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A Safe Haven: Runaway Slaves, Mocambos, and Borders in Colonial Amazonia, Brazil

Gomes, Flavio dos Santos. Gledhill, H. Sabrina.

Hispanic American Historical Review, 82:3, August 2002, pp. 469-498 (Article)
Published by Duke University Press

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A Safe Haven: Runaway Slaves, Mocambos, and Borders in Colonial Amazonia, Brazil
Flvio dos Santos Gomes

A chapter in the saga of Portugals Atlantic discoveries can be reconstructed

by following the trails blazed by the settlement of the colonial Amazon between the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries, particularly in the eastern border regions of Brazilian Guyana. This immense sector of the Amazon was known as Terras do Cabo Norte (Lands of North Cape) throughout most of the colonial period. Like other parts of the Amazon, it was not necessarily impervious to the process of colonization. While the metropole was paying close attention to the crates of sugar leaving the northeastern ports, missionaries and travelers ventured out and borders were demarcated in the far-ung corners of the vast Amazon region. In the beginning, the eastern Amazon was not occupied in economic terms, but it soon attracted the attention of the authorities in Portugal. Although scattered, some small forts were built, beginning in the seventeenth century. And they were not just Portuguese. Not far off, British and French forts also appeared. Interests and objectives were still being dened as settlers gradually arrived. The attention of merchants and colonial landowners was directed elsewhere. Meanwhile, indigenous groups of the region were moving in their own directions. In the far north of colonial Brazil, in what is now the state of Amap, fugiTranslated by H. Sabrina Gledhill. I am indebted to Jos Celso de Castro Alves for his splendid editorial guidance. I am especially grateful to Jonas Maral Queiroz, Olvia Maria Gomes da Cunha, Rosa Elisabeth Acevedo Marin, and HAHRs anonymous readers for their comments on earlier versions of this essay. I would like to thank my research assistants, Ana Maria Ambrsio, Ana Renata Lima, Eliane Soares, Rosevaner Pereira, Shirley Nogueira, Silvandro Nascimento, and Simia Lopes, for their assistance with archival documents. The Federal University of Par and the Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Cientco e Tecnolgico provided research funds for this article. Finally, I wish to acknowledge the generous support of my intellectual collaborators Gerard Proust and Robert Marigard in Cayenne, French Guyana.
Hispanic American Historical Review 82:3 Copyright 2002 by Duke University Press


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tives blacks, Amerindians, and military deserters played a leading role in the pursuit of freedom. Through their own acts, they reinvented meanings and constructed views of slavery and liberty. Moreover, they colonized and occupied vast swathes of the Amazon, particularly those on international colonial borders. Settlers arrived. Ships cast anchor. Economic calculations were made. Forts were built. Boundary markers were put in place. Laws and regulations were sent. Several kinds of adventures were beginning for the men and women in those parts. Fugitives created escape routes. Flight and the establishment of maroon societies (mocambos) in those borderlands took on new meanings. This article illuminates one aspect of the black experience in the Brazilian Guyana region during colonial times. Being a border area, lessons of colonization also resulted from the historical experiences of the mocambos and the transnational movement of fugitives. The experiences of the mocambos in the immense Amazon were unique. Their economy was predominantly extractive and until the middle of the century, indigenous labor slave and free was more prevalent than that of Africans and their descendents. Furthermore, environmental and geographic conditions, and the agency or role of indigenous groups, those in the missions and later in directory system controlled by representatives of the Portuguese crown, and the actions of military deserters altered the scope of possibilities and historical options for establishing mocambos in the Amazon than in other parts of colonial Brazil.1
The Amazon and Slavery

In 1621 the Portuguese crown created the state of Maranho and Gro-Par as an administrative unit under the direct control of Lisbon and separate from the state of Brazil. Until the mid-eighteenth century, this region encompassed the entire Portuguese Amazon, Cear, and Piau. The colonial government would only divide the areas of Maranho and Gro-Par into captaincies in the early second half of the 1700s.2
1. See Luiz Felipe de Alencastro, O aprendizado da colonizao, in O Trato dos viventes: Formao do Brasil no Atlntico Sul (So Paulo: Companhia das Letras, 2000). For a historical survey of Brazilian quilombos, see Joo Jos Reis and Flvio dos Santos Gomes, eds., Liberdade por um o: Histria dos quilombos no Brasil (So Paulo: Companhia das Letras, 1996). 2. On the colonial occupation of the Amazon, see Ndia Farage, As muralhas dos sertes: Os povos indgenas no Rio Branco e a colonizao (Rio de Janeiro: Paz e Terra, ANPOCS, 1991), esp. 23 53. For the purposes of this historical analysis, the expression

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In the initial days of settlement in Gro-Par, the plantation system was attempted, primarily to grow sugar and tobacco. That experiment failed, mainly due to a lack of vital investments, the price of African labor, which was higher than in Bahia and Pernambuco, as well as epidemics and geographic difculties. The regions sugar and tobacco production was eventually destined for internal consumption. Producing aguardente was given priority, and an extractive economy was developed through the drogas do serto (drugs of the wilderness): cocoa, vanilla, sarsaparilla, urucum, cloves, andiroba (Guyana crabwood), musk, amber, ginger, and piassava. There was also turtle shing. Coins only began to circulate in Gro-Par in the mid-eighteenth century. In the previous century, the pillars of the regions economy rested on the gathering of forest products and indigenous labor. Everything depended on the Amerindians, who worked as guides, shermen, hunters, bearers, and farinha makers. The region was sparsely settled and the tiny white population basically consisted of colonial civil servants.3 Brazilian historiography has generally neglected the African presence in the Amazon. More concerned with economic cycles particularly the sugar, gold, and coffee booms it has merely sought to analyze the role of slaves in major exporting areas. The basic model consisted of the plantation, the manor house, and productive units with large numbers of black slaves. The presence of African slaves was believed to have had little economic signicance in the Amazon, its socioeconomic landscape had only room for Amerindians. In fact, the Amerindians who were forgotten and excluded from colonial Brazil by historiography after the rst years of colonization seem only to have existed in Gro-Par.4 However, there was more to that region than jungle and
colonial Amazon refers to the areas occupied by the captaincies of Gro-Par and Rio Negro during the eighteenth century. Today, they would cover the Brazilian states of Par, Amazonas, Amap, and Roraima. Todays denition of the north also includes the states of Acre, Rondnia and Tocantins. The so-called Legal Amazon also includes the state of Mato-Grosso and most of Maranho. 3. See Ciro Flamarion S. Cardoso, Economia e sociedade em reas coloniais perifricas: Guiana Francesa e Par, 1750 1817 (Rio de Janeiro: Graal, 1984); and idem, La Guyane Franaise (1715 1817): Aspects conomiques et sociaux: Contribution a ltude des socites esclavagistes dAmrique (Petit-Bourg, Guadeloupe: Ibis Rouge, 1999). 4. The regional bibliography includes contemporary chroniclers and authors. See Joo Lcio dAzevedo, Os jesutas no Gro-Par, suas misses e colonizao: Borguejo histrico com vrios documentos inditos (Lisbon: Livraria Ed. Tavares Cardoso & Irmos, 1901); Antnio Ladislau Monteiro Baena, Compndio das eras da provncia do Par (Belm: Univ. Federal do Par, 1969); Bernardo Pereira de Berredo, Annaes histricos, 3d ed. (Florena: Typ. Barbra, 1905); Joo Vasco Manoel de Braum, Descripo chorogrca do estado do


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Amerindians. The classic work by Vicente Salles is worth noting. It demonstrated that Africans and their descendants were present in the Amazon from the end of the seventeenth century. The rst Africans to arrive in Gro-Par came from the Amap region between circa 1580 and 1620. They were taken there by the British, who set up trading posts on the coast of Macap and along the straits.5 Compared with other colonial areas, the African slave trade was rather insignicant in the Amazon. Due to a lack of investment capital, it was hard to compete with faster-growing markets that required a continual supply of slave labor and focused on exports. Gro-Par would be crushed by the competition of sugar from Pernambuco and Bahia, cotton from Maranho and gold from Minas Gerais. Because the predominantly indigenous population was not an adequate source of labor, settlers complained to the crown that African slaves

