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Dr. Elaine Rocha outlines some of the conditions Barbadians would have found when they arrived in Brazil.

 
   

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Brazilian, Barbadian link uncovered

3/1/2011

IN Brazil, names such as Alleyne, Mottley, Depeiza, Blackman and Layne can be found, which is evidence of a Barbadian presence in that South American country, which dates back to the beginning of the 20th century.

This presence was the subject of discussion during a special history forum hosted by the UWI Department of History and Philosophy and the Embassy of Brazil, called “Millie gone to Brazil: Barbadian Migration to Brazil in the Early 20th Century”.

Featured presenters were Dr. Elaine Rocha, Lecturer in Latin American History at UWI Cave Hill and Frederick Alleyne, MPhil History student of the UWI.

The presenters showed how many Barbadians because of the poor socio-economic conditions in Barbados at the time – which for many were as bad as slavery – since the Government of the day concentrated on building Police stations and asylums, caused many persons to go to Brazil, in search of a better life and to participate in the ongoing rubber boom at that time.

They were part of a mass exodus from the Caribbean entering Brazil, who were all lumped into the category of “Barbadianos” by Brazilian locals. Many of them worked in the Amazonas region, Para and Rondonia. It was estimated that 5 000 “Barbadianos” travelled to Brazil, but only 2 000 Barbadians made the trip. It was also explained that the transition from the Caribbean to Brazil was not as smooth as that of Panama.

Dr. Rocha remarked that Barbadians did not consider themselves to be “ordinary” blacks but “special”, and as educated English-speakers who were considered by employers to be more educated that other workers, and being recognised as good workers, they managed to secure some of the better jobs and did not stay on the railroad or in the jungles like some of the other groups. Barbadians also set up chattel houses in Porto Velho, some opened little hotels, rum shops and others became seasonal workers.

She noted that while some Barbadians opted to keep their names, others married Brazilian women, adopted their wife’s surname, in many cases to break contracts and disappear.

Life for many Barbadians was good and she pointed to the wealthy Chase family which had the first Mercedes Benz in Belem.

However, subsequent generations were at the receiving end of some discrimination as “Barbadianos”. They were said to be “strange” because they spoke English, belonged to the Anglican Church (and not Catholic) and because of their clothing. (JH)

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