No presídio [de Fernando de Noronha] o bandido [Zé Moleque] criara fama de boa pessoa, de trabalhador. Os seus roçados de farinha eram sempre os maiores e nunca estivera em cela, nunca dera o que fazer aos diretores.
In José Lins do Rego's 1936 novel, A Usina (the sugar refinery), the penal colony of Fernando de Noronha Island emerges as an incongruous Utopia. The novel's young black protoganist Ricardo serves a three year sentence there as a result of his involvement in a Recife labor strike. Upon his return, he is disillusioned by what he finds on the mainland. He recalls his penalcolony stint with a mixture of nostalgia and shame, especially the tender relationship he had had with the former black bandit Zé Moleque, the respected convict in the citation above. The island, some 220 miles off Brazil's northeast coast, initially appears to be an exotic criminal community of dishonored men, the antithesis of life on the mainland. But, as the plot progresses, it becomes a bucolic foil with which the author highlights hypocrisy, injustice, indifference, and corruption on the modernizing Brazilian mainland of the 1920s.