Black Women of Brazil

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Treze de Maio Museum: a space of black identity and memory in Santa Maria, Rio Grande do Sul


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Note from BW of Brazil: For five centuries, the nation we know as Brazil has promoted a continuous agenda of erasing the memory and even physical presence of the Afro-Brazilian population. From the brutality, violence, degradation and sexual exploitation of slavery itself to the annihilation of black life in the War of the Triple Alliance (1865-1870) (1) through a plan of whitening the population in a process known as embranquecimento, to every day police violence and black invisibility in the media, being black in Brazil has been a continuous physical, emotional and psychological assault on African descendants in a country that received the most Africans during the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. But even with the ongoing war, there are associations and organizations that attempt to preserve this memory and keep the struggle alive. In the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul we find the Treze de Maio Museum (featured back in August) that continues this struggle. 

Treze de Maio Museum is a place of action and reflection for AFRONTA

Courtesy of Museu Treze de Maio website

Entities of the Movimento Negro meet at the museum

Entities of the Movimento Negro meet at the museum

The Treze de Maio (May Thirteen) (2) Museum (MTM) is the place chosen by black youth cotistas (quota university students) to meet, promote activities, discussions and reflection on access, retention and success of black students at the Universidade Federal de Santa Maria (Federal University of Santa Maria).

“Treze” (Thirteen), embodied in centennial Clube Social Negro Treze de Maio (May Thirteen Black Social Club), was present in all the struggles that culminated in the approval at the end of 2007, the racial and social quotas for afrodescendentes (African descendants) indigenous, people with special needs and students from public schools in UFSM, the first vestibular (entrance exam) being conducted in these facilities starting in the year 2008.

A meeting of the Month of Black Consciousness on November 4, 2013

A meeting of the Month of Black Consciousness on November 4, 2013

MTM also articulated with the Movimento Negro (Black Movement) of Santa Maria the creation of the first Municipal Coordinator of the Negro in 2003 (when the Club completed its centenary), and worked on the political construction of the current Municipal Coordinator for the Promotion of Ethnic-Racial Equality of Santa Maria, exerted by the black militant, a member of MTM, Sirlei Barbosa, starting in 2010.

Also participated in this construction, between the years 2003 and 2008, the black militants, members of the Treze de Maio Museum, Professor Dr. Dilmar Lopes and Professor Dr. Marta Iris Camargo Messias da Silveira, who also highlighted the role of the coordinators of this important political instrument, demands of the Movimento of Santa Maria, created as a Decree in the government of Valdeci Oliveira (PT) and converted into Law by the Cesar Schirmer (PMDB) Municipal Government.

Luis Carvalho, Nayra Silva, Najla Silva, Alexon Messias, Jéssica Assis and Gustavo Lopes are part of a collective of black college students who promote activities and discussions at Museu Treze de Maio. Journalist: Tatiana Py Dutra. Photo: Ronald Mendes, 12/06/2010 Diário de Santa Maria, January 3, 2011

Luis Carvalho, Nayra Silva, Najla Silva, Alexon Messias, Jéssica Assis and Gustavo Lopes are part of a collective of black college students who promote activities and discussions at Museu Treze de Maio. Journalist: Tatiana Py Dutra. Photo: Ronald Mendes, 12/06/2010 Diário de Santa Maria, January 3, 2011

Treze de Maio Museum: a space of memory and black identity in Santa Maria, Rio Grande do Sul

by Lucinéia Inês Weber and Maria Catarina Chitolina Zanini

First Circle of Memories meeting at the museum

First Circle of Memories meeting at the museum

Before the creation of the Museu Treze de Maio occurring in May 2001, the space of the museum housed a Clube Social Negro (Black Social Club): Sociedade Cultural Ferroviária Treze de Maio (Thirteen of May Railway Cultural Society), a club created by black railroad workers in 1903, mainly motivated by the fact of not having access to clubs of the time, all of them intended for white people and aspiring to have for themselves and their families a place of leisure and sociability.

