Note from BW of Brazil: If one wants to know how Africa is seen in a country like Brazil there are numerous hints to analyze. We can look at how Brazilians of visible African ancestry are treated in the day-to-day. It’s necessary to stress those of visible African ancestry because there are a large percentage of Brazilians who are of African ancestry but after generations of their families mixing with lighter-skinned persons (perhaps in a conscious pursuit of whiteness) one cannot always tell by physical appearance. We can also look at how Africa itself is basically ignored in school textbooks and/or outside of the context of 350 plus years of slavery. We can also take an honest look at how African immigrants are treated in Brazil. Today’s post reveals yet another angle of how anything connected to Africa and its descendants is dealt with in the country.
African heritage is a target of indifference in Brazil
Lack of investment in the revitalization of Cais do Valongo, the largest port in the slave period of Brazil, shows the indifference with which the country deals with its African heritage
Dubbed Porto Maravilha, the revitalization works of Zona Portuária in the Rio de Janeiro expose the indifference with which Brazil deals with its African cultural heritage.
One of the points of the works is the excavation of Cais do Valongo. Rediscovered in 2011, the site was the point of arrival of over half a million African slaves who survived the torturous journey to Brazil.
The revitalization works managed to dig the layers of rock that formed the old pier, which, over time, was covered by different governments and ended up in the middle of the city after the landfill made early last century by Mayor Pereira Passos.
Although many historians know of its exact location, the site remained covered until the start of construction of Porto Maravilha. Estimated at US$2 billion, the works found in great condition much of the pier deck.
However, today, the site has not received the attention it deserves and its importance to Brazilian history is told only in discrete signposts. Those responsible for work on the project insist they have done much for the revitalization of the pier, but activists of black culture say more is needed to give the space its due importance.
“The fact is that the African heritage sites in Brazil are seen as less important. It is a very clear proof of racism in the country. They are not interested in the history of Africans in Brazil,” said Elisa Larkin Nascimento, coordinator of the Instituto de Pesquisas e Estudos Afro-Brasileiros (Ipeafro or Research Institute and Afro-Brazilian Studies).
There are many Brazilians fighting to deal with the legacy of the slavery period. Consequences of this shameful past persist to the present day. One is the fact that blacks occupy the lowest positions in the economic and social scale of the country.
For Washington Fajardo, head of the Instituto Rio Patrimônio da Humanidade da Prefeitura da Cidade do Rio de Janeiro (IRPH or Rio Heritage Institute of the Municipality of the City of Rio de Janeiro), the country adopted the “politics of forgetfulness” as a way to erase the past. “The decision to ground the site was deliberate. I think it was a strategy to erase the memory of the slave period,” says Fajardo.
The American architect Sara Zewde is also fighting for the appreciation of the pier. An activist of black culture, she developed a special project for the place, with monuments based on circular agglomerations typical of slaves, such as samba and capoeira. “There is not much physical evidence of the slavery around the world,” says Sara.
Though accepted, the project still has no date for initiation. That’s because the coordinators of the works of Porto Maravilha claim that only the excavation of the dock has already demanded a lot, delaying the project schedule by six months.
According to Alberto Silva, coordinator of the project, the city is committed to revitalizing Cais do Valongo. “Until a few years ago, the pier was buried. Not long ago, these sites were not recognized nor valued even by those who are complaining now,” Silva said.
Source: Opinião e Notícia