Gram-Par [1789], Revista do Instituto Histrico e Geogrco Brasileiro (RIHGB ) 36 (1873); Padre Joo Daniel, Tesouro descoberto no Rio Amazonas, Anais da Biblioteca Nacional 95, nos. 1 2 (1975); and Jos Coelho da Gama e Abreu, Baro de Maraj, As regies amazonicas: Estudos chorogrcos dos estado do Gram-Par e Amazonas (Lisbon: Imp. de Libano da Silva, 1895). Among the more recent studies on colonial Amazon, see Dauril Alden, El indio desechable en el estado de Maranho durante los siglos XVII y XVIII, Amrica Indgena 55, no. 2 (1985); John Hemming, Red Gold: The Conquest of the Brazilian Indians (London: Macmillan, 1978); idem, Amazon Frontier: The Defeat of the Brazilian Indians (London: Macmillan, 1987); Colin M. MacLachlan, African Slavery and Economic Development in Amaznia (1700 1800), in Slavery and Race Relations in Latin America, ed. Robert Brent Toplin ( Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1973); idem, The Indian Directorate: Forced Acculturation in Portuguese America (1757 1799), The Americas 28, no. 4 (1972); idem, The Indian Labor Structure in the Portuguese Amazon, 1700 1800, in Colonial Roots of Modern Brazil: Papers of the Newberry Library Conference, ed. Dauril Alden (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1973), 228; Patrcia Maria Melo Sampaio, Espelhos partidos: Etnia, legislao e desigualdades na Colnia, sertes do Gro-Par, 1755 1823 (Ph.D. diss., Univ. Federal Fluminense, 2001); Barbara Ann Sommer, Negotiated Settlements: Native Amazonians and Portuguese Policy in Par, Brazil, 1758 1798 (Ph.D. diss., Univ. of New Mexico, 2000); and David G. Sweet, A Rich Realm of Nature Destroyed: The Middle Amazon Valley, 1640 1750 (Ph.D. diss., Univ. of Wisconsin, 1974). 5. See Vicente Salles, O negro no Par sob o regime da escravido (Rio de Janeiro: Fundao Getlio Vargas, 1971). For primary sources on Africans and Amerindians in the Amazon, see Anaza Vergolino-Henry and Arthur Napoleo Figueiredo, A presena africana na Amaznia colonial: Uma notcia histrica (Belm: Governo do Estado do Par, Secretaria de Estado de Cultura, Arquivo Pblico do Par; Falangola Ed., 1990); and Mrcio Meira, ed., Livro das canoas: Documentos para a histria indgena da Amaznia (So Paulo: Ncleo de Histria Indgena e do Indigenismo; Fundao de Amparo Pesquisa do Estado de So Paulo, 1993).

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were needed in that region. Subsequently, in 1682, through a royal permit granted to a monopolist company backed by Portuguese capital, an attempt was made to take 500 slaves to Maranho and Gro-Par annually under a 20year contract. However, that enterprise failed. The permit was cancelled because not a single slave had arrived there by 1685. In 1690 the Companhia de Cachu e Cabo Verde was formed to take at least 145 Africans per year to that region for a preset price.6 The inux of African slaves was modest between the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. Between 1692 and 1721, 1,208 Africans were taken to Gro-Par, a very small number compared to the 300,000 to 350,000 Africans taken to the Northeast in the second half of the seventeenth century. The African slave trade to the Amazon was still nearly paralyzed. Prices remained high and settlers increasingly eager for African workers went into debt. Even so, 28,556 Africans arrived in Maranho and Gro-Par between 1756 and 1788. Of these, 16,077 went to several parts of Gro-Par.7 Settlers also complained that shipments of Africans bound for Gro-Par were diverted to Maranho and Mato-Grosso. There are no statistics for the period prior to 1755. Shipments were sporadic and many were diverted to Maranho. In his study of the slave trade in the Amazon, Colin MacLachlan warns that statistical data should be used with care. They are most useful to point out trends in the importation of Africans. However, it is difcult to determine the exact number of Africans because the pea de ndia, a standard unit of measurement used in the slave trade, denotes one to three African slaves.8 In the course of attempts to take Africans to Gro-Par, there were several conicts in the eighteenth century involving colonial and Portuguese authorities and residents of Belm and So Lus. Belm residents and merchants complained that they were always passed over and kept at a disadvantage vis--vis the sale of Africans to Maranho. Thanks to cotton, the Maranho region in the second half of the eighteenth century was more prosperous, which considerably increased the demand for slaves. In terms of agriculture, the areas of Gro-Par that beneted the most during that period were restricted to the outskirts of Belm and the Macap delta. Even so, because the slave market in So Lus was more attractive, there were differ6. See Maria Regina Celestino de Almeida, Trabalho compulsrio na Amaznia: Sculos XVIIXVIII, Revista Arrabaldes 1, no. 2 (1988): 104. 7. Farage, As muralhas dos sertes, 26, 38. 8. See MacLachlan, African Slavery and Economic Development in Amaznia.


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ences in price. Between 1779 and 1790, the average number of Africans imported to Maranho annually was 1,605, compared with 547 in Gro-Par. According to Salles, Despite this sporadic trafc and special conditions on which the Amazonian economy was based, blacks would reach these far-ung corners anyway, although their numeric scale would be progressively reduced, as we moved away from the nucleus of Belm.9 Even in the remotest regions of Gro-Par, however, the black population established a presence. The slave trade in that area began to grow in the second half of the eighteenth century. This process resulted from the marquis de Pombals policies in that region. During the administration of Governor Francisco Xavier de Mendona Furtado (1751 59) Pombals half-brother the sale of Africans in Gro-Par grew rapidly, particularly through the creation of the Companhia Geral do Comrcio do Maranho e Gro-Par (1755 78). African slave trade was carried on privately and illegally, through smugglers and creole slaves who moved into the area from other captaincies (53,217 slaves entered the Amazon region between 1755 and 1820).10 Although the trafc in black slaves was small compared with Maranho and other slave areas, groups of slaves would be transported to work in several parts of the colonial Amazon. Even in the region of Rio Negro (now the state of Amazonas), where indigenous labor was predominant, the last quarter of the eighteenth century saw the beginning of a trend towards replacing the Amerindian workforce with Africans and their descendents. Data for 1786 regarding the rural area of Barcelos, Rio Negro, indicates the existence of fazendas and small landholdings owned by 27 whites and 60 Amerindians, and worked by black and indigenous slaves. We know that 116 black slaves and 76 Amerindian sharecroppers worked on white-owned land. There were also 130 blacks and 84 indigenous sharecroppers working on small fazendas owned by Amerindians. On the basis of calculations of per capita productivity, Ciro Cardoso determined that farms owned by Amerindians were more productive and suggests that they and their families might have worked alongside their slaves and employees. In the city of Belm, in the later decades of the eigh9. Salles, O negro no Par, 50 51, 115 121, 127. The classic work on the African slave trade in the Amazon is Antnio Carreira, As companhias pombalinas de navegao, comrcio e trco de escravos entre a costa africana e o nordeste brasileiro (Bissau: Centro de Estudos da Guin Portuguesa, 1969). 10. Salles, O negro no Par, 49. On the legal status of forced indigenous labor in colonial Brazil, see Beatriz Perrone-Moiss, ndios livres e ndios escravos: Os princpios da legislao do perodo colonial (sculos XVI a XVIII), in Histria dos ndios no Brasil, ed. Manuela Carneiro da Cunha (So Paulo: Companhia das Letras, 1994).

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teenth century, the black slave population was also on the rise. Even in more remote regions, such as Santarm and the towns and former missions in the areas of Tapajs, Solimes and Tocantins Rivers, the black slave population, although minute, established a presence in the nal decades of the eighteenth century. Farmers and peasants attempted to develop small farms and an extractivist economy using indigenous workers and black slaves.11 As Ciro Cardoso stresses, although black slavery grew in the Amazon in the second half of the eighteenth century and the rst two decades of the nineteenth century, it was still far removed from the typical characteristics of plantation colonies. The rst sugar plantations were established in the Belm region. In the last quarter of the eighteenth century, the number of royal engenhos sugar producers fell and were replaced by small aguardente distilleries. These required a smaller investment of capital and chronic poverty made it impossible to solve the labor shortage in that region.12 In 1751 there were only 24 royal engenhos in the entire captaincy of Gro-Par. Also, the construction of forts throughout the eighteenth century due to the militarization of the borderlands, particularly near French and Spanish possessions, created a demand for Amerindian and African labor.13 In Gro-Par, the production of rice, cotton, and especially coffee and cacao predominated between 1773 and 1818. Cacao was an important crop in the Tocantins region.14 As for coffee, it was rst planted in Par in 1727, taken there from Cayenne French Guyana by Sergeant Major Francisco de Melo Palheta after he went there on a commission from the governor of the captaincy. Two decades later, about 17,000 coffee bushes had been planted there. Livestock husbandry predominated in the Maraj area. In 1783 there were 153 cattle and horse fazendas on Joanes Island and in the surrounding region. That number rose to 226 in 1803.15 In terms of exports, however, the
11. See Farage. As muralhas dos sertes, 36 38; Nrvia Ravena, Maus vizinhos e boas terras: Idias e experincias no povoamento do Cabo Norte (sculo XVIII), in Nas terras do Cabo Norte: Fronteiras, colonizao e escravido na Guiana brasileira, sculos XVIII/XIX, ed. Flvio dos Santos Gomes (Belm: NAEA/UFPA, Fundecap, 1999). 12. Ciro Flamarion S. Cardoso, O trabalho indgena na amaznia portuguesa, Histria em Cadernos 3, no. 2 (1985): 1112, 15. 13. Azevedo, Os jesutas no Gro-Par, cited in Ernesto Cruz, Histria do Par, 2d ed. (Belm: Governo do Estado, 1973), 55, 86. 14. On cacao and the colonial economy of the Amazonian region, see Roberto A. de O. Santos, Histria econmica da Amaznia (1800 1920) (So Paulo: T. A. Queiroz, 1980), 16 18, 20. 15. Manoel Cardoso Barata, A antiga produo e exportao do Par, in Formao histricas do Par: Obras reunidas (Belm: Univ. Federal do Par, 1973), 3017, 309 11, 313, 325 27.