Circle of Memories meeting

Circle of Memories meeting

The main legacy of Museu Treze de Maio is memory, with various activities for the development of this being realized: film cycles with a black theme, groups of African dance, capoeira, black women’s vocal group and especially the Roda de Lembranças (Circle of Memories). The Roda de Lembranças is an annual meeting organized by the management and facilitators of the Museum, for which guests are former members, partners or patrons of the club with the purpose of sharing with the interested public, the memories of the railroad, and also the history of the lives of these people.

Circle of Memories meeting at the Museu Treze de Maio

Circle of Memories meeting at the Museu Treze de Maio

Union for black identity

Since last year, the group brings girls together for debate and discussion regarding feminine black identity

by Nathália Costa

Members of the Juventude Negra Feminina (Black Female Youth) in the first group meeting in winter of last year

Members of the Juventude Negra Feminina (Black Female Youth) in the first group meeting in winter of last year

Initially, they were girls who wanted to discuss issues related to the black woman in a social network on the internet. The issues and the exchange of experiences on the web turned into actual meetings. On a very cold and rainy weekend of last year, twelve girls attended Museu Treze de Maio for the first meeting of what would become the Juventude Negra Feminina of Santa Maria.

Some girls only knew each other through the internet, and that cold evening was the driving force of a collective that aims to discuss several issues regarding the black woman, assisting in the growth of all its members. Aline Escobar is one of those girls who has participated in the collective since its emergence: “On the internet, we are more than one hundred and, in person, on average, we have 20 girls per meeting. Over time, we acquired knowledge collectively, with suggestions of texts to each other,” says Aline.

Preparation for the intervention of the Juventude Negra Feminina at Treze de Maio Museum, August 8, 2013

Preparation for the intervention of the Juventude Negra Feminina at Treze de Maio Museum, August 8, 2013

This collective knowledge is also important for, as Aline denominated it, the empoderamento das meninas negras (empowerment of the black girls) – taking consciousness of her place of power and importance of the struggle itself to end sexism and racism. On the issues that are debated by members of the Juventude Negra Feminina, Aline explains: “We cannot ignore some elements such as racism and violence. Slavery, in a way, is over, but the consequences remain and continue in various ways – from prejudice with hair to the exclusion of a job vacancy for being black,” stresses Aline.

As the group identifies itself on its website, “the purpose is to gather black girls from the suburbs of the city, students of primary, secondary, technical and pre-vestibular (college entrance exam), university, members of different social movements, groups of African dance, street dance, young black mothers and all the black women who daily face the triad: race/gender/class as specific issues that intertwine due to our social condition.” Aline explains that only black women participate also due to the question of self-organization and empowerment, in the creation of spaces for debate.

Particpation of Juventude Negra Feminina in "Blackening Feminism" in the Slut Walk", July 21, 2013

Particpation of Juventude Negra Feminina in “Blackening Feminism” in the Slut Walk”, July 21, 2013

In addition to the meetings of the group itself, the girls of Juventude Negra Feminina participate in other activities promoted by the collective itself or by other organizations that they support. It is the case of participation in the activities of I Jornada de Lutas das Mulheres (First Journey of Women’s Struggles), prepared to take place during the entire month of March, plus the 8th (International Women’s Day). Aline explains that the group has promoted some extra activities such as Sarau Literário, and will participate, still in March, in the Feira Preta in the Museu Treze de Maio. The relationship, as Aline, between the girls and the Museum, is one of partnership, particularly through thematic activities and discussions around the question of the Movimento Negro (black movement).

On the subjects of discussion in the group, Alison agrees: “I read once, that racism and prejudice will only disappear when you stop talking about them. I think just the opposite – we must always return to the subject, precisely to combat racism and prejudice,” she says.

Brief History of the Club and current situation

Museu Treze de Maio before renovations

Museu Treze de Maio before renovations

Founded on May 13, 1903, by black railroad workers and for black people in view of the racial discrimination that existed in the city and the prohibition of blacks from joining white societies. It also had the intention of celebrating the abolition of slavery which officially occurred fifteen years before the founding of the Society.

The Sociedade (Society) came to integrate a number of eight hundred members, and in the 1960s they built, in a joint effort, a new wider space, to meet the public demand that expanded every day.

