top of page

The Facts

About Salvador, Brazil

Salvador da Bahia, the capital of the state Bahía, is perched on the cliffside of a bluff-formed peninsula, separating the Bahia de Todos os Santos (All Saints Bay) from the Atlantic Ocean. Historically the capital of Brazil, Salvador is composed of  vibrant colors and energetic spirits that line the cobblestone streets. The sounds of Salvador's music style has great influence to its rich culture.

Despite its origins intertwined with European colonialism and slavery, Salvador is a place that celebrates African life and traditions. The northeast region was initially inhabited by indigenous groups before Portuguese explorers first landed in 1500. The explorers continued to invest in Brazil as a source of export commodities and imperial wealth. For over three and a half centuries, almost five million African men, women, and children were exploited under countless systems of oppression. 1,300,000 of those people went to Bahia alone. Brazil was the last country in the Western Hemisphere to ban slavery in 1888. 

Constantly evolving, Salvador honors cultural diversity. Groups of people with different beliefs, values, and lifestyles were forced to coexist, but a multitude of African social and cultural forms were preserved through maintaining traditions. Religious institutions erected and social hierarchies formed. Separated communities cultivated, but Afro-Brazilian culture ultimately prevailed as a result. 

 

Quilombos, or self-sustained communities, founded by runaway enslaved peoples, hold strong in parts of mountain ranges, remote forests, isolated islands, and off the coasts of northeast Brazil to this day. Official statistics show that around 1.1 million people live in about 6,500 quilombos across the country. However, residents of these quilombos rarely have the rights to own their property, receiving no protection from the government. Many members are not counted in the national consensus and do not participate in local politics. Quilombos are groups of people bred for resistance, strengthened with their self-sustenance, and grounded in their reorganization. They are a powerful voice to both Afro-Brazilians and Black people around the world. 

We seek to tell the story of Salvador that cannot be found within travel guides and history books. It is a a story of true strength in organization and power through cultural preservation. It is a perspective deserves its time in the spotlight.

The Importance of Land 

In Quilombo Quingoma, the land is essential to a way of life. From the moment Quilombolas are born, their soul is tied to the land – their umbilical cords are buried within their Quilombo with a jackfruit – and their souls have a right to remain there. However, land protection-related violence, threats from the Brazilian government, and lack of Quilombo-based education has posed great threats to their land, resulting in the harm of the souls and wellbeing of Quilombolas. When the government takes and destroys the land, they also destroy the souls that are tied to the land.

Threats to Land from the Brazilian Government

Obtaining the right to land is an arduous process, in which Quilombo Quingoma has been continuously fighting. To gain the recognition of the land as a Quilombo in Brazil, the government must recognize the Quilombo as a people and the territory in which they occupy. The government has acknowledged that the people of Quilombo Quingoma live on this land; however, they want the community to occupy less. They hope to reduce the land of Quingoma by ⅚. In other words, Quilombo Quingoma currently occupies 1200 hectares (2965 acres), but the government wants to reduce their territory to 200 hectares (494 acres). The process for obtaining the rights to land has greatly displaced Quilombolas, with less than 13% currently living in the areas that have officially been deemed theirs. There are 494 officially demarcated territories for Quilombolas, but 4,859 communities of Quilombolas outside of those official territories. This great displacement threatens both the livelihood and culture of Quilombolas. 

Land Protection Related Violence

There have been over 60 violent deaths of Quilombolas in the last decade, with over 20 percent of them killed over land protection. Recently, Maria Bernadete Pacifico, Rejane’s longtime friend and leader of the Quilombo de Pitanga dos Palmares, was assassinated six years after her son was murdered. 1.3 million Quilombolas are reported in Brazil's census; however, as they attempt to protect their land, that number drops at an alarming rate.

Access to Quilombo-led Education

Quilombo Quingoma believes that it is crucial to educate the youth within the community. The government is actively trying to disconnect the Quilombola youth from the Quilombo so the process of seizing their land will receive less pushback. Quilombolas are trying to reiterate the importance of the land to the youth so that future generations will be able to continue the fight and continue to resist! Quilombo Quingoma prioritizes that the youth in the community be taught by the Quingoma people so that they can control the narrative of their people. Quilombo Quingoma has an initiative called Fincando Raizes do Quilombo Quingoma (Planting the Roots of Quingoma) where the adults in the community educate their children. In addition, Quilombo Quingoma seeks to create a school, Escola Quingoma, to further educate their children on a larger scale and preserve their culture.