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colonial economy of Gro-Par stagnated in the late eighteenth century. Between 1796 and 1811 the top ten products included cacao, cotton, rice, ne cloves, coffee, sarsaparilla, leather, aguardente, copaiba oil, and untanned hides.16 According to Manoel Barata, Gro-Pars secondary products included sugar, cinnamon, indigo, andiroba oil, honey, tapioca, Brazil nuts, guaran, soap, turtle butter, starch, tar, logs and planks of a variety of woods.17 Between 1750 and 1820, as Cardoso argues, a countless number of humble stios with few or no slaves or indigenous workers developed in this vast colonial area alongside plantations and large cattle and horse fazendas. These units could produce export items, but were characterized by crops destined for local markets. In these agrarian structures, Africans gradually replaced indigenous workers.18 In terms of the agrarian structure of the colonial Amazon, both small- and medium-sized units of production predominated. These were more associated with subsistence farming than exports, and did not exclusively use slave labor. The village of Barcelos, in the Rio Negro region, is a noteworthy example of many colonial rural settlements in several parts of the Amazon. The 87 rural landholdings there had an average of 2.83 slaves and 1.84 indigenous workers each. In Barcelos, per capita food production was as much as seven times greater than production for export. Even considering the scarcity of quantitative data for the colonial period, the predominant agricultural activities in the Amazon were subsistence farming and the production of food for local markets. During the eighteenth century, this vast colonial area became a peasant society (campesinato), particularly after 1750. According to Cardoso, there were three kinds of peasant societies: (1) missions and aldeamentos (missionary-run Amerindian villages) that became towns after 1757; (2) free small farmers, who consisted of former soldiers, deported convicts, mestios and free Amerindians, whether landowners or not, with highly varying degrees of connection to the market; and (3) Amerindian slaves (until 1757) and black slaves who proted from the shares they received from the fazendas, and when their masters gave them the time to work [their own elds], selling any surplus they produced.19 We could also include the countless mocambos particularly in the eastern borderlands in the eighteenth century; however the socioeconomic and political relations between these

16. See Jos Jobson de Andrade Arruda, O Brasil no comrcio colonial (So Paulo: Ed. tica, 1980), 249 50, 265 66. 17. Barata, A antiga produo e exportao do Par, 307. 18. Cardoso, O trabalho indgena na amaznia portuguesa, 16. 19. Ibid., 18.

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areas and Portugal and other parts of the Portuguese empire constitute another parameter.20 More detailed information about the structure of the slave economy based on African slave labor in colonial Gro-Par is scarce. What we do know is that the extractive economy persisted and indigenous labor rst slave, and then free in the aldeamentos was still used. Food crops, particularly manioc, were planted for internal consumption. In 1759, for example, the elds of Macap yielded 3,850 alqueires of rice and large quantities of maize, cotton, bananas, and watermelons.21 The slave population of African origin was actually scattered throughout the Amazon in the eighteenth century. Black slaves not only worked the elds side by side with Amerindians but also gathered drugs of the wilderness, operated canoes, and built the military fortications that dotted Gro-Par.
Borders in Motion

The colonial areas of the Amazon were rife with mocambos and fugitives. Furthermore, because British, French, Dutch and Spanish interests surrounded the border region, there was always the fear that slaves might escape from Portuguese territory. The borders were mobile, being the objects of constant disputes, particularly in the second half of the eighteenth century. Conicts and borders explain the historical processes of this region from the late 1600s and throughout the eighteenth century. In his chronicles of GroPar, Baena observed that disputes between the Portuguese and French had worsened since the last quarter of the seventeenth century. The Oiapoque River area had belonged to Portugal since 1636, and was rst explored in 1678. At that time, the French were known to have explored as far as the source of the Amazon River and penetrated into surrounding areas. In 1685 Gomes Freire de Andrade complained to the governor of Cayenne that the French were going to Cabo Norte to buy Amerindians. Three years later, the king of Portugal expressed his displeasure to the governor of Gro-Par because he had received a complaint from the French ambassador stating that four Frenchmen accused of trading near the mouth of the Amazon River had been
20. See A. J. R. Russell-Wood, Centros e periferas no mundo luso-brasileiro, 1500 1808, Revista Brasileira de Histria 18, no. 36 (1998). 21. Cod. 4 (1752 1762), cited in Ernesto Horcio da Cruz, Colonizao do Par (Belm: Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas da Amaznia, 1958), 10. On rice farming experiences in this region, see Rosa Elizabeth Acevedo Marin, Prosperidade e estagnao de Macap colonial: As experincias dos colonos, in Gomes, Nas terras do Cabo Norte.


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imprisoned and mistreated. On that occasion, he asked for the punishment of those responsible for such arbitrary acts. Illicit trade between the French and Amerindians in the borderlands was always a cause for concern for the Portuguese authorities. It was prohibited by the ordinances of the Overseas Council. In 1721, and once again in 1723 and 1724, military expeditions were sent to suppress that commercial intercourse.22 The eastern region of Gro-Par captaincy on the border with French Guyana gave the most cause for concern. With the help of merchants and indigenous groups, escaped slaves migrated from the Portuguese and French sides of the border in search of freedom. The two crowns had signed a treaty

22. See Antnio Ladislau Monteiro Baena, Discurso ou memria sobre a instruo dos franceses de Caiena nas terras de Cabo Norte em 1836 (Maranho: Typ. da Temperana, 1846), Ofcios (ofcial communications) of 14 Aug. 1688; 13 Oct. 1691; 8 Jan. 1721; 14 Feb. 1723; 5 Feb. 1724.

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Figure 1. Eighteenth-Century Map Showing the Eastern Border Regions of Brazilian Guyana. Source: S. Bellin, Le petit atlas maritime (Paris, 1764).

in 1732 regarding the return of fugitives, which in this context initially had more to do with Amerindians. However, territorial disputes made it more and more difcult to control and police that area. There was mutual distrust between France and Portugal regarding their colonies in that region. Doing their best to honor the treaty, the French and Portuguese authorities returned runaway slaves to each other on several occasions. In 1732, 12 blacks owned by a Frenchman, Dit Limozin, escaped from the presidio in Cayenne. That year saw complaints from the French and Portuguese alike about constant escapes by slaves and the process of returning captives, which was usually complicated. There was a steady stream of protests. On that occasion, the governor of Par complained that he had received harsh letters from French slaveholders and even from the governor of Cayenne about delays in returning fugitives. However, he observed that the French did not always observe the Treaty of Utrecht. Furthermore, Jesuit and Capuchin missionaries also complained that their slaves had ed into Cayenne. The Portuguese authorities reminded the


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French that the return of runaway slaves had to be reciprocal. In 1733, when handing back 25 slaves to French settlers, the authorities of Gro-Par demanded reciprocity from their counterparts in French Guyana. The following year, King John I instructed the captain general of the state of Maranho to return slaves from Cayenne who sought refuge in Portuguese territory. The Portuguese crown would punish anyone who sheltered fugitives on their side of the border.23 Escapes were frequent and slaves began to ee en masse. When the Portuguese returned slaves to the French with guarantees that they would not be punished, this did not necessarily solve the problem. The Portuguese accused the French of punishing returned fugitives severely, which led to further escapes, even by the same slaves. The king of Portugal even demanded that the French authorities promise not to execute recaptured slaves returned to them. The French not only complained and loudly but did everything they could to retrieve their runaway slaves. It was charged that French envoys inltrated the border regions to spy on and capture fugitives. The return of escaped slaves and the escapes themselves would become a problem for French and Portuguese authorities alike.24 There were complaints about French incursions purportedly intended to capture fugitives. The problem was more complex in a disputed border region. In 1727 Portuguese and French ofcers and soldiers set out on a joint mission on the Oiapoque River to inspect the landmarks stipulated by the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713. In 1728 the
23. Cod. 1 2 24, vol. 5, fol. 149v; cod. 1 2 26, vol. 7, fol. 180v; and cod. 1 2 26, vol. 7, fols. 193v 94, Instituto Histrico e Geogrco Brasileiro (hereafter cited as IHGB), Conselho Ultramarino (hereafter cited as CU). For further commentary, see Arthur Czar Ferreira Reis, A ocupao de Caiena, in O Brasil monrquico, vol 3 of Histria geral da civilizao brasileira, ed. Srgio Buarque de Holanda, 10 vols. (So Paulo: Difel, 1979), 3:271; and Salles, O Negro no Par, 221 22. Regarding colonial disputes between Portugal and France and the Treaty of Utrecht, see Arthur Czar Ferreira Reis, A poltica de Portugal no vale amaznico (Belm: SPVA, 1940); idem, A expanso portuguesa na Amaznia nos sculos XVII e XVIII (Belm: SPVEA, 1959); and idem, A Amaznia e a cobia internacional (So Paulo: Companhia Ed. Nacional, 1960). 24. See Ofcio, 16 Mar. 1734, Arquivo Pblico do Par (hereafter cited as APEP), Anais 7, doc. 428, p. 209; Ofcio, 17 Aug. 1755, APEP, cod. 695; and Ofcio, 26 May 1756, cod. 667; Governor of Gro-Par, Manoel Bernardo de Mello e Castro, to the king of Portugal, 22 Aug. 1759, in Anais da Biblioteca e Arquivo Pblico do Par (hereafter cited as ABAPP), vol. 8, doc. 315; and IHGB, CU, cod. 1 2 13, vol. 7, fols. 193v, 194. For a documented debate on the Cayenne region during late seventeenth- and early eighteenth-centuries, see Jos Antnio Soares de Souza, Uma questo diplomtica em seu incio (Oiapoque), RIHGB 320 (1978); and idem, Oyapock divisa do Brasil com a Guiana Francesa Luz dos documentos histricos, RIHGB 58, pt. 2 (1895).