With the changes in inter-ethnic relations whites began to frequent the Sociedade Cultural Ferroviária 13 de Maio (May 13th Railway Cultural Society), just as blacks were also allowed to enter the clubs previously only for whites, a factor that contributed to the partners abandoning Society. Another reason was the emergence of several societies that presented more infrastructure and therefore becoming more attractive to the public, going through starting in the 1980s a process of disintegration and abandonment.

In 1974 the utility of Pública da Sociedade Cultural Ferroviária Treze de Maio was recognized, and in 2001 it joined the Programa de Preservação e Revitalização da Mancha Ferroviária de Santa Maria (Preservation and Revitalization Program of the Tunnel Rail of Santa Maria),  revitalized as a Community Museum.

Photo of Flores do Amaral family in 1968

Photo of Flores do Amaral family in 1968

The Museu Treze de Maio emerged in 2001 as a strategy to “safeguard” the heritage of Sociedade Cultural Ferroviária 13 de Maio, giving a useful sense to the community concerned and, based on this idea, envisioning policies that would realize its preservation. In this sense, the building that houses the museum was declared a city cultural heritage in December 2004 by Law No. 4809/04 and on December 21 of that same year the State Government enacted Law No. 12.183, that “declared the building of the old Sociedade Cultural Ferroviária 13 de Maio a member of the Historical and Cultural Heritage of the State of Rio Grande do Sul.”

The Museu Treze de Maio is the genesis of the construction and articulations of the “Movimento Clubista (Clubbers Movement), composed of approximately 100 Clubes Sociais Negros (Black Social Clubs) across the country and organized in November 2006 with the support of SEPPIR and the municipal government, the 1º Encontro Nacional de Clubes e Sociedades Negra (1st National Meeting of Black Clubs and Societies).

Source: Clubes Sociais NegrosJornal A Razão, Museu Treze de MaioNews Rondônia

Note

1. The Paraguayan War (Spanish: Guerra del Paraguay; Portuguese: Guerra do Paraguai), also known as the War of the Triple Alliance (Spanish: Guerra de la Triple Alianza; Portuguese: Guerra da Tríplice Aliança), and in Paraguay as the “Great War” (Spanish: Guerra Grande, Guarani: Ñorairõ Guazú), was an international military conflict in South America fought from 1864 to 1870 between Paraguay and the Triple Alliance of Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay. It caused approximately 400,000 deaths, one of the highest ratios of fatalities to combatants of any war in South America in modern history. It particularly devastated Paraguay, which suffered catastrophic losses in population and was forced to cede territory to Argentina and Brazil. Source. In this war, that recruited among from the slave population and primarily black underclass, those who enlisted for the war were promised free land.

According Júlio José Chiavenatol, A Guerra do Paraguai (The War of Paraguay) – among other things – would serve to kill blacks. It will be a brutal process Aryanization of the empire, reducing the 45% of blacks in the total population of the empire in 1860 to 15% shortly after the war. While the white population grew 1.7 times, the black population decreased 60%, counting the fifteen year period near the war (1860/1875).” Nearly a hundred thousand blacks were exterminated in the Paraguayan War, and even with contempt of the Imperial Government, the Brazilian Army was victorious in their battles since the monarchy continued to maintain political ties of friendship only with the National Guard and the ruling class.

2. Treze de Maio means May 13, which is the day in 1888 when slavery was officially abolished in Brazil.

2 comments on “Treze de Maio Museum: a space of black identity and memory in Santa Maria, Rio Grande do Sul

  1. Reblogged this on Bishop's Travels and commented:
    Hey!!! My lovely Portuguese Teacher Eliane Chalmeres Lives in this State -Rio Grande Do Sul- I automatically want to go to this museum!!! Treze De Maio! The Thirteenth of May is the day when slavery was abolished in Brasil in 1888…Just think about it, that is a whole twenty three years after slavery was abolished in the states!

  2. Black girl, Latin World
    November 9, 2014

    Great post!

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This entry was posted on November 5, 2014 by in Rio Grande do Sul and tagged , , , , , , .
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