Brazil and Slavery: An Issue the Nation Shouldn’t Forget

Brazilian history has very deep scars of slavery. The country was colonized around the year of 1500 when Portuguese ships officially encountered the Brazilian shores and started to build a relationship with the natives that resided there. Needless to say, it was an abusive one.

The Europeans were constantly taking advantage of the amusement Brazilian natives had for Portugal’s different lifestyle, beginning to give them objects such as mirrors in exchange for work or silver and gold. That lasted for a long time (between the year of 1540 and 1580) as it was of great use for Portuguese troops when “building” Brazil to have people that worked for them who knew the area as well as the fauna and flora, providing valuable information and powerful labor force.

The story of slavery in the country continued later on when the same Europeans started to invest in the actual market of slavery, importing black people from Africa and selling them as common merchandise in Brazil for the richer and more powerful families. It’s important to remember that these people were imported from Africa in ships called “Negreiros” where all were given little food and water, caught various diseases and in many cases died before even getting to Brazil, being pilled up or thrown to the sea, torn away from their families and their people, usually put in ships with a mixture with different African tribes (frequently so there wouldn’t be any communication since most spoke different languages).

This whole process contributed to Brazil’s ethnic and racial diversity that we have today. The junction between the three roots (African, Portuguese and the Brazilian natives) resulted in really diverse people. A nation that has no “type;” Brazilians come in all different shapes, sizes, and colors and still is a country paradoxically, impregnated with racism and other prejudices. Most parts of Brazil still have conservative retrograde ideas that date all the way to Brazil as a Portuguese colony. And even after the country regained its freedom, it was common for families to keep slaves, as it was a high-price market and gave the owners multiple benefits.


The effects of slavery in Brazil can be seen today, as aspects of the system seem to be reused and modified under a different name and guise.  In some parts of the country, in mostly the Northeast, it is common to find families, even nowadays, descendant from rich farmers that have a house in the country-side but live in the city. And from time to time, these families go to this second house to try to find teenage girls to bring, offering a better lifestyle and education in exchange for work. 

This almost appears like a “good action”, from their part it can come across as something charity-like. But in fact, what they are offering is poorly paid work for unbelievable hours (as these girls live in the house of these families) and night-school education, providing a tiring environment, as these girls are also torn apart from their families having little to nothing similar to a support system. They come with a promise of a promising future and most of the times end up depending on that household for a big part of their life.

So essentially Brazil comes out as a country with a lot of prejudice that isn’t just showcased for everyone to see, a prejudice that is so present and rooted within the most common things about everyday life in the country that it is hardly noted by the ones that possess the privilege of being on top.  This constant scenery of racism has to be revisited by Brazilians, it’s unacceptable that such a diverse country has these antiquate views on race and ethnic.

What has actually come to place is a torn nation: the unhealthy correlation of race and privilege in Brazil has to be stopped. The color of your skin and the country of your ancestors shouldn’t define your rights and benefits in a modern society and it is urgent that prejudice is noted and extinguished.


Photo Credit: Blackwomenofbrazil



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