Curtin, Philip D.; Lovejoy, Paul E. / Africans in bondage: studies in slavery and the slave trade : essays in honor of Philip D. Curtin on the occasion of the twenty-fifth anniversary of African Studies at the University of Wisconsin
Chapter 6: Anastácia and the slave women of Rio de Janeiro, pp. -105 ff.
MARY KARASCH The Anasticias of Rio The slave women of Rio were not a uniform group. Their diverse ages, nationalities, and colors affected their treat- ment, status, and roles. The census of 1849 shows that more than half (57.3 percent) of the slave women had been born in Africa.4 Although the Mina women of West Africa fascinated European visitors, less than ten percent of Rio's Africans were West Africans. Instead, two-thirds of them came from the vast region of West Central Africa, now comprising the countries of Gabon, Congo, Zaire, and Angola. Another 15-25 percent, depending on the period, were from East Africa, largely Mozambique (Karasch 1987: Ch. 1). Brazilian-born slave women were usually distinguished by color. They were either black, parda or mulata, or cabra.5 If they came from other regions of Brazil, they were also iden- tified by their province of origin, such as parda da Bahia, Bahian mulatto woman. The typical Brazilian-born slave woman living in Rio was likely to be black and born in the city or elsewhere in the province of Rio de Janeiro. Another important factor was age. Most African females were young girls, teenagers, or young women, when they first arrived,'while all age groups were represented among those born in Brazil. Eleven percent of the newly imported African females were nine years old or younger, while almost two-thirds were between ten and nineteen (Table 4.1). Only about one- quarter were above the age of twenty. These African girls endured the trauma of the trek to the African coast, the infamous middle passage, and the exhibition and sale of their persons, often while nude, in the slave market. On the whole, they were younger than a comparable group of male slaves. One-fifth of African females, based on a life span sample that recorded dates of arrival and of death of 250 African females in Rio, died within three years of arrival. The seasoning process apparently affected males and females equally, since one-fifth of the males also died during that time period. After that life expectancy for males and females diverged. Within nine years 20.8 percent of the females had died as opposed to 15.5 percent of the males (Karasch 1987: Table 4.5). Since African girls were imported at younger ages than African males, it may be that a higher percentage of females died because of complications due to pregnancy and childbirth or because they received worse treatment than males. Tuberculosis also appears to have been a significant factor. According to data from the Santa Casa da Misericdrdia, which assumed responsibility for the burial of many Brazilian- born and African-born slaves, female slaves tended to die younger than males - 54.2 percent of females were under age nine, as opposed to 33.4 percent of males. These figures accord well with another sample from Rio, in which 56 percent 80
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