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inspection was repeated, and landmarks and drawings were identied that conrmed the division of Portuguese and French territory. Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch, and principally French settlers crossed the borders to hunt for runaway slaves, trade with Amerindians, and expand their dominions. In 1724 Portuguese authorities based in Gro-Par seized a ship from French Guyana, following orders from the Overseas Council. They discovered that its crew had intended to engage in trade in the border region. Every move sparked suspicions and redoubled vigilance.25 Amid these disputes and fears, slaves never stopped escaping in the eastern borderlands. Although the forest was dense and, therefore, a guaranteed refuge, the escape routes they followed were risk y and dangerous. When eeing from Cayenne to Par or vice versa, fugitives usually preferred to go by sea or along the regions many rivers. If they entered the steep forests they could fall prey to hunger, wild animals, fevers, and the tracking dogs of their French pursuers. In the Pesqueiro area of Macap, for example, the bodies of three fugitives were found who died perhaps from hunger or wild beasts, for the signs do not indicate clearly what happened as the vegetation and marshes were ooded, and only the mountains and hills were free. Runaways made canoes and rafts to sail the waterways. In 1765 word came from Amap that fugitives had crossed the Matapi River on rafts, which could be found in the grasslands beside the Uanar-Pec River and the lakes of the Arapec River, where sure signs that the fugitives had been there were also discovered. However, boats often sank. While sailing off of Cabo Norte, Manoel Antnio de Oliveira Pantoja, learned that some runaway black slaves from Cayenne had been there, and found the remnants of their shipwrecked boats. It was even said that some, stalked by hunger and despair, turned back and gave themselves up voluntarily. In fact, while hunting at the headwaters of a stream, an Amerindian came across four slaves who were weak from eating only hearts of palm for several days. Their owners were residents of GroPar.26 Over the years, colonial disputes remained unresolved and slaves kept on

25. See Governor of Gro-Par Jos da Sena to Mr. DAlbon, 2 Nov. 1733, cited in Baena, Discurso ou memria, doc. no. 13; King John to the Captain-General of the State of Maranho, 16 Mar. 1734, in ABAPP, vol. 7, doc. 428, p. 209; and Governor of Par to the king of Portugal, 14 Nov. 1752 and 17 Aug. 1755, in ABAPP, vols. 2, 4, respectively, docs. 9 and 144. 26. Flvio dos Santos Gomes, Fronteiras e mocambos: O protesto negro na Guiana brasileira, in Nas terras do Cabo Norte, 242.


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eeing. Their frequent escapes were accompanied by a steady stream of complaints from the French. It was not unusual for canoes to sail to Gro-Par from Cayenne to capture runaway slaves. The authorities also learned that there were blacks from Cayenne in the Maguari-Caviana Point region. It should be observed that escape routes ran in both directions. Although the French continually complained, the stream of escaped slaves eeing from Gro-Par to Cayenne was just as steady. Some news was alarming. In 1752 a French escort ship that had stopped in Belm made the local authorities very nervous. They did not want any contraband whatsoever, although many soldiers were bartering goods to obtain some heavy kerchiefs and pieces of striped cloth they could hide in their fort.27 In September 1773, escaped slaves from Gro-Par were later identied in Cayenne. According to the Jesuit Laillet, A little over two years ago seven blacks arrived here in Cayenne after several battles and deaths, but they were poorly received, in this case, punished and imprisoned.28 The entire region was involved in conicts caused by colonial disputes. Slave escapes and the establishment of mocambos were an integral component of this hostile environment. There were fears of slave revolts and foreign invasions; consequently, all events were closely monitored by authorities. The case of Squad Leader Leonardo Jos Ferreira, which took place years later while he was traveling in that region, sheds light on this issue. In 1777, when working with Amerindians and in contact with shermen near Cayenne, he proposed to spy on the French settlers in that region for some sort of prize. The most interesting detail is that he believed that espionage activities would not arouse the least suspicion among the French. While contacting local shermen, he would pretend to be hunting for runaway slaves in the surrounding forests. Looking for mocambos was to be his cover. Although they were eager for news of Cayenne, the highest colonial authorities in Gro-Par were afraid to send him on this espionage adventure at the time. Three years later, after the same Squad Leader Leonardo Jos Ferreira had arrested runaway slaves from Cayenne in Macap, he warned, These blacks may have ed without any motive that should cause concern, but I remember that it may well be [that] this said escape is a pretext for an intelligent person to come to Macap and

27. See Ofcio, 14 Nov. 1752, APEP, Anais 2, doc. 9; Ofcio, 6 Feb. 1793, APEP, cod. 52; Ofcio, 11 Oct. 1765, APEP, cod. 61; Ofcio, 28 Aug. 1765, APEP, cod. 65; and Ofcio, 4 Feb. 1789, APEP, cod. 255. 28. Letter from Cludio Laillet, trans. T. de Alencar Araripe, in RIHGB 56, pt. 1 (1893).

A Safe Haven


observe us. Quilombolas who escaped from Cayenne and Par established their mocambos close to the borders and migrated throughout the region.29 More than the forest itself, the borderlands were a safe haven for quilombolas. Portuguese men-of-war kept a close watch on the entrance to Guyana and the Oiapoque River, right on the border, in an attempt to prevent runaway slaves from leaving and French settlers from entering. However, the sea was like the forest too vast to be effectively patrolled. While sailing past Cabo Norte, Jos de Santa Rita came upon ve Portuguese blacks who had escaped from Cayenne and were in a small boat sailing along the coast for 30 to 40 days until they reached Mexiana Point, where they were found and escorted back. The borderlands were not only a geographic refuge but also a perfect social and economic hideaway in the Amazon. As they did elsewhere, fugitives sought to form groups, develop an economy and seek alliances with other social sectors. In 1765 it was suspected that fugitives had run away from the forts being built in Amap, and it was well to presume that they keep to the farms, seeking in them the sustenance of maize and bananas. Runaways and quilombolas certainly help. Although it did not always happen, to a certain extent they could count on the support of Amerindians, publicans, canoe owners, and other slaves. Certainly aware of the solidarity they might nd, the commander of the fort of So Jos in Macap ordered in 1766 that anyone who helped blacks escape would be duly punished.30 Some of those borderlands were already settled by mocambos, Amerindian groups, and deserters. It was said that there was a French inhabitant with 150 blacks on Unari Mountain. The fugitives in those regions used several strategies. A petition to the Macap city council stated that the quilombolas had a protective network involving fazenda slaves and other residents, because they maintained friendships for part of the year, coming from the mocambo, where they hide, to the elds of this settlement, from where they not only take the produce but also clothing and tools.31

29. Joo Pedro da Cmara, Memria de alguns sucessos do Par, 10 May 1776, Biblioteca Nacional (hereafter cited as BN), Seo de Manuscritos (hereafter cited as SM), cod. I 28, 27, 5 nos. 110; Ofcio, 8 Oct. 1777, APEP, cod. 172; Ofcio, 20 July 1780, APEP, cod. 77; Ofcios, 16 Jan. 1789 and 12 Oct. 1794, APEP, cod. 214, cited in Baena, Discurso ou memria, doc. no. 18. 30. See Ofcio, 27 Feb. 1796, APEP, cod. 296; Ofcios, 24 and 27 Apr. 1797, APEP, cod. 614; Ofcio, 8 May 1797, cod. 702; Ocio, 19 Feb. 1765, APEP, cod. 58; and Ofcio, 25 Sept. 1766, APEP, cod. 71. 31. Baena, Discurso ou memria, 54; and Ocio, 21 Feb. 1793, APEP, cod. 347.

