A dirt road, surrounded by crops, under an unforgiving sun. A hot and heavy wind, carrying dust, indicates that the day will be scorching. This setting would be at home in a Wild West movie, but this is no tale of sheriffs and outlaws. This is about long journeys, connections and, above all, narratives, and their endless versions.

At the end of the dusty road, in the town of Santa Bárbara d’Oeste in the São Paulo countryside, there is a place filled with history itself. The Cemitério do Campo—or “American Cemetery” as it is known to the local people—has been guarding the remains of American immigrants for more than 150 years and now is a testimony of a story little known by both Americans and Brazilians.

</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">After losing the American Civil War (1861-1865), the 11 Confederate States in the south were left devastated. The battle opposed northern and southern views, tearing the U.S. apart in many points: they warred over choosing between an economic model focused on agriculture or one based on industry, the states’ right to leave the Union as they please and, finally, whether slavery should be abolished.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Trying to rebuild their lives, people from almost all Confederate states came to several areas in Brazil, particularly an agricultural belt in the countryside of São Paulo, establishing the foundations of the modern towns of Santa Bárbara d’Oeste and Americana (literally, &#8220;American,&#8221; in Portuguese).</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Among them was Colonel Asa T. Oliver. After his wife, Beatrice, died of the tuberculosis she caught on her trip to Brazil, Catholic priests did not allow her, a Protestant, to be buried in the church’s ground. Colonel Oliver had no choice but to dig her a grave on his own land. A few months later, she was joined by a neighbor’s two-year-old son and the couple’s daughters. And this is how the American—or Confederate—community got his own cemetery in Santa Bárbara d&#8217;Oeste.</span></p> <div id="attachment_16968" style="width: 820px" class="wp-caption alignnone"><img aria-describedby="caption-attachment-16968" class="wp-image-16968 size-full" src="https://brazilian.report/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/3.jpg" alt="confederate cemetery" width="810" height="450" srcset="https://brazilian.report/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/3.jpg 810w, https://brazilian.report/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/3-300x167.jpg 300w, https://brazilian.report/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/3-768x427.jpg 768w, https://brazilian.report/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/3-610x339.jpg 610w" sizes="(max-width: 810px) 100vw, 810px" /><p id="caption-attachment-16968" class="wp-caption-text">Picture courtesy of Natalia Scalzaretto</p></div> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Nowadays, the place is a peaceful oasis amid a sugarcane crop, guarded by the shadow of trees that makes the oppressive heat more bearable. The sound of birds echoing in the brick and mortar chapel—the third version of what is considered Brazil’s first Baptist Church—create a bucolic scene. Ms. Oliver also rests there, after being murdered by a slave, alongside Colonel William Norris, an Alabaman senator who was among the first to come to Brazil on the</span><a href="https://sao-paulo.estadao.com.br/noticias/geral,marco-americano-no-brasil-precisa-de-ajuda-imp-,912925"> <span style="font-weight: 400;">invitation of emperor Dom Pedro II</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">, in what the descendants now attribute now to an interest in developing ties with cotton farming and Freemasonry.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">They are now accompanied by almost 600 descendants and counting. The historical site is still working and after passing from the Oliver family to the Buckwalters, it is now maintained by the Fraternity of American Descendants, an association created to preserve the cemetery and their families’ legacy, under the motto “old times that are not forgotten.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Thirty-one years ago, both of these visions took shape in the Confederate Party, an annual fundraising event that aims to maintain the cemetery’s facilities. Every once in a year, American descendants and their guests gather in the garden outside the cemetery for a day of songs, dances and typical southern food. On show for all to see is the festival&#8217;s most controversial point: the Confederate flag.</span></p> <h2>The Southern cross</h2> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">How many symbols may one image contain within itself? The Confederate flag has quite a few. The current version, known as the “Southern cross”—a red background with a blue cross filled with stars—is the last of many flags associated with the Confederacy. At the party, it is everywhere, from the bunting on the streets to the large stage assembled at the center of the celebrations, as well as the obelisk displaying the names of those who crossed the continent so many years ago.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">But there is a reason why historian John Coski called it</span><a href="http://www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog.php?isbn=9780674019836"><span style="font-weight: 400;"> &#8220;</span><span style="font-weight: 400;">America’s Most Embattled Emblem</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">.