Brazil’s 1988 constitution established land rights for Quilombos, following a tedious process to legitimize them. Though Quilombo Quingoma was established 253 years before Brazil became an independent country, their land must be legitimized before the state to receive government funding and protection. However, this land recognition process requires the Brazilian government to perform technical and anthropological studies of the land, which results in a loss of land for Quilombolas. For Quingoma, this means that the government is trying to reduce their land to 16% of what it is (from 1200 to 200 hectares). In response, Quilombo leaders like Rejane have been outspoken in their refusal to concede the land that she and her ancestors have inhabited for over 400 years. In response, they face the threat of assassination. Because their souls are tied to their land, and they cannot be separated.

 

Rejane aims to combat the erasure of Quilombos by providing a Quilombo-led education program, “Planting the Roots of Quingoma,” to students (both Quilombolas and non-Quilombolas) to rewrite history in their own words – a history that celebrates their nature of resistance and perseverance. In understanding the importance of Quilombola-led education for and by Quilombolas, Rejane hopes to turn her program into a school, Escola Quingoma, to continue a greater legacy of education.

10_9_PelourinhoDirectionStreetSign2.heic

The Importance of Education in Poverty  

Poverty runs rampant in the urban community, or favella of Itapuã, in Bahia, Brazil. This poverty creates a lack of educational opportunities for youth and children of all ages. Not only do the impoverished living conditions pose a threat to basic necessities, but they limit the educational opportunities for those destined to break the cycle of poverty. As a force that has the power to break this cycle, education serves as a beacon of hope and light. Education gives the children of Itapuã the skills they need for a better future. It gives them the confidence to defy the socioeconomic limitations that have defined their community for too long. 

Threats to Education

Education is under threat in the favelas of Brazil, which makes the difficult living conditions for the residents worse. A lack of necessary resources, widespread violence and drugs make education a difficult endeavor. Poverty is a threat not only to the access of education, but to the many children who are forced to work and taken out of the classroom. The community’s high rate of violence disrupts the learning environment and poses a continual threat to the safety of the teachers and students. These issues are made worse by poor government funding and infrastructure, leaving the school system open to structural neglect. 

Untitled design (3).png

Access to Education

Community leaders, such as Guga, constantly aim to counteract the barrier of poverty by enlightening the youth upon the importance of education. These leaders recognize that education is the key to severing poverty's chains. Guga and similar community leaders emphasize that education is a catalyst for revolutionary change, providing students and youth with an escape from the constraints posed by their socioeconomic status. 

Afro-Brazilian Education

Community leaders, like Guga, are committed to tearing down the obstacles that prevent Afro-Brazilian youth from accessing education in the center of Itapuã, the heart of Afro-Brazilian culture. Acknowledging the systemic obstacles and historical injustices, they stress the need of education as a means of empowerment and cultural preservation. Among others, Guga communicates the value of Afro-Brazilian education in developing a sense of self and pride, emphasizing the rich cultural legacy that must be recognized in broader contexts of education. Leaders want to correct the historical injustices and give youth the confidence to accept their roots by including Afro-Brazilian history, customs and opinions into educational curriculum. 

Untitled design (1).png
Untitled design (2).png

Youth and Education 

The youth are the future community leaders. Efforts must be made to highlight the critical role that education plays in determining how each person’s destiny impacts the future of Itapuã. Education is more than just a way to learn; it is a source of empowerment and hope for the future generations. Inspired by a desire to improve the next generation, community leaders put forth great effort to instill a love of learning, resilience and a sense of purpose within the youth.

We aim to collaborate with Guga to create academic outlets for children through books. Our mission is to support both the community's and Guga’s dreams of educating the youth on the importance of Afro-Brazilian culture so that each generation of children be equipped with knowledge and power. We wish to sponsor a book drive that will enrich the children to promote cultural preservation. 

bottom of page