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Aldeiamento System in Brazil


Aldeiamento was the name given to a plan to domesticate and Christianize nomadic native Brazilians by gathering them into village mission-settlements (aldeias). In the early years of Portuguese settlement there was no concerted effort to congregate native peoples. Christianization of a few was attempted through visitation by missionaries in the wilderness. Soon after the arrival of the Jesuits in 1549 a more determined effort was made. Members of the Society, not knowing the native languages, at first trained young boys, both native and ortuguese, to act as interpreters. The youths were taught to read and write, to sing plainchant and other music, to read aloud in Portuguese, play musical instruments, and to serve Mass. With these boys, the Jesuits visited the existing native villages and attempted to introduce Christianity. This method was also unsatisfactory.

Finally the system of aldeias, or reductions, was tried. Through persuasion and, at times, a show of force by soldiers, native peoples were gathered into new strategically placed villages. There was catechetical instruction morning and evening for all. After 1583 afternoon instruction was kept for those already Christian or those who were preparing for Holy Communion. The morning instruction consisted mainly of learning essential prayers. The articles of faith and preparation for Confession and Communion were taught in the afternoon. The Jesuits believed that only in this way could the Europeans Christianize and civilize these Stone Age Indians. The natives were treated as minors and not as adults. It was particularly important to keep the neophytes from contact with the pagans. As Manuel nÓbrega expressed it: "We want to congregate all those baptized and keep them separated from the rest." Through force of circumstances the missionaries were compelled to allow their charges to perform manual labor for the Portuguese, but they always strove to limit this concession and to shield their neophytes from whites and mestizos as far as possible. In the 17th and 18th centuries, the Jesuits and other religious established the aldeias far in the interior, at greater distances from white settlements, in order to protect their charges from more demoralization.

Aldeiamento was used particularly in Maranhão, Pará, Amazonas, and, farther south, in the São Paulo area. The system, which was relatively successful after 1680 and included as many as 60,000 people in the Amazon area, came to an abrupt end between 1755 and 1759 with the secularization of all missions by Pombal.

See Also: mission in colonial america, i (spanish missions).

Bibliography: s. leite, História da Companhia de Jesús no Brasil, 10 v. (Lisbon 193850). c. r. boxer, Race Relations in the Portuguese Colonial Empire, 14151825 (London 1963).

[m. c. kiemen]

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