Chibata, Revolt of the
Chibata, Revolt of the
Revolt of the Chibata, Brazilian sailors' mutiny (1910). Brazil began an ambitious naval expansion program in 1907, purchasing two dreadnoughts, the Minas Gerais and the São Paulo, in 1908–1909, then the world's largest battleships. Soon Brazil had the world's fifth largest navy in tons displaced. An enormous gulf separated officers from seamen. Serving fifteen-year tours, seamen were mostly black and often forcibly recruited. Officers were white and aristocratic. Despite abolition (1888) and the naval prohibition of flogging with the chibata on the second day of the Republic in 1889, the practice continued.
A week after Marshal Hermes da Fonseca was inaugurated as president in November 1910, the squadron in the waters of Rio de Janeiro, the capital, revolted. Four officers were killed as the crews of the two dreadnoughts and lesser ships mutinied. The immediate cause was a brutal whipping of a sailor aboard the Minas Gerais. The command of the squadron and 2,400 rebel sailors passed to a thirty-year-old black, semiliterate seaman.
João Candido Felisberto, the son of a slave, directed the ships, coordinating their movements and loading coal, ammunition, and provisions. He demanded the abolition of corporal punishment and an amnesty for all mutineers. When Congress tarried, he fired on the capital. The president and naval authorities wanted to punish the rebels, but feared destruction of the city and loss of the costly warships. Congress capitulated to the demands.
In December a revolt of marines broke out, but João Candido and his dreadnought crew remained loyal to the government, even after officers had abandoned his ship. The revolt was quelled, and some participants in the second uprising were shot, while others were sent to Amazonian rubber plantations. The previously amnestied rebels of the first rebellion were put into prison, where sixteen suffocated. João Candido, who nearly suffocated, was tried for participation in the second revolt, but was acquitted. The first rebellion was the world's only mutiny in which a common sailor led a squadron, and one containing the most powerful war machines of its time. The chibata became a symbol of black and lower-class resistance.
See alsoFonseca, Hermes Rodrigues da .
Edmar Morel, A Revolta da Chibata, 2d ed. (1963).
Robert L. Scheina, Latin America: A Naval History, 1810–1987 (1987), pp. 80-86, 105-107.
Hélio Leôncio Martins, A revolta dos marinheiros: 1910 (1988).
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Silva, Marcos A. da. Contra a chibata: Marinheiros brasileiros em 1910. São Paulo: Brasiliense, 1982.
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Joseph L. Love