Escaped slaves in Brazil created thousands of hidden societies, or quilombos, in the heart of the country. Today these communities are winning rights to their land.
The history of slavery in Brazil is as epic, tragic, and even more long lasting than in the United States. The Portuguese forcibly imported more than 4 million Africans, 40 percent of the total slaves brought to the Americas. Slaves hands built Brazil. And it didn't end until 1888, well after the United States.
Quilombo means “settlement” in the Angolan language of Kimbundu. Anywhere there was slavery, there were runaways. The slaves would escape near or far and group together, often with the help of the indigenous populations and form quilombos.
A clause in the Brazilian constitution of 1988 granted descendants of quilombos title to their land- thousands of Afro-Brazilian communities have laid claim to their traditional lands. The amount of land this represents is equal to about the size of the country of Italy within Brazil.