The panel of the session "Quilombos and maroons of the Americas" XXXVIII International Americanistic Studies Congress. Perugia (Italy). May 2016. Picture by Circolo Amerindiano

Interesting issues emerged in the session Quilombos and maroons of the Americas

The session Quilombos and maroons of the Americas: mirror of differences held at the XXXVIII International Americanistic Studies Congress was very good. The panelists’ contributions were diverse and complementary and shed light on different facets of the matter, with different approach and point of view.

I summarize here some of the most interesting issues emerged in the session. What follows is drawn from the panelists speeches, but it’s my personal re-interpretation and thus it doesn’t express the view or the opinion of the panelists themselves 1.

1) The Brazilian Government stance toward the quilombola issue is insufficient: the pace of the quilombo recognition is too slow, too few quilombo gained the land title from the time where this law was established (three of four paper were about Brazilian quilombo; this point refers to Brasil, while the other one also to maroons in other Latin American countries) 2.

2) The people who recognise themselves as indio, or quilombola, or one of the the different kind of “traditional peoples” (povos tradicionais), do not feel fitting “strictly” in this definition (as the law states and sometime the academic characterization wants). In fact, historically, and even today, there is a circulation between these different categories, and many people think to belong to more than one of these ones. That doesn’t means that these categories are insignificant os specious, but that could be useful, both in the research and in the policies, to take account of the very permeable boundaries, and the intertwining of these sets.

3) The dialogue between research on the contemporary and on the historical quilombo could shed new light in both the fields. This is not true in the most predictable form of cooperation: finding the historical roots of the contemporary quilombo, because in most of the cases the ancient traces of the historical quilombo were wiped out by emargination, displacement, migration. On the contrary, the relation between the two field of research could focus on comparison; indeed, many issues at stake in the ancient quilombo are also present in the contemporary ones, as, for example, the conflict and the intertwining with indigenous people.

4) The relationship between quilombola, on one part, and the black movement, on the other, is a complex one. Most quilombola doesn’t identify themselves with the black movement – or event they aren’t fully aware of it; at the same time, the black movement, although it recognises the quilombola to be part of a common root, it reproaches them the moderation and the non identification to some cultural standards.

  1. Some or all of the paper presented will be published in the proceedings of the Congress.
  2. The new government, lead by the interim president Michel Temer, will be very likely significantly worse than the previous one. For example, the quilombo matters will be in charge of the Ministry of Culture, with far less relevance than within the Instituto Nacional de Colonizaçao Agraria (the body in charge of the land matters); the Ministry of Culture, José Mendonça Bezerra Filho, belongs to the DEM party, traditionally adverse to quilombola territory recognition. Beside that, the new government abolished the Ministério das Mulheres, da Igualdade Racial e dos Direitos Humanos (Ministry of Women, Racial Equality and Human Rights).

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