Inventing Freedom

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The colonial authorities were extremely concerned about the mocambos of the Amazon, particularly those in the borderlands. In 1734 they decided to organize expeditions to wipe out the mocambos and sent convoys to the headwaters of rivers to capture fugitives. Investigations revealed that there was an important mocambo on the Anauerapuc River in 1749, whose black residents had ed north when they were surprised by expeditions hunting Amerindians. The mocambos quickly began to appear and multiply. From north to south, and east to west in the vast expanse of that region, mocambos and/or quilombos were established. In 1762 residents of Arauari complained that their elds were being destroyed by slaves who lived in large mocambos.32 Contacts between quilombolas and the French and other social sectors were not a threat or a promise. They were a fact that terried the colonial authorities of Gro-Par. Investigations shed light on the details of these colonial experiences. An interrogation conducted in Macap in 1791 revealed how blacks on both sides of the border communicated with each other. Miguel, a slave owned by Antnio de Miranda, provided this information. On his way back from his masters eld, he came across Jos, the slave of the late Joo Pereira de Limos, who asked Miguel if he wanted to see and talk to blacks who had run away. Jos took Miguel to a corral, where they found Joaquim, the slave of Manoel do Nascimento. Miguel was then told that their [the quilombolas] signal is to suck in their lips, as if they were whistling. They met several quilombolas who were suspicious because they did not know Miguel and threatened to attack him with bows and arrows. The rst contacts began, and the quilombolas wanted to know how they [black slaves] were doing around here, meaning the town of Macap. Miguel also asked how they were doing over there in the mocambos in the Araguari region as well as in the borderlands and the French territory. According to the quilombolas, they were doing very well, and had large elds and they sold their produce to the French because they traded with them. In the mocambo where they lived, there was also a Jesuit priest sent by the French, and it was he who governed them and they had very good fortune. At that time, some of the mocambos inhabitants were away, because they had gone to salt meat for the priest and others had shortly before nished making bricks for the French to build a fortress. Also according to Miguel, the quilombolas always went
32. Palma Muniz, Limites municipais, 389, cited in Salles, O negro no Par, 221; Ofcio, 7 Jan. 1762, APEP, cod. 24; Ofcio, 27 Feb. 1774, cod. 101; Ofcio, 16 Mar. 1774, APEP, cod. 139; Ofcio, 21 Jan. 1777, APEP, cod. 150.

A Safe Haven


about armed with their short swords and their clothes were dyed with Caapiranga. Already fearful and suspicious, the Gro-Par authorities were stunned by this detailed information. The problem seemed larger than preventing constant escapes, keeping a close watch on French spies and putting up with insults and slaveholders complaints. Mocambos established close to the border maintained trade relations with French settlers. They also had their own economic base: salting meat, dying clothes, planting crops, herding cattle, and making bricks to build French forts. These quilombolas also visited the town of Macap during the Christmas feast. They came and established contacts with several slaves, but they did not come to force the blacks to escape; these would only go [to the mocambo] of their own free will. They revealed that the path they use to take to the town was no longer along the canebrake, but down where Manoel Antnio de Miranda has the corral for love of the whites who went after them. Furthermore, they had a small canoe on the Araguari River, because when they came and went they crossed the river in [the canoe] from one side to the other. As for contacts with French settlers, their way to get there was the Araguari, but all the escaped slaves were from here. In other words, they were well aware that their settlements on the banks of the Araguari were in Portuguese territory but to work in French lands they crossed the salt-water river to go there and they went in the morning and returned at night and when they came back they left half their supplies on the way for when they returned. This mocambo was inhabited by all the blacks who have ed from this town [Macap].33 The details are revealing. They point to escape strategies and routes, and even to the prospect that these quilombolas might seek autonomy and protection. They lived near the Portuguese border, but traded, worked, and engaged in a variety of relationships with the French on the other side. The success of this strategy was assured by crossing the border on a daily basis, which could not have been easy. They traveled across rivers and through forests, carrying enough provisions for long journeys, among other things. These quilombolas were at the threshold of freedom, and they knew it. The authorities were alarmed. Two years later, the Macap city council judge himself proposed that if these quilombolas were captured, they should not be released and returned to their masters immediately. Instead, they should be sent directly from jail to their owners [so that they can] sell them, which they must do in different
33. Auto de perguntas ao preto Miguel, escravo de Antnio de Miranda, 5 Sept. 1791, APEP, cod. 259.


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countries whence they will never again appear hereabouts because on the contrary they will threaten another great disaster, for each of these slaves is a guide to these continents.34 The experiences of other escaped-slave communities situated on the colonial borders in the Caribbean are also noteworthy. The seventeenth-century maroon communities of Le Maniel on Hispaniola, which struggled for nearly a century against the Spanish and French colonists, beneted from their geographic location for several reasons. On numerous occasions, Spanish authorities paid little heed to the comings and goings of fugitives, most of whom were slaves from the French side of the island. As a result, the hunt for these maroon groups involved countless interests between the settlers and the Spanish and French authorities in that border region. Farm workers and fazendeiros on the Spanish side traded with escaped slaves and kept them informed of the movements of French troops sent to track them down.35 Of the many mocambos established near the border with French Guyana, those in the Araguari area were without a doubt the most populous and stable. These mocambos were quite old, because, by 1762, it was already said that there was a large sum of fugitives there, both from the nearby settlements and outlying areas, and that they were well supplied with arms. In 1785 the governor of Gro-Par declared that military expeditions were needed to capture or disperse escaped slaves and mocambos in several areas along the Araguari River. In 1788 there was another warning about the mocambos in that region. Later, it was reported that at the headwaters of that river, mocambos enjoyed a safe haven, and that with great affrontery, groups of fugitives actually approached the town of Macap with a view to inciting the slaves of residents to follow them.36 More detailed descriptions of the mocambos on the Araguari River were obtained by investigations undertaken in 1792. It all began with the usual complaints about escapes. The residents of the town of Macap were so frightened by the frequency of escapes that they did not punish slaves for their customary rebellions. They feared the slaves might ee en masse. At the beginning of that year, three blacks were captured in the area called Baixa Grande,
34. Ofcio from the Macap Council, 21 Feb. 1793, APEP, cod. 259. 35. Yvan Debbash, Le Maniel: Further Notes, in Maroon Societies: Rebel Slave Communities in the Americas, ed. Richard Price (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 1979). 36. Ofcio, 13 Mar. 1762, APEP, cod. 25; and Ofcio, 8 July 1782, Arquivo Histrico do Itamarati (hereafter cited as AHI), Documentao Rio Branco (hereafter cited as DRB), cod. 340 1 3.

A Safe Haven


not far from the Macap, and one of them had escaped before. They were brought in by residents accompanied by their slaves. These captured fugitives confessed that they had planned to join several other slaves who escaped from that town and go to the mocambo of their relatives. They were getting ready to set out and hiding out in nearby farms where they intended to make all the farinha they judged would be sufcient for their journey. Arrests and interrogations like these helped expand investigations of the mocambos on the Araguari. The strategies adopted included trying to simulate a slaves escape to gather more detailed information about the mocambos whereabouts. This idea belonged to the military commander, Manoel Joaquim de Abreu. To carry it out, a black man named Manoel, the slave of a resident named Pedro Corra, was contacted so that he could question Joo, the slave of Antnio Trez Orta, about all the circumstances of the mocambo and its distances [from the town]. The authorities were well aware of the communications network among the slaves and quilombolas in that region, although they were unable to destroy it. Whereas Manoel was considered in Macap to be one of the few worthy of trust and friendly to whites and good Portuguese, Joo was an important link, being the only one who escaped from said mocambo over two years ago, but always [being] in contact with the fugitives when they returned to the town to trade, attack residents and stage kidnappings.37 To avoid suspicion, the commander reminded Manoel that he should tell Joo he was planning his own escape and wanted to get information to ensure success. This strategy was partially successful. In addition to providing an escape route for Manoel, Joo gave a thorough socioeconomic description of an Araguari mocambo. First, he disclosed that the distance between the town of Macap and River Araguari could be traveled in four days of good walking. After crossing the river, it would be another two-day journey to the mocambo. The mocambeiros were unaware of any path by sea as they never exposed themselves to this because it is very far and the land routes facilitated the brevity of the journey from the Araguari to Macap. The mocambo was well protected. First, there was a topographic barrier, an area surrounded by rivers and waterfalls that hindered punitive expeditions and facilitated sudden retreats. It was located at the ford of the Araguari River above the fourth waterfall at the conuence of two brooks. That is where the articial and natural defense systems came together. Although they did not build stockades or trenches commonly found in many colonial Brazilian quilombos they did dig pits and place thorns about their dwellings to pre37. Ofcio, 27 Feb. 1792, APEP, cod. 457.


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vent military expeditions of reenslavers from approaching. They also had weapons: bows, arrows, knives and some long jardineiras [sic] shaped like short swords.38 Regarding the demographic structure of that mocambo, Joo told Manoel that there were about 100 people living there at the time, including men, women and children, because when he came away or escaped here from those companions, there would have been nearly 40 persons. The houses were made from straw. In economic terms, the farms only produced farinha, maize and rice, being that some of these were over a league away and others beside their dwelling. They used this method so that they could move far away as soon as they were attacked by whites, using this precaution to have what they [can] turn to. Protective, defensive, and socioeconomic strategies were combined. The community was constantly on the alert for anti-mocambo troops. By working several farms situated nearby and far from the mocambo, they had enough provisions to hide in the forest for a long time in case of attack. They knew the authorities were cruel and intolerant about their economic activities. But they were not isolated. Some quilombolas traveled to settlements and even the town of Macab to make contacts and barter. There was an entire social structure surrounding this matter. Also according to Joo, the older mocambeiros did not allow fugitives who had recently joined the Araguari mocambo to return to the town of Macap. They could only do so after spending a year at the mocambo and only then with the permission of the overseer (capataz) and in the company of his trustees. Mocambeiros wanted to make sure that these escapees (more recent residents) were not being used as couriers to discover the location of the mocambos or camps. All indications are that, despite Manoels talk about his supposed escape plans, Joo warned, I advise thee not to ee, because they will soon kill thee for they know thou art friendly with the whites and thou art of their nation. And Manoel answered with the ctitious statement that I always run away. If I do well, I stay, when I do not, I return and tell my [Master] I was lost since the day I went hunting.39 In light of this information, we can analyze the political strategies adopted to prevent temporary residents of mocambos from giving away their location to the authorities when captured. The mocambos overseer only allowed people who had lived there for over a year to frequent the town of Macap. Temporary residents those who lived in the mocambos for a time and then
38. Ibid. 39. Ibid.

