queiroz, January 15, 1783, MOS/ACBG, CSO, box 55, doc. 04.

70. Código Phillipino, Livro 1, tít. 88 § 13-21, 211–213; MOS/ACBG, Livro de Provimento dos Órfãos, 15v–16.

71. Código Phillipino, Livro 1, tít. 88 § 19-21, 213.

72. I have examined the marriage strategies of free African descendants in colonial Minas Gerais in Mariana Dantas, “Humble Slaves and Loyal Vassals: Free Africans and Their Descendants in Eighteenth-Century Minas Gerais, Brazil,” in Imperial Subjects, Andrew B. Fisher and Matthew O'Hara, eds., 115–140.

73. Information about these marriages is available in Manuel Teixeira de Queiroz's probate record and in Maria Rosa and Manuel's marriage certificates. Manuel Custódio de Araújo and Maria Rosa Teixeira, June 2, 1788, CMBH, Livro de Assentos de Casamentos de Sabará, 1758-1801; Manuel Teixeira de Queiroz and Mariana Alvez dos Santos, July 11, 1793, ibid. I was able to determine that Mariana was of African descent through the probate record of her grandfather. Inventário de Francisco Alves dos Santo, January 29, 1750, MOS/ACBG, CSO, box 13, doc. 132.

74. Faustino Narcizo de Araújo and Maria Rodrigues da Cruz, March 6, 1791, CMBH, Livro de Assentos de Casamentos de Sabará, 1758-1801; José Ferreira Machado and Joaquina Rodrigues da Cruz, November 29, 1792, ibid.; Manuel Pacheco de Souza and Luzia Rodrigues da Cruz, September 29, 1793, ibid.

75. Eufrásia, moreover, remarried after the death of her first husband; her second husband was also a pardo man. Manuel Ribeiro Pinto and Eufrásia Gonçalves da Cruz, June 20, 1781, CMBH, Livro de Assentos de Casamentos de Sabará, 1758–1801; João Rodrigues Lamego and Josefa Gonçalves da Cruz, February 14, 1786, ibid.; Eufrásia Gonçalves da Cruz, August 27, 1788, ibid. Because the young women's grandfather and guardian was required by the Orphans' Court to present reports on the status of their inheritance and upbringing, and did so until they married, it is possible to determine there were no legal objections to their marriages. Inventário de Luiza Rodrigues da Cruz, February 1, 1779, MOS/ACBG, CSO, box 49, doc. 372.

76. Jacinto Vieira Alves da Costa and Joana Ferreira da Silva, June 22, 1777, Arquivo Eclesiástico da Arquidiocese de Mariana, Livro de Dispensas Matrimoniais-Sabará. While dispensation records dealt with Church-defined impediments to a marriage, they sometimes revealed parents' objections to the proposed marriage. See Dantas, “Humble Slaves,” 123–129.

77. R. Douglas Cope has called our attention to the fact that variations in the way people are described in colonial records are more likely to reveal horizontal social mobility than vertical social mobility. Cope, Limits of Racial Domination, 68–85. For a discussion of the racial dynamic of social mobility in colonial Brazil, see Lara Silvia, Fragmentos setecentistas: escravidão, cultura e poder na América Portuguesa (São Paulo: Companhia das Letras, 2007), 272285 ; and Guedes, Egressos do cativeiro, 315–317.

78. I have discussed these parental strategies in other works. See Dantas, “Inheritance Practices,” 168–180; Dantas, “Succession of Property,” 1–17; and Dantas Mariana L. R., “Market Women of African Descent and the Making of a Colonial Town in Eighteenth-Century Minas Gerais, Brazil,” Colonial Latin American Historical Review, Second Series, 2:1 (Winter 2014): 124 . Other works that have addressed similar practices are Metcalf, Family and Frontier, 95–105; Faria , A colônia em movimento: fortuna e família no cotidiano colonial (Rio de Janeiro: Editora Nova Fronteira, 1998), 223286 ; Furtado, Chica da Silva, 259–283.

79. Representaçao dos oficiais da Câmara da Vila do Príncipe, August 9, 1746, AHU (47)26.

80. Parecer do Conselho Ultramarino, September 25, 1725, AHU, box 7, doc. 26. For a discussion of lingering requirements of purity of blood, see Rodrigues, “Honra e estatutos,” 75–85.

I would like to thank the Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado de Minas Gerais (FAPEMIG) and Ohio University for their generous support of my research at the Arquivo Casa Borba Gato in the Museu do Ouro de Sabará and the Arquivo Público Mineiro. I would also like to thank the staff of both institutions, in particular Carla Sterling, director of the archives at the Museu do Ouro. My thanks also to Sebastian Biot for designing the map of the parishes of Rio das Velhas and helping with the genealogical charts.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

The Americas
  • ISSN: 0003-1615
  • EISSN: 1533-6247
  • URL: /core/journals/americas
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
×

Metrics

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 5
Total number of PDF views: 34 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 325 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between 22nd November 2016 - 18th January 2018. This data will be updated every 24 hours.