The Cabanagem Rebellion


“In the 1820’s a split between the white ruling classes of Belém led to civil war, which soon spread to the dominated Indians, mestiços, blacks and mulattos. After years of fighting, the war developed into a popular revolutionary movement that swept through Pará like wildfire.

In 1835, the guerrilla fighters marched on Belém, taking the city after nine days of bloody fighting. They installed a popular government, which expropriated the wealth of the merchants, distributed food to all the people and declared Belém’s independence. But the revolutionary experiment was immediately strangled by a British naval blockade, Britain being the principal beneficiary of trade with Brazil at the time.

A year later, a large Brazilian government force recaptured Belém. The vast majority of the city’s population fled to the interior to resist again. Over the next four years, the military hunted down and slaughtered anyone they thought could be hostile. The Cabanagem massacre was one of the most savage of Brazil’s many military campaigns against its own people. Altogether, some 30,000 people out of Pará’s population of 150,000 died in the conflict.” – Fodors

According to a Brazilian source (in PT), it is estimated that during the five years of fighting in the revolt, the population of Pará was reduced from about 100,000 to 60,000.

“The conflict finally ended when amnesty was declared to the rebels, in 1839. In 1840 the last rebel group, under the leadership of Gonçalo Jorge de Magalhães, yielded.” – Wikipedia

It is interesting to think about the result of a successful revolt, a cause in which the states of Amazonas and Maranhão later joined. Today, Brazil could be three states shy of its current self. The ‘new’ region would have possibly been called the second Equatorial Confederation (after the first one, which involed the Pernambucan Revolution of 1817). A favorable outcome would have also stood out as the only true revolution by the people and for the people.

The name “Cabanagem” refers to the type of hut (cabana) used by the poorest people living next to streams, principally mestizos, freed slaves, and indigenous people. The elite agriculturists of Grão-Pará, while living much better, resented their lack of participation in the central government’s decision-making, which was dominated by the provinces of the Southeast and Northeast.

Niemeyer’s Memorial


“O Memorial da Cabanagem, segundo a concepção de Niemeyer, representa a luta heróica do povo cabano, que foi um dos movimentos mais importantes de todo o Brasil. A rampa elevada em direção ao firmamento representa a grandiosidade da revolta popular que chegou muito perto de atingir seus objetivos e a “fratura” faz alusão à ruptura do processo revolucionário. Mas embora tenha sido sufocada, a Cabanagem permanece viva na memória do povo, por isso, o bloco continua subindo para o infinito, simbolizando que a essência, os ideais e a luta cabana continuam latentes na história do país.”

“The Cabanagem Memorial, according to Niemeyer’s conception, represents the heroic fight of the Cabano people, which was one of the most important movements in all of Brazil. The elevated ramp facing the sky, represents the grandiosity of the popular revolt which almost reached its objectives and the fractured section alludes to the rupture in the revolutionary process. Although it was put down, Cabanagem remains alive in the memory of the people and for this, the block continues facing skyward towards the infinite, symbolizing the essence, the ideals and the Cabano fight which continue dormant in the history of the country.”

Outside of Brasília, this momument at the entrance to Belém is the only work of Oscar Niemeyer in all of Brazil’s North, Northeast and Central East combined.

Links, etc.

Jogo Revolta da Cabanagem – A video game made by the students of the Federal University of Pará (UFPA) about the popular revolution.

Farroupilha Revolution – The second bloodiest revolution in Brazilian history, for a free South.

Other Brazilian revolts include the Sabinada in Bahia and the Balaiada in Maranhão.