A Safe Haven


chose to leave those communities and even return to their masters were viewed with mistrust. They could become allies and establish contacts for the more permanent quilombolas, but they often turned into traitors and enemies, as they could serve as guides for anti-mocambo troops. At least, in this Araguari settlement, we can see the leadership powers of the overseer, who banished and persecuted all suspects. Joo, who was supplying all this information to the authorities, was well aware of that leaders power. During the time he lived in the mocambo, he saw that the work of hunting and [farming] elds is ordered by the overseer, and as soon as they return from the hunt or the effects of the elds they take it to the same, who shares the [results] with everyone. In his revelations, Joo also stated that he felt a very great rage towards the mocambeiros of Araguari, because they also wanted to kill him. Furthermore, when they went to Macap, the mocambeiros invited him to return to the mocambo, but he realized this was a trap and the overseers recommendation to catch him here. Therefore, he agreed that if he led an expedition against the mocambo all its inhabitants would be captured, because he knew the locations of their dwellings well, even if they had moved them.40 There was probably more than one quilombo on the Araguari. A number of escaped-slave groups must have spread out and established countless small communities. One of them possibly where Joo had lived was considerably large, with dozens of residents. But size was not the only difference between these mocambos. There could also be ethnic differences, some being older and others more recent, some where only Africans lived and even these in specic ethnic groups, which was the case with the above-mentioned mocambo, which was referred to as being of the Benguela nation, while there was another small mocambo de mandigar formed by those who had absented themselves from the said Benguelas for many years.41 The Araguari mocambos continued to worry the authorities in Amap. In the last decades of the seventeenth century, many complaints reached the Portuguese authorities: between the headwaters of the Araguari River and on many other rivers in that border region, there were settlements of our blacks who escaped over 20 years ago. They were eventually attacked by soldiers but managed to escape, forewarned by the French. There were also large numbers of escaped Amerindians and military deserters, many of whom were in constant touch with the quilombolas. It was said that there were settlements of escaped Amerindians, such as the one on the Anani and Casipure rivers, that
40. Ibid. 41. Ibid.


HAHR / August / Gomes

had been there for 20 or 30 years or even longer. And on the Uanary River there were scattered Indians and blacks [who were] former slaves in several thatched huts and ranches.42 Near the turn of the nineteenth century, the issue of mocambos and the movements of escaped slaves had become so serious that it was suggested that groups of Amerindians could be sent against the quilombolas. The idea was to attract a body of six hundred to seven hundred Indians of the Munduruku nation, considered the most warlike from the Gro-Par captaincy and with whom after many wars the Portuguese colonial authorities had recently managed to conquer peace. In terms of strategies and resources, it was understood that they would be the most appropriate people to make war with the blacks in the forests and marshes.43 These were not the only issues, however. The Amazon mocambos, particularly those in the borderlands, sought to establish an autonomous space and act as agents for transnational protection. The forest would reveal more secrets. In the vastness of the Amazon region, the sparse settlements and scattered towns and villages were important factors; fugitives were not completely isolated in their mocambos. The intertribal trade networks that connected several indigenous microsocieties and European settlers in various parts of the Amazon borderlands included the mocambos, many of which were formed exclusively by Amerindians. In order better to analyze the strategies employed by Amerindian and black fugitives in several areas of the immense colonial Amazon, it is important to retrieve and follow the ethnohistory of specic indigenous groups. The number of Amerindian fugitives and their mocambos increased in Gro-Par at a time when more Africans were arriving there.44 It
42. BN, SM, cod. 5 1 2, no. 2 (1791). 43. Correspondence between governors and metropole, 29 Mar. 1798, Primeira Comisso Demarcadora de Limites (hereafter cited as PCDL), Belm, Par, cod. A 44. On the use of Amerindians against quilombos in Brazil, see Stuart B. Schwartz, Mocambos, quilombos e Palmares: A resistncia escrava no Brasil colonial, Estudos Econmicos 17 (1987). 44. For ethnohistorical studies on indigenous aldeamentos and legislation, see Simone Dreyfus, Os empreendimentos coloniais e os espaos polticos indgenas no interior da Guiana Ocidental (entre o Arenoco e o Corentino) de 1613 a 1796; Catherine V. Howard, Pawana: A farsa dos visitantes entre Waiwai da Amaznia setentrional, in Amaznia: Etnologia e histria indgena, ed. Eduardo Viveiros de Castro et al. (So Paulo: Ncleo de Histria Indgena e do Indigenismo: Fundao de Amparo Pesquisa do Estado de So Paulo, 1993); Miguel Menndez, Uma contribuio para a etno-histria da rea Tapajs-Madeira, Revista do Museu Paulista 28 (19811982); Antnio Porro,Os Solimes ou Jurimaguas: Territrio, migraes e comrcio intertribal, Revista do Museu Paulista 2021 (19831984); Melo Sampaio, Espelhos partidos; and Sommer, Negotiated Settlements.

A Safe Haven


can also be argued that the indigenous tradition of escaping was also informed by the African tradition begun in some areas. Helped and accompanied by Amerindians, Africans and their descendants created their escape routes and mocambos and sought independence in the forests. The indigenous groups knew those borderlands better than anyone. They became allies, providing protection, support, and defenses. Amerindians ed slave-hunting expeditions, captivity, and aldeamentos established by priests, and later by secular colonial authorities. In 1691 four Frenchmen were imprisoned, charged with entering Capuchin missions to trade with indigenous groups, and capturing and enslaving Amerindians. The ban on trade with the French, particularly in the early decades of the eighteenth century, was motivated by fears that they would trade with the natives.45 Certain indigenous groups formed circumstantial alliances with the French, the Dutch and among themselves against the Portuguese, the aldeamentos, missionaries, and colonial settlements. The French authorities claimed that they had no part in the capture of Amerindians in the borderlands. On the contrary, they had few Amerindian slaves. They insisted that the natives themselves engaged in that trade and that if groups were crossing the borders, they were doing it on their own. Several things could have been happening in that context. One was the political perceptions of several indigenous groups regarding policies of colonization and occupation. In 1758 it was said that indigenous groups in the borderlands crossed in their own way and [of their own free] will from one territory to the other.46 Many of these runaways and even group migrations became mocambos. On one occasion, an expedition was sent to the Aneurapuc River area to determine whether there were any vestiges of savages or mocambos there. In that same region, there were complaints in 1774 that blacks who had ed from Macap had sought refuge with Amerindians. Similar accusations were made in 1775 and 1779 in the town of Mazago.47 The problems in the borderlands involving indigenous groups continued: mass escapes, the establishment of mocambos, and even rebellions. Complaints came from everywhere. This made it even harder to police, control,

45. Baena, Memria ou discurso, doc. 2; ibid., Ofcio, 13 Oct. 1691, doc. 3, p. 25; ibid., Ofcio, 8 Jan. 1721. 46. See Ofcios, 4 May 1727, 10 Aug. 1729, 1 Jan. 1758, APEP, cod.: Fronteira Francesa (Reigns of John V and John VI, 1713 1842), transcribed by PCDL. 47. See Ofcio, 1 Oct. 1774, APEP, cod. 143; Ofcio, 14 Oct. 1775, APEP, cod. 148; Ofcio, 19 Feb. 1779, APEP, cod. 198; Ofcio, 10 Sept. 1782, APEP, cod. 359.


