Revolta da Chibata

views updated

Revolta da Chibata

On November 23, 1910, the black navy sailor João Cândido led a revolt of 2,379 men, who took charge of three modern navy ships in the Bay of Guanabara, Rio de Janeiro, in the midst of the festivities for the inauguration of President Hermes da Fonseca. The incident, known as the Revolta da Chibata (revolt against corporal punishment) was not so much against the new president as it was an indictment of the horrific working conditions and the outdated practice of corporal punishment (chibata ) applied in the navy, particularly as a disciplinary measure for the rank and file. The rebellion escalated as the protesters shot the commanding officer Batista das Neves and threatened to bomb the capital. Even though the revolting sailors did not list race as a motivating factor for their actions, race played a significant part in the revolt. While navy officers came mostly from white aristocratic Brazilian families, the rank and file comprised Afro-Brazilians or poor whites who were often treated as slaves.

Although the republic had outlawed corporal punishment in November 1889, it continued as a matter of course as a suitable practice to ensure proper behavior within the armed forces. Moreover, racial and class prejudice pervaded the officer corps, members of whom frequently abused corporal punishment and maintained unhealthy conditions for the sailors while they often lived and worked in splendor. Although sailors were routinely whipped, the violent flogging of the Bahian sailor Marcelino Rodrigues Meneses, on November 16, 1910, was the final incident that led the sailors to take action.

On the evening of November 22, 1910, a group of enlisted sailors led by João Cândido (on the ship Minas Gerais ), Ricardo Freitas and Francisco Dias Martins (on the Bahia ), Gregorio Nascimento (on board the São Paulo ), and an organized committee on land decided to strike. The sailors succeeded in gaining command of all three vessels, although not without a fight that led to the death of several men who resisted, including officers. On behalf of the sailors, Cândido negotiated with the national government to surrender and turn over the vessels in exchange for a general pardon for the sailors, the abolition of corporal punishment, improvement in living conditions, and better salaries for the enlisted men. The next day, on November 23, 1910, Brazil's National Congress approved general amnesty for the revolutionaries and promised to meet the sailors' demands.

Unfortunately, rather than honor the amnesty, the Brazilian state sent a strong message to the population that challenges to the national order would not be tolerated. Many of the participants were jailed, executed, or exiled to labor camps in the Amazon region. João Cândido received an eighteen-month prison term and was eventually dismissed from the navy. He died in poverty and has never been given his rightful place in Brazilian social history. Nonetheless, the revolt marked an important moment in the social history of Brazil.


Da Silva, Marcos. Contra a chibata. São Paulo: Brasileinse, 1982.

Filho, Mario. 1910: A revolta dos marinheiros. Rio de Janeiro: Globo, 1982.

Lopes, Moaicir C. O almirante negro. Rio de Janeiro: Quartet, 2000.

Morel, Edgar. A revolta da chibata, 4th ed. São Paulo: Graal, 1986.

dariÉn davis (2005)