US Civil War marked way down south of Dixie


It had all the trap­pings of a down­home coun­try fair some­where well be­low the Ma­son-Dixon line: Lynyrd Skynyrd med­leys, mile-long lines for fried chicken, bar­be­cue and draft beer, and a plethora of Con­fed­er­ate flags em­bla­zon­ing ev­ery­thing from belt buck­les to mo­tor­cy­cle vests to trucker caps.

But Sun­day’s party mark­ing the 150th an­niver­sary of the end of the Amer­i­can Civil War took place about 5,000 miles (8,000 kilo­me­ters) south of the South, in a ru­ral Brazil­ian town col­o­nized by fam­i­lies flee­ing Re­con­struc­tion.

For many of the res­i­dents of Santa Bar­bara d’Oeste and neigh­bor­ing Amer­i­cana in Brazil’s south­east­ern Sao Paulo state, hav­ing Con­fed­er­ate an­ces­try is a point of pride that’s cel­e­brated in high style at the an­nual “Festa dos Con­fed­er­a­dos,” or “Con­fed­er­ates Party” in Por­tuguese.

Thou­sands turn out ev­ery year, in­clud­ing many who trace their an­ces­try back to the dozens of fam­i­lies who, en­ticed by the Brazil­ian gov­ern­ment’s of­fers of land grants, set­tled here from 1865 to around 1875. They’re joined by coun­try mu­sic en­thu­si­asts, his­tory buffs and lo­cals with a han­ker­ing for buttermilk bis­cuits or a fond­ness for “The Dukes of Haz­zard.”

“I don’t speak English and the only place I’ve been to in the U.S. is Dis­ney­world, but I feel the her­itage,” said 77-year-old Al­cina Tan­ner Coltre, whose great-great-grand­par­ents mi­grated from Mis­sis­sippi along with their 15-year-old son. “My great-grand­fa­ther mar­ried a Brazil­ian woman, so he in­te­grated into Brazil­ian cul­ture pretty quickly, but it’s re­ally im­por­tant to me to come out ev­ery year to re­mem­ber where we come from.”

The party takes place up a dusty dirt road flanked on both sides by sug­ar­cane plan­ta­tions, in a field that abuts on the “Cemi­te­rio dos Amer­i­canos,” or “Amer­i­can Ceme­tery,” which be­gan as the rest­ing place of the wife and two daugh­ters of one of the first Con­fed­er­a­dos and still serves their descen­dants to­day.

Amid food and beer stands bedecked with red-white-and-blue rib­bons, ex­tended fam­i­lies tucked into diet-bust­ing bar­be­cue and ham­burger lunches as “Dixie” played on a loop. Teenage girls pulled hoop skirts over their cut-off short-shorts and wig­gled into bustier tops, tak­ing to the stage painted with a gi­ant Con­fed­er­ate flag on the arms of young men in grey and yel­low Johnny Reb uni­forms. The pairs solemnly pre­sented the flags of the 13 Con­fed­er­ate states and square danced to rau­cous fid­dle mu­sic.


A man walks in a ceme­tery where South­ern U.S. im­mi­grants are buried in tombs adorned with the con­fed­er­ate flag, dur­ing a party to cel­e­brate the 150th an­niver­sary of the end of the Amer­i­can Civil War in Santa Bar­bara d’Oeste on Brazil, Sun­day, April 26.

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