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and establish international policies on the demarcation of borders. In 1794, when the boundaries established in the Treaty of Utrecht were still being debated, it was argued to the Guyanese authorities that the same Amerindians who claimed to belong to the French colony had been found in Portuguese territory. Migrations of fugitives whether or not they established mocambos and entire indigenous communities in the borderlands were a constant occurrence. Marshes and swamps were no obstacle. On one occasion, Souza Coutinho would give the following assessment of the capture of fugitives in mocambos: It is certain that tradition states that in the wintertime, that is, when there is more rain, there is communication between the meadowlands of Macap and Cayenne, but also that it is only for mounts [canoes] and for Indians who are like amphibians, suited both for traveling on water and through forests with the same ease.48 Mocambos and fugitives in the borderlands had become a chronic problem. Frightened, the Portuguese colonial authorities in 1788 charged Captain Hilrio de Moraes Bittencourt with the important mission of capturing a large number of slaves and others fugitives living in mocambos in several parts of
48. See IHGB, Coleo Manoel Barata, Ofcios from 2 Apr. 1785, 1 Jan. 1794, and 8 Apr. 1797. There are still few ethnohistorical studies in Brazil on miscegenation, mixture and interaction among indigenous and black ethnic groups. See Thales de Azevedo, ndios, brancos e pretos no Brasil colonial, Amrica Indgena 13, no. 2 (1953); Roger Bastide, The Other Quilombos, in Price, Maroon Societies; idem, As amricas negras: As civilizaes africanas no novo mundo (So Paulo: DIFEL/EDUSP, 1974); Mary C. Karasch. Os quilombos do ouro na capitania de Gois, in Reis and Gomes, Liberdade por um o. For an interesting perspective on colonial ethnic classication, see Mary W. Helms, Negro or Indian? The Changing Identity of a Frontier Population, in Old Roots in New Lands: Historical and Anthropological Perspectives on Black Experiences in the Americas, ed. Ann M. Pescatello ( Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1972). Helms analyzes travelers perception of Miskitos from Nicaragua and Honduras both as Indians and blacks since colonial times. Focusing on this border region where Spaniards, Britons, natives, African slaves and freedmen met, Helms discusses the rise and historical transformations of ethnic identities such as the Zamboes. More recently, ethnic classications of these mixed-race populations have changed. For example, Black Caribs were considered more African and the Miskitos more indigenous. See also Kathry E. Holand Braund, The Creeks Indians, Blacks, and Slavery, Journal of Southern History 57, no. 4 (1991); Michael Craton, From Caribs to Black Caribs: The Amerindian Roots of Servile Resistance in the Caribbean, in In Resistance: Studies in African, Caribbean, and Afro-American History, ed. Gary Y. Okihiro (Amherst: Univ. of Massachusetts Press, 1986); Richard Price, Resistance to Slavery in the Americas: Maroons and their Communities, Indian Historical Review 15, nos. 1 2 (1988 89); and Susan Migden Socolow, Spanish Captive in Indian Societies: Cultural Contact Along the Argentine Frontier, 1600 1835, HAHR 72 (1992).

A Safe Haven


that captaincy. The problem, however, was far from being solved. The vastness of the forest was the greatest enemy of authorities and slaveholders, and therefore a friend to fugitives. The former used every means they could to hunt and destroy the latter. The Portuguese authorities admitted that the main problems in the region were rst the large number of deserters and second the large number of criminal slaves. Quilombolas visited nearby towns and villages to loot and engage in razzias, kidnapping and trade. In the early years of the nineteenth century, it was feared that blacks from mocambos in Araguari, Macap, might approach the town of Macap and cause mayhem on Christmas night. A petition sent from the town to the governments seat in Belm asked that urgent measures be taken to capture slaves who were hiding in the forests, emphasizing the thousand dire consequences of that problem. Other borders would be chosen. There were reports of black slaves of Macap residents captured in the border mocambos between the captaincies of Gro-Par and Gois.49 In 1793 the authorities tried to arrest slaves belonging to Thom Bixiga and Captain Antnio Jos Vaz, because they sent news of Macap to the mocambos residents when they were out in the pastures. Furthermore, it was found that these slaves were herdsmen and there were certain signals that quilombolas used in the grazing areas to communicate with them in an agreed place. These quilombolas also had relations with publicans, and when they were being hunted, they would hide out in one of Antnio Jos Vazs corrals, together with his slaves.50 Alliances and solidarity between slave herdsmen and quilombolas brought another worry: rustling. It was common knowledge that quilombolas stole livestock and sold meat and hides. Not far away, in the Amap region, there were constant complaints in the area of Maraj.51 Although it was not the only one, the Amap region was one of the main hotbeds of mocambos. Some ofcials claimed that escapes were increasing there because there were no efcient patrols. Some supported the argument
49. See Petition, 7 Sept. 1791, APEP, cod. 259; Instructions to Captain Hilrio de Moraes Bittencourt, 1 Dec. 1788, APEP, cod. 610; Instructions from the ordinary judge from Camet, 23 Dec. 1790, APEP, cod. 611; and Ofcio, 31 Nov. 1798, APEP, cod. 657. 50. See Ofcio, 13 May 1793, APEP, cod. 278; Ofcio, 18 Jan. 1793, APEP, cod. 277; Ofcio, 30 Sept. 1793, APEP, cod. 272. 51. In the region of Maraj, there numerous complains about runaway slaves and cattle theft. See Ofcio, 27 Feb. and 15 Mar. 1769, APEP, cod. 97; Ofcio, 15 Dec. 1793, APEP, cod. 276; and Ofcio, 18 Dec. 1796, APEP, cod. 85. Regarding thefts in Arari, see Ordinance, 23 Apr. 1803, APEP, cod. 619; Ofcio, 17 July 1804, APEP, cod. 334; and Ofcios, 1 Feb. 1802, 21 Oct. 1816, 3 July 1820, APEP, cod. 337 (1802 1820).


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that these frequent escapes chiey Portuguese slaves eeing to Cayenne occurred due to the harsh conditions of slavery, particularly for blacks who were building forts. It was said that 51 blacks escaped from the town of Macap in 1765. The following year, eight of those fugitives were found on the Araguari coast. Slave escapes and the establishment of mocambos were considered chronic problems at the time. Most slaves who ed in that region had, in fact, been building military fortications in Macap. Sometimes there were mass escapes, and expeditions recaptured over 40 slaves at a time.52 Attempts to prevent escapes, destroy mocambos and capture fugitives invariably met with little success. There were several complaints between 1795 and 1798. Before then, residents of Macap sent a petition to the local city council to demand measures to prevent the countless escapes and principally the large portion of slaves who have ed and have for a long time been living in mocambos in the parts of the River Araguari, having come from there repeatedly to lead off others. The number of fugitives was signicant. This petition was accompanied by a list showing the names of 48 slaveholders listing over 100 runaways.53 Along those borders particularly near the Araguari River established mocambos acted as agents not only for alliances (as well as conicts) with French settlers, military deserters and constantly migrating indigenous groups, but recreated microcommunities of peasants who could articulate themselves economically with several of the surrounding social sectors.54 When ten slaves
52. See Braum, Descripo chorogrca do estado do Gram-Par, 278 79; and Vergolino-Henry and Figueiredo, A presena africana na Amaznia colonial, 56 63. 53. Gomes, Fronteiras e mocambos, 276. 54. On peasant societies (campesinato) based on slave provision grounds and articulated with quilombolas economic practices, see Barry J. Barickman, A Bit of Land, Which They Call a Roa: Slave Provision Grounds in the Bahia Recncavo, 1780 1860, HAHR 74, no. 4 (1994); Ciro Flamarion S. Cardoso, Escravo ou campons? O protocampesinato negro nas Amricas (So Paulo: Ed. Brasiliense, 1987); idem, Agricultura, escravido e capitalismo (Petroplis: Ed. Vozes, 1979); Flvio dos Santos Gomes, O campo negro de Iguau: Escravos, camponeses e mocambos no Rio de Janeiro (1812 1883), Estudos Afro-Asiticos 25 (1993); idem, Nos mundos da escravido: Escravos, camponeses e quilombolas no Rio de Janeiro do sculo XIX, Cadernos UFS: Histria, Programa de Documentao de Pesquisa Histrica, Univ. Federal de Sergipe, EDUFS, 1996; Carlos Magno Guimares, Quilombos e brecha camponesa: Minas Gerais (sculo XVIII), Revista do Departamento de Histria 8 (1989); Joo Jos Reis, Escravos e coiteiros no quilombo do Oitizeiro, em 1806, in Reis and Gomes, Liberdade por um o; Stuart B. Schwartz, Resistance and Accommodation in Eighteenth-Century Brazil: The Slaves View of Slavery, HAHR 57, no. 1 (1977); idem, Slaves, Peasants, and Rebels: Reconsidering Brazilian Slavery (Urbana: Univ. of Illinois Press, 1992); Eduardo Silva, A funo ideolgica da

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escaped from the town of Mazago in Amap, it was discovered that some were on the island of Gurup where they had wattle-and-daub huts, [and] had harvested quantities of rice and maize . . . for over four years. In addition to looting, razzias, and cattle rustling, the quilombolas attempted to establish a sufciently solid economic base through small farms that ensured their subsistence and enough produce to barter. Ado Soares, a white peasant farmer, even asked the crown to keep a close watch on trade in the town of Mazago because quilombolas and slaves even his own were known to sell produce stolen from his elds there. In 1791 a suspicious character, Euzbio, a black man from Piau, landed in a local port while traveling from Camet to the Town of Macap in the company of his brother and an Amerindian. To allay the local Macap authorities doubts, he reportedly said he was charged with an important mission, and had gone there in disguise to buy our as provisions. In the face of continued suspicions, Euzbio presented a royal passport, and even a purported edict stating that he was to be helped to obtain supplies in all settlements. The Macap authorities suspicions were due not only to the fact that Euzbio was black but that he had come from the Camet region, along a route that passed by the towns of Melgao and Portel considered the empire of the states farinha but chose to buy provisions for his mission in that remote land. Therefore, they kept a close eye on Euzbio. Claiming that he had not found enough farinha, he was seen getting drunk in the taverns at night in the company of black freemen and soldiers. Later on, it was found that he had made contact with blacks from the fazenda of Julio Alvarez. In fact, Euzbio was a captain of those forests and was actually going straight to Mazago. His objective was not to buy farinha but to make his observations there to see if there were any enclosures in those parts, as there had been in other situations. This case clearly shows that fugitives were not only able to mingle with the mixed-race residents of the towns but that this possibility was surrounded by conict.55 Another eastern area of the colonial Amazon with a tradition of establishbrecha camponesa, in Negociao e conito: A resistncia negra no Brasil escravista, by Joo Jos Reis and Eduardo Silva (So Paulo: Companhia das Letras, 1989); and Robert W. Slenes Na senzala, uma or: Esperanas e recordaes na formao da famlia escrava: Brasil sudeste, sculo XIX (Rio de Janeiro: Ed. Nova Fronteira, 1999); and Sidney W. Mintz, Slavery and Rise of Peasantries, Historical Reections 6, no. 1 (1979). On Suriname maroon societies, see Richard Price, Subsistence on The Plantation Periphery: Crops, Cooking and Labour Among Eighteenth-Century Suriname Maroons, Slavery & Abolition 12, no. 1 (1991). 55. Gomes, Fronteiras e mocambos, 300.


