Today I walked through a cemetery decorated with Confederate flags, tucked under a grove of pine and palm trees in the middle of a sugar cane field. Patsy Cline was singing "Walkin' After Midnight" and people in antebellum dresses were sitting in the shade, eating fried chicken and biscuits. "Where am I and what is happening?!?" I kept thinking.
Several weeks ago a few friends and I visited the Museu da Imigração in the town of Santa Bárbara d'Oeste, a museum dedicated to the small but concentrated group of immigrants from the southern part of the United States who came to Brazil just after the end of the American Civil War. Though small in number compared to settlers from other parts of the world, the Confederados influence on the area - non-Catholic churches, certain fried foods - remains to this day.
As does the divisive Confederate Flag. However, where this is often seen as a symbol of racism and ignorance in the US, Brazilian descendants of the original Confederados see it simply as the representation of the land their ancestors came from, much like a third generation Italian may still feel pride hoisting an Italian flag. When the Confederados left home for the last time, in their minds they were leaving this country; despite the fact that they lost the war, they carried the symbol with them to represent where they came from.
Many generations later the Fraternidade Descendência Americana (Fraternity of American Descendants) hosts an annual Festa Confederada (Confederate Party) as a fundraiser for their organization's community projects. The kicker is that the the event is held in a cemetery where the original Confederados are buried. (At the time, the Catholic church wouldn't allow these non-Catholics to use the Catholic cemetery so they started one on a piece of land outside of town on a farm.)
|Becca and Jason model the theme of the festival. I feel it needs a hashtag.|
A group of us Gringos - some southerners, a couple Yanks, a Brit, and a few Canucks - ventured out to the cemetery to see what this was all about. I went in with no expectations. I left feeling like I had stepped through some Twilighty Zone where nothing bad happened. I may be being dramatic but I still have the initial gut reaction of discomfort when I see a Confederate flag, half expecting to see a sea of pillow case headdresses and flaming torches, so the shear abundance of them was disconcerting. In the end, it was strangely just part of the decor. I couldn't complain about the people-watching either!
Even the "tickets" used to buy food were faux-Confederate dollars.
|Yeah, I don't think I'll be running for public office with this photo|
floating around the interwebs...
|The presentation of the old Confederate states' flags. |
Please note the stage floor...as if it could be missed!
|The oldest tombstones dated back to the late 1860's.|