Silva, Xica da (c. 1745–c. 1796)

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Silva, Xica da (c. 1745–c. 1796)

Xica da Silva (b. ca. 1745; d. ca. 1796), mulatto mistress of the fantastically rich João Fernandes de Oliveira the younger, a diamond contractor in Minas Gerais from 1759 to 1771. Oliveira was so deeply in love with the slave Francisca (her baptismal name) that he convinced her owner to set her free. The story of Xica da Silva is a mixture of fact and legend. Apparently, Oliveira lavished a fortune on her, including building an artificial lake complete with sailing vessels.

Xica da Silva, the daughter of a Portuguese man and an African slave, has assumed an enduring place in the history of Brazil as a personification of the slave woman whose beauty and charms permit her to gain power over her master and lover. For some, her stature is a reflection of the cult of mulata beauty. For others, she represents a nationalist anti-imperialist statement. This latter perspective is evident in the film Xica da Silva (directed by Carlos Diegues, 1976; released in the United States, 1982), in which Xica da Silva uses her wiles to combat the Portuguese imperial authorities.

See alsoDiegues, Carlos .


Joaquim Felicio Dos Santos, Memórias do distrito diamantino, 3d ed. (1956).

Charles R. Boxer, The Golden Age of Brazil: 1695–1750 (1964).

Additional Bibliography

Abreu, Luis Alberto de. Xica da Silva. São Paulo: Martins Fontes, 1988.

Furico, Ze. O arraial do Tijuco e a verdadeira historia de Chica da Silva. São Paulo: Editora Ateniense, 1989.

Furtado, Junia Fereirra. Chica da Silva e o contratador dos diamantes: O outro lado do mito. São Paulo: Companhia das Letras, 2003.

                                         Donald Ramos