HAHR / August / Gomes

ing mocambos was that of the Gurupi and Turiau rivers, near the border with the Captaincy of Maranho. In 1702 there are signs that expeditions were sent out to destroy villages of slaves that had rebelled many years ago and ed from their masters.56 It was said that these villages of fugitives had been established many years earlier. One hundred and twenty slaves were captured on that occasion.57 In 1731 peasant farmers from Belm complained to the governor of Maranho about frequent escapes, asking him to take steps regarding slaves who have absented themselves and are constantly leaving farms deserted and making hiding places in the forests from where they attack the farms with deaths and great destruction. In 1739 there were more complaints in this regard.58 In 1753 militia commander Francisco Pereira reported disturbances on the border involving blacks who had escaped from a factory and ship captains.59 The number of escapes in that area steadily increased. In 1774 the governor of Maranho thanked his counterpart from Par, Joo Pereira Caldas, for arresting black slaves who had run away from his captaincy in the Turiau region, observing that the work of such as mission is of interest to the masters, from whom they are constantly escaping, with great prejudice to their farms.60 Other news of quilombos in the Turiau region would appear near the end of the eighteenth century. In 1793 it was argued that roads for cargo should be opened between Gro-Par and Maranho and the region should be patrolled by canoes on the rivers to hunt amocambados, including blacks and Amerindians.61 The fact is that blacks established quilombos and/or mocambos throughout the colonial Amazon, reaching all parts of Gro-Par and Rio Negro captaincies and the eastern borders with the Captaincy of Maranho. The main areas included Amap (and the towns of Macap), Araguari and Mazago; the area of Santarm (Trombetas, Alenquer, bidos, Monte Alegre), with mocambos established on the Curu and Cumin rivers; the area of Tocantins (Baio, Camet, Abaet, Mocajuba); and areas near Belm (Guam, Cotijuba, Mosqueiro, Acar
56. Livro Grosso do Maranho, 1702, Anais da Biblioteca Nacional 66, pt. 1 (1948), 212 13; and IHGB, CU, cod. 1 2 25, vol. 6, fol. 27v. 57. BN, Livro Grosso do Maranho, 1702, 212 13; and Ofcio, 21 Mar. 1702, IHGB, CU, vol. 6, cod. 1 2 25, fol. 270. On runaway slaves in Maranho during 1706, see IHGB, cod. 1 2 25, Ofcio, 6 June 1706, fol. 103. 58. Ofcio, 18 Dec. 1731 and 16 Mar. 1739, IHGB, CU, vol. 6, cod. 1 2 26, fols. 39v, 193v. 59. Ofcio, 26 Sept. 1753, APEP, cod. 1095. 60. Ofcio, 26 May 1774, APEP, cod. 589. 61. Ofcio, 4 Dec. 1793, APEP, cod. 122.

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River, Capim River and Beja); parts of Maraj ( Joanes Island, Soure, Caviana, Mexiana, Arari, Chaves); areas in the direction of the Captaincy of Maranho (Bragana and Ourm) as well as other areas and towns that lay more to the center and west of the Amazon along the Tapajs, Negro, Solimes, Xingu and Madeira rivers (Barcelos, Ega, Faro, Cintra, Boim).62

With the help of other gures from the worlds of slavery, fugitives in the colonial Amazon borderlands, who were already considered hidras (a multifarious evil), came into contact with, modied, and produced not only ideas but basically different, original historic experiences. Thinking about these fugitives and their interactions with the remainder of slave society Amerindians and blacks can lead us in different directions. We can gain a deeper understanding that the worlds of the quilombos may not have been so distant from the senzalas (slave quarters), even from those in other countries. In fact, by walking these pathways, we can piece together the traditions of freedom. Fortunately, these pieces are not buried in the dust, silversh, and yellowing manuscripts found in ofcial les. Part of that tradition may be found to this day in the memories of indigenous and black ethnic groups in the Amazon. Furthermore, the history of these communities like many others can be reconstructed

62. There are several studies of existing quilombo communities in the Amazon that focus on mocambos in Baixo Amazonas, south of the Surinam border. There are few studies of black communities in Amap and along the French Guyana border. See Rosa Elizabeth Acevedo Marin and Edna M. Ramos Castro, Negros do trombetas: Etnicidade e histria (Belm: NAEA/UFPA, 1991); idem, Negros do trombetas: Guardies de matas e rios (Belm: Ed. Universitria UFPA, 1993); Eliane Cantorino ODwyer, Remanescentes de quilombos na fronteira Amaznica; Rosa Elizabeth Acevedo Marin, Terras e armao poltica de grupos rurais negros na Amaznia; Lcia M. M. Andrade, Os quilombolas da bacia do Rio Trombetas? Breve Histrico, in Terra de quilombos, ed. Eliane Cantorino ODwyer (Rio de Janeiro: Associao Brasileira de Antropologia, 1995); Jos Luis Ruiz-Peinado Alonso, Publicadores de la Amaznia cimarrones del trombetas, Africa Latina Cuadernos 21 (1994); idem, Hijos del rio: Negros del trombetas, in Memoria, creacin e historia: luchar contra el olvido/Memria, creaci i histria: lluitar contra loblit, ed. Pilar Graca Jordn, Miquel Izard, and Javier Lavia (Barcelona: Generalitat de Catalunya, Comissionat per a Actuacions Exteriors; Ajuntamento de Barcelona, Cooperaci Internacional; Univ. de Barcelona, 1994); Eurpedes Funes, Nasci nas matas, nunca tive senhor: Histria e memria dos mocambos do Baixo Amazonas (Ph.D. diss., Univ. of So Paulo, 1995); and idem, Nasci nas matas, nunca tive senhor: Histria e memria dos mocambos do Baixo Amazonas, in Reis and Gomes, Liberdade por um o, 467 97.


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through their versions and images of the earliest days of escapes, struggles, and resistance.63 When studying the ethnohistory and reconstruction of the native Waipi people of the Amap region, Dominique Gallois observes that their narratives describe disputes between the French and Portuguese and the resulting alliances and conicts with other ethnic groups in the region. The memories of the Waipi include references to contacts with groups of black people called Tapajs ( possibly descendants of black fugitives).64 Desertions and complaints about escapes into Cayenne continued in the nineteenth century. Thanks to the rubber boom, the Amap region would become even more attractive to deserters and even foreign invaders. In condential communications, the authorities of Gro-Par and imperial ofcials in Portugal exchanged information and drew up plans and strategies to undermine that situation. As a Par ofcial stated, as soon as the slaves of the Province of Par realize that French Guyana is a safe haven for their liberty, escapes will be more frequent, being that before that circumstance [arose] there were already repeated [escapes] to that place. What could be done? The constant scouting missions and punitive expeditions did little good. A proposal was presented. In the words of the president of the province, The occupation of Amap has become absolutely indispensable. Quilombos became peasant communities. The borders would stay open. Amerindians, blacks, prospectors and other gures would invent different routes and paths to a life of liberty. Indeed, they traversed borders. They also traveled across the Atlantic world, sailing on rivers as deep and rough as the oceans, and making their way through dense forests and waterfalls. In all corners of that world, the experience of freedom was spread out and shared.

63. On prospects for historical, mythic, symbolic and ritual reconstructions for Maroon groups in Venezuela, and particularly Suriname, see Berta E. Prez, Versions and Images of Historical Landscape in Aripao: A Maroon Descendant Community in Southern Venezuela, Amrica Negra 10 (1995); and Richard Price, Alabis World (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 1990); and idem, First-Time: The Historical Vision of Afro-American People (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 1983). 64. Dominique Tilkin Gallois, Mairi revisitada: A reintegrao da fortaleza de Macap na tradio oral do Waipi (So Paulo: Ncleo de Histria Indgena e do Indigenismo, USP: FAPESP, 1994), 700 4.