&#8221; Initially a symbol of the Confederacy and southern nationalism, it was rebranded by racist movements, such as the </span><a href="https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/3621818/confederate-flag-racist-banned-symbol-white-supremacy/"><span style="font-weight: 400;">white supremacist Ku Klux Klan</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> in the 20th century. Nowadays, Americans are divided between adopting a “heritage, not hate” approach, and denouncing the flag as a racist symbol—</span><a href="https://www.pbs.org/newshour/politics/8-things-didnt-know-confederate-flag"><span style="font-weight: 400;">with the former perhaps winning out by a small margin</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">.</span></p> <div id="attachment_16971" style="width: 820px" class="wp-caption alignnone"><img aria-describedby="caption-attachment-16971" class="wp-image-16971 size-full" src="https://brazilian.report/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/2-1.jpg" alt="symbol of racism" width="810" height="450" srcset="https://brazilian.report/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/2-1.jpg 810w, https://brazilian.report/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/2-1-300x167.jpg 300w, https://brazilian.report/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/2-1-768x427.jpg 768w, https://brazilian.report/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/2-1-610x339.jpg 610w" sizes="(max-width: 810px) 100vw, 810px" /><p id="caption-attachment-16971" class="wp-caption-text">Picture courtesy of Natalia Scalzaretto</p></div> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Well-rehearsed teenage couples dressed in traditional costumes present the standards of the thirteen Confederate States. Little kids sing along to Confederate music, “for Southern rights, hurrah!
 Hurrah for the Bonnie Blue Flag that bears a single star”.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">For 14-year-old Isabela Campos, taking part in the celebration is a way to travel back in time. “My family encouraged me to take up dancing and I thought it would be nice to learn about my history. We are maintaining our ancestors’ legacy, it is a beautiful story.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In the area of Piracicaba, encapsulating Santa Bárbara d’Oeste and Americana, the contributions of American immigration are praised in education, engineering and, above all, </span><a href="https://brazilian.report/money/2019/04/26/trase-brazil-soy-china/"><span style="font-weight: 400;">agriculture</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">. The descendants claim their ancestors bought technologies related to cotton and watermelon crops, as well as improved the production of </span><a href="https://brazilian.report/money/2018/09/13/cachaca-spirit-brazil/"><span style="font-weight: 400;">Cachaça</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">, Brazil&#8217;s national spirit, by using techniques used for making Bourbon. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In São Paulo, American </span><a href="https://brazilian.report/guide-to-brazil/2019/02/07/brazil-immigrants-perception/"><span style="font-weight: 400;">immigrants </span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">founded Mackenzie Presbyterian University, one of the largest in the country.</span></p> <div id="attachment_16970" style="width: 820px" class="wp-caption alignnone"><img aria-describedby="caption-attachment-16970" class="wp-image-16970 size-full" src="https://brazilian.report/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/1.jpg" alt="confederate party" width="810" height="450" srcset="https://brazilian.report/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/1.jpg 810w, https://brazilian.report/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/1-300x167.jpg 300w, https://brazilian.report/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/1-768x427.jpg 768w, https://brazilian.report/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/1-610x339.jpg 610w" sizes="(max-width: 810px) 100vw, 810px" /><p id="caption-attachment-16970" class="wp-caption-text">Picture courtesy of Natalia Scalzaretto</p></div> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">You can see the same pride in the blue eyes of 57-year-old Cicero Carr, who himself has commanded the Fraternity in the past. Surrounded by his family, he proudly remembers that his father was among the creators of the first party. “American immigration is an example of perseverance, of hard work. I think one cannot know himself without knowing his past and we teach our children by example. For us, that flag means our families,” he says, smiling at his daughter, traditionally dressed in a puffy floral gown.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“And Brazil is a country that welcomes everyone. Here, there is no racism. Look around, there are people from everywhere, from every race, the chapel is ecumenical. It is the same God after all,” he says while applauding a fanfare that swings around the tables assembled in the lawn.