The Pernambucan Revolution

This is a cross-post from Eyes On Recife.


“The Pernambucan Revolution, also known as the Revolution of the Priests (due to the participation of the heroic monk, Frei Caneca), was an emancipation movement that emerged on March 6th, 1817, in what was known at the time as the Province of Pernambuco. Among the causes for wanting freedom from Portuguese rule, the main ones were: the regional economic crisis, the Portuguese monarchical absolutism and the influence of the Enlightenment ideas, propagated by the masonic societies.” [1]

Their Own Republic

“For 74 days, Pernambuco, Alagoas, Paraíba and Rio Grande so Norte were a republic with their own government, army, navy, constitution, flag and even ambassadors abroad. This short period enforced the recently promulgated Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, one of the French Revolution’s defining documents. And the flag that was used in the most important libertarian war of the then-republic is the same that Pernambuco uses today” (minus two of the stars). [2]

Screen Shot 2013-06-30 at 7.27.23 PM(the republic flag that inspired the current flag)

“On March 29th, a constituent assembly was convened, with elected representatives from all the counties (now known as states), establishing the separation of Legislative, Executive and Judicial powers; catholicism was maintained as the official religion (however there was freedom of religion); freedom of the press was proclaimed (a new idea for Brazil); some taxes were abolished; slavery was kept alive.

As the fervor of discussions and revolt against Portuguese oppression increased, Pernambucan patriotism also increased, to the point of using cachaça (instead of wine) in church and a wafer made of manioc (instead of wheat), as a way of marking their identity.” [3]

American Aid?

In May of 1817, Antônio Gonçalves Cruz landed in Philadelphia with 800,000 dollars in his bags. His mission was three-fold: to obtain arms to fight Dom João’s army, to convince the US government to support a Brazilian republic in the Northeast, and to recruit some ex-French revolutionaries living in the US to go to Brazil, make a plan to free Napoleon from jail and bring him to Pernambuco to lead their revolt. They agreed but arrived in Pernambuco too late, the revolution was ending. [4]

The End

The fight came to an end when the revolutionaries started finding it hard to fight such a powerful enemy, especially one that was slowly surrounding them. The other “counties” (Alagoas, Ceará, Rio Grando do Norte, etc) started to back off and revoke their support and the Pernambucan supporters started in-fighting due to disagreements on the topic of slavery. In the end, what remained was a single idea, that the Portuguese crown could never again be certain of its strength, loyalty and effectiveness in the Americas.

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