You may have heard the overly optimistic catchphrase from the Deep South, “The South shall rise again.” There is no doubt about the fact that the South fell with the defeat of the Confederacy in the Civil War. But some of the Confederates did not surrender and were not defeated, and in fact never fell. Instead they redeployed to Brazil.
In the waning days of the Civil War a good number of Confederates sought to relocate overseas. The two countries most favored for relocation were Mexico and Brazil. Brazil actively encouraged Confederate immigration before the end of the war with offers of financial assistance in transportation, land ownership, and settlement to come and establish new homes in a country that needed their expertise.
After the defeat of the South, much of the culture of the Confederacy was swept away during the “Reconstruction.” Those who stayed in the South were forced to assimilate into the USA. Those who fled to Brazil were not forced to assimilate into Brazil and still to this day keep the traditions and culture of the Old South alive.
Some Southerners were fervently opposed to the idea of leaving the South. Among those dissenting was Robert E. Lee. In spite of Robert E. Lee’s protests, there was an exodus from the South near the end of the Civil War and tapering off during the Reconstruction Period.
Several Confederate settlements sprang up in Brazil in the 1860’s. There was Gaston’s colony at Xiririca near Iguape, The Norris colony at Santa Barbara D’Oeste, “Lizzieland” on the Rio Doce at Linhares, the Hastings settlement on the Amazon River at Santarem, and other lesser known Confederate settlements throughout Brazil. The Norris colony became the biggest and most successful of them all.
These new settlers were the cream of the crop from the Old South. Among them were probably the best cotton experts in the world at that time. Their superior skills and knowledge of cotton paid off. The transplanted Confederates were largely responsible for the sudden rise in the production of cotton in Brazil. They brought wealth and prosperity to the regions they settled in.
These settlers did not want to assimilate into the Brazilian culture. Many of the first generation refused to even try to learn the language. They hired teachers from the USA to teach their children. They attempted to change Brazil to suit them, and were partially successful in that effort. Their educational methods were so efficient that eventually they were adopted by the official Brazilian system.
In 1875, an important boost came to the area near the Norris colony with the opening of a train station, which permitted easier transportation of the cotton to the markets. In 1878, an association of Brazilian and American entrepreneurs started up a cotton fabric factory near the train station. This cotton fabric factory became known as the “American Village.” It became larger and more prosperous and is now the city of Americana, the name means “American” in Portuguese. Americana is now a modern Brazilian city of about 150,000 in the State of Sao Paulo, about 83 miles from the state capital. Textiles are still the biggest industry in the city today.
Today the descendants of Confederate immigrants are scattered throughout Brazil but have banded together into a brotherhood, Fraternidade Descendencia Americana, which meets periodically. They have done a good job of retaining the culture and traditions of the deep South. Brazilian youths, some of them descendants of American settlers, still practice period dances to prepare for an annual celebration of Confederate heritage in Americana, Brazil. Their costumes look like they came straight from the set of “Gone with the Wind.” The “Stars and Bars” Confederate battle flag was removed from the Americana city crest in 1999. Nowadays in Americana it is considered highly prestigious to have descended from Confederate settlers. Some people there still proudly boast of the fact that their ancestors never learned to speak Portuguese. In fact, there are a handful of hold-outs in Americana who still speak English as their first language today. In a strange twist, English is now becoming a chic second language for some of the more affluent and well-educated Brazilians.