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"Dia da Consciência Negra" – Memorial Day of the Last Leader of the Largest Quilombo in Brazil

November 15, 2021
Symbol of the Consciencia Negra - children in Bahia performing capoeira.

"Dia da Consciência Negra" is a day of remembrance in Brazil, celebrated annually on November 20. The "Day of Black Consciousness" commemorates the persistent struggle of the Afro-Brazilian population against racial discrimination and is the most important holiday for the Comunidade Negra in Brazil. Although the day is recognized nationwide, today, it is celebrated mainly in Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Campinas, Marabá, and Vilhena.

Since colonial times, people from Afro-Brazilian communities have been subjected to serious racism and inequality. "Dia da Consciência Negra" allows these people to stand up for their rights, culture, and independence. In addition, the day honors the unique aspects of Afro-Brazilian culture that remain ubiquitous today and impress every visitor on a trip to Brazil.

"Black Awareness Day" has been celebrated since the 1960s and has grown in importance in recent years. It was originally celebrated on May 13, the day slavery was abolished in Brazil. It was later moved to November 20 to honor the death of Zumbi dos Palmares, and is sometimes called "Zumbi Day".

Who was Zumbi dos Palmares?

Zumbi dos Palmares was one of many African slaves subjected to the atrocities and abuses of Portuguese plantation owners in the late 17th century. However, he managed to escape from the plantation where he worked and founded Palmares, in what is now the state of Alagoas. The village became a Quilombo, a community for self-liberated and escaped slaves, and was a symbol of hope for Brazil's enslaved population. Escaped slaves often returned to their old plantations to help their former fellow captives escape. Thus, the settlement grew to about 30,000 people. As leader of the Quilombo, Zumbi dedicated his life to the fight against slavery during the colonial period. Besides the function of the Quilombo to fight against slave doctrines, it was also intended to preserve elements of African culture in Brazil. Thus, today there are statues of him throughout the country, such as in Salvador da Bahia, the heart of Afro-Brazilian culture.

Between 1654 and 1678, several attacks by Portuguese and Dutch colonizers were successfully repelled. In 1694, however, the Portuguese launched an attack with an army of 6,000 men to destroy Palmares. After 67 years of unsuccessful war against Palmares, the Portuguese managed to destroy the central settlement of Macaco. The inhabitants had to flee and hide in the forests. Zumbi also escaped and resisted with his followers for almost two years in the forests of Palmares. But in the end, his hiding place was betrayed by a captured comrade-in-arms. On November 20, 1965, Zumbi dos Palmares was beheaded by the Portuguese captain Furtado de Mendonça. To put an end to the rumors of his immortality, Zumbi's head was placed in a public square in Recife. This was to serve as a warning to all slaves that the time of Palmares was over.

Today's meaning of the "Dia da Consciência Negra"

To this day, Zumbi is one of the most famous figures in Brazilian history and became a hero of the Afro-Brazilian human rights movement of the 20th century, as well as a national hero. Many Afro-Brazilians take to the streets on November 20 to participate in the freedom walk. These parades are important cultural events that highlight the size and importance of the Comunidade Negra in Brazil. Political themes are common in these processions.

On January 09, 2003, Federal Law 10.639 also introduced "Dia da Consciência Negra" into the school calendar. Thus, the teaching of Afro-Brazilian culture was integrated into the school curriculum in Brazil. During the month of November, various activities and projects are carried out in schools throughout the country to commemorate the struggle of Afro-Brazilians in Brazil. In addition, students are sensitized with topics such as Afro-Brazilian culture in the national society, discrimination, the inclusion of Afro-Brazilians in the labor market, and the identification of ethnic groups.

The story of Zumbi dos Palmares is unforgotten and lives on in numerous songs and films. The many monuments and cultural institutions also commemorate the hero of the Afro-Brazilians and are hard to miss on a Brazil vacation. Embark on a journey into the past, and immerse yourself in the history of the colonial era!

Sources: www.gingado.de, www.todamateria.com, www.wikipedia.org

Source: Aventura do Brasil