</span></p> <h2>A controversial legacy</h2> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In many parts of the U.S., however, the Confederate legacy is not seen under such a flattering light. In 2017,</span><a href="https://brasil.elpais.com/brasil/2017/08/12/internacional/1502553163_703843.html"> <span style="font-weight: 400;">three people died in Charlottesville, Virginia,</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> a city that became the stage of the most violent protest in decades, after white supremacists and African-American advocates clashed. The confrontation surrounded the removal of a statue of Confederate leader General Robert Lee, due to claims the icon held racist connotations.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Sixty-one-year-old Marcio Nastromagario, vice president of the Rebel Bikers Moto Club, disagrees. “People mistake the confederate flag for racism. It actually means you’re a rebel. People think that slavery triggered the war, but it actually had economic reasons,” he explains. His club bears the Confederate flag as its symbol.  </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“I’ve never seen hate between people from the southern and northern people in the U.S.,” he says, recalling some of his motorcycle trips. “Once, in South Carolina, someone told me I could not enter a store wearing the vest with the flag. I left, crossed the entire state and did not have a single problem.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">History teacher Pedro Artur Caseiro discovered the event twenty years ago after seeing a student bearing the Confederate flag in the classroom. Keen on wild west movies, he started to learn more about the Civil War. Now, he is not just an habitué, but nearly an attraction of the party himself, bearing his Confederate military uniform proudly.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“You can’t look at history with our modern eyes. You have to remember that racists adopted the flag after the war was over. You can’t criticize a tradition for things that happened after that,” he says, wearing his full Confederate Cavalry uniform. The items look historically accurate, barring his fake saber that &#8220;would only be useful for a barbecue,” he says.</span></p> <div id="attachment_16969" style="width: 820px" class="wp-caption alignnone"><img aria-describedby="caption-attachment-16969" class="wp-image-16969 size-full" src="https://brazilian.report/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/4.jpg" alt="history teacher confederate flag" width="810" height="450" srcset="https://brazilian.report/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/4.jpg 810w, https://brazilian.report/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/4-300x167.jpg 300w, https://brazilian.report/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/4-768x427.jpg 768w, https://brazilian.report/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/4-610x339.jpg 610w" sizes="(max-width: 810px) 100vw, 810px" /><p id="caption-attachment-16969" class="wp-caption-text">Pedro Caseiro: &#8220;You can’t look at history with our modern eyes.&#8221; Picture courtesy of Natalia Scalzaretto</p></div> <h2>Confederate Party, a family picnic</h2> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“This party is a large family picnic. Although it has grown a lot, we still have this spirit,” explains João Leopoldo Padoveze, the president of Fraternity</span><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">. </span></i><span style="font-weight: 400;">He would rather not talk about racism “on a day of celebration,” but says that there are a larger number of good initiatives being carried out in the U.S. on Confederate legacy that are not publicized, mostly regarding historical conservation.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Besides tents and security staff, the Fraternity welcomes its guests with live music, tons of freshly-made southern food and playgrounds for the kids. The menacing tropical rain clouds which gathered later in the afternoon gave somewhat of a reality check, reminding visitors that they are in Brazil, after all.  </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Sueli Vilela, one of the guests, is not a descendant herself but goes to the party “every year,” invited by the Carr family. Waiting for her fried chicken, she compliments the event as an “excellent initiative.&#8221; &#8220;We have to maintain this history and have even more integration among people.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">She calls attention to a “small group of protesters outside,” though she did not know why they were there.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">For those who came early in the day, there was no sign of disturbances near the cemetery. Local newspapers reported later that</span><a href="https://liberal.com.br/cidades/s-barbara/movimentos-sociais-protestam-contra-uso-da-bandeira-confederada-1001118/"> <span style="font-weight: 400;">about 30 people connected to Afro-Brazilian movements gathered at the entrance</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> of the farm, protesting the flag, but not the party.

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SocietyMay 05, 2019

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BY Natália Tomé Scalzaretto

Natália Scalzaretto has worked for companies such as Santander Brasil and Reuters, where she covered news ranging from commodities to technology. Most recently, worked as an Editor for Trading News, the information division from TradersClub investor community.