Photos: Black Brazilians in “quilombos” will be counted in the census | Political news
For the first time in 132 years of history, Brazil’s ongoing census will count members of so-called “quilombo” communities founded by formerly enslaved black people who resisted the system of oppression.
On Ilha de Mare, an island with several quilombos off the coast of Salvador in northeastern Brazil, this chance to be counted is one step in a political transformation that local organizers have long been fighting for.
“Being part of the census is a strategy for us, a strategy of resistance and change,” said Marizelha Carlos Lopes, 52, a local activist and fisherwoman on the island, where 93% of people identify as black. “One of our goals is to escape intentional invisibility.”
Her friend Eliete Paraguasu, 42, is mounting another front in strategy. She is the first woman from the island to campaign for a place in the Bahia state legislature – one of several black candidates to run for state and federal elections in Brazil in October elections. .
Together, Brazil’s updated census and growing number of black applicants are part of a slow reckoning of centuries of slavery that only ended in 1888, making Brazil the last country in the world to abolish the practice.
Quilombos were formed over centuries by slaves who escaped forced labor to create isolated, self-sufficient communities in isolated forests and mountain ranges or on islands like Ilha de Mare.
Quilombo residents now hope that a proper count of their numbers and more elected votes will open the door to improved social services and guarantees of rights for people and places long overlooked on official maps.
The national quilombo association CONAQ has identified nearly 6,000 quilombo territories.
CONAQ chief Antonio Joao Mendes said government recognition of communities accelerated under former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva two decades ago, when communities were granted more formal land rights and support for cultural programs.
Lula’s presidential bid this year presents a stark contrast, Mendes said, with incumbent President Jair Bolsonaro dismantling many of those programs and slowing the recognition of additional quilombos.
Bolsonaro was fined 50,000 Brazilian reis ($10,000) in 2017 for insulting the people of quilombo, saying they “don’t do anything” and are “not even good at procreating”. An appeals court dismissed the case because he was a federal legislator at the time.