Log in
updated 2:54 PM CDT, Jul 28, 2018

FlynnsHarp logo 042016

Event marks 150th anniversary of Confederate emigration to Brazil

Event marks 150th anniversary of Confederate emigration to Brazil
96 Normal 0 false false false EN-US X-NONE X-NONE

Removals of Robert E. Lee's statue in New Orleans and a Confederate monument in Louisville were designed to pluck from prominent display the symbols of that dark chapter of American history represented by the War Between the States over slavery. Meanwhile, a hemisphere away, descendants of Confederates who emigrated to Brazil after the Civil War were celebrating the 150th anniversary of the arrival of their ancestors in what would be their new country.

Perhaps proving that history is too complex to be rewritten or expunged, the celebratory gathering of some 2,600 confederate descendants at their annual picnic at Cemeterio do Campo, the cemetery where hundreds of "Confederados" are buried, included the continuing honoring of their flag, the Stars and Bars.Gary and Rose Neeleman with their book on Brazilian Confederates

The story of the Confederates, hailing mostly from Georgia, Alabama and Texas but with every state represented and amounting to the largest emigration in U.S. history, doesn't get attention in books on American history.

And the fact that the more than 20,000 southerners wanted to preserve the ways of the unreconstructed South, but didn't wish to bring with them the institution of Slavery, may merit some interest from historians unless the effort that some see as seeking to sanitize history is successful.

However, My friend Gary Neeleman, who with his wife, Rose, was at the cemetery for the 150th event, has published the definitive story of that slice of American history and was there to take orders for his book, recently published in Portuguese but with discussions under way with a U.S. publisher for an English version.

The title's English translation, "The Migration of the Confederates to Brazil: Stars and Bars Under the Southern Cross," is the account of how Brazilian Emperor Don Pedeo II successfully sought to attract the Southerners who didn't wish to be restored to U.S. citizenry.

The Brazilian government set up informational agencies across the Bible Belt and offered to pay relocation costs for all Americans willing to make the move. The first arrivers were met at the dock by the Emperor, who welcomed them to their new home.

The emperor's goal was to plant the seeds of Brazilian prosperity, including creating a cotton industry, by importing the self-exiling Southerners, who settled southwest of Sao Paulo in two communities a couple of miles apart, Americana and Santa Bárbara d'Oeste.

Neeleman, a longtime colleague at UPI and a friend of 45 years, who has been the subject of several Harps over the years, first visited the cemetery in 1963 as UPI's Brazil manager. The idea for a book began to take shape on that first visit.

Neeleman, now a robust 82, has made more than a dozen trips to the cemetery since then, often with Rose, as they gathered information from descendants and collected photos from them.

Because of his close ties to Brazil, and his official role as Brazilian Consul in Salt Lake City, Neeleman is sometimes asked to take guests to the annual gathering at the cemetery.

Thus a few years ago, he escorted former president Jimmy Carter and his wife, Roselyn, and presidential press secretary Jody Powell and told me, "It touched your heart to see their tears as they looked over the Georgia graves and 'Dixie' was played."

"That first time I visited the cemetery, driving out in my '49 Hudson Hornet, I was shocked at the extent to which these people were still entrenched with their history," he recalled.

"The stars and bars of the Confederate battle flag is visible everywhere but it's important to know that wasn't the flag of the Confederacy. Rather they look upon the flag that was carried into battle during the civil war as the symbol of their states' rights," he added.

Among the interesting bits of information in Neeleman's book is that not only did those descendants reject the opportunity to have slaves in Brazil, where slavery remained prominent at the time, but at least one former slave came along.

"A black woman named Sylvia, a free woman, insisted she wanted to remain with the family for which she had been a slave and so she accompanied them to Brazil," Neeleman said.

Neeleman details the contributions the Confederate descendants made to their new nation, including helping make Brazil a leading cotton exporter, as the emperor had hoped.

"MacKenzie College was founded by the confederates in Sao Paulo and, with five campuses around the country, it is one of the top colleges in Latin America," he said.

"And a second-generation Confederate founded the big hospital in Sao Paulo, Samaritano Hospital, where three of our kids were born," he added. One of those was David, who founded Jet Blue and is now CEO of Azul, one of the largest airlines in Brazil.

"People in the United States consider that Confederate battle flag the symbol of slavery but for these people, it's a symbol of their ancestors' way of life," Neeleman said, noting that "not only are the flags prominently displayed on the graves, but some insist their caskets be wrapped in the flag."

The highlight of this 150th anniversary picnic, Neeleman told me, was when the American and Brazilian flags were raised, along with the Stars and Bars, over the gathering of some 2,600 attendees, and the "Star Spangled Banner" was played along with "Dixie." A parade included the great great grandchildren of the original southerners carrying the flags of the 13 states of the confederacy.

Perhaps to touch lightly on the effort to expunge things Confederate from U.S. awareness, Neeleman observed that when the band at the cemetery struck up Dixie, "it was reminiscent of when Abraham Lincoln faced the crowds after the victory of the North over the South, and people thought he was going to give a victory speech. Instead he turned to the band and ask them to play Dixie."

The visit to the cemetery was part of a challenging week for the Neelemans, with three stops in Brazil to promote the book on the Confederates and a trip back home to UCLA to be recognized by the Brazilian studies department for his third book, Rubber Soldiers, just published this month in English about Brazil's key role in World War II (see Flynn's Harp: Rubber Soldiers).

96 Normal 0 false false false EN-US X-NONE X-NONE

"Even some of the people from Brazil studying there said they hadn't been aware of the role their nation played, in sending thousands of their countrymen into the jungles to restore the rubber harvest to producet the rubber without which the allies might not have been able to wage war against the Axis powers," Neeleman told me.

Continue reading
  1694 Hits
  0 Comments
1694 Hits
0 Comments

Confederate 'stars and bars' remains honored in Brazil where southerns migrated after war

As the battle rages over the future visibility role, if any, for the flag of the confederacy, one place the stars and bars will remain honored and celebrated is in Brazil, where Confederates created colonies after the Civil War at the invitation of the Brazilian emperor and proceeded to make a lasting mark on that nation's culture.  

That little-known Civil War chapter is the subject of a book by one of my closest friends, Gary Neeleman, that is to be published in Brazil in Portuguese before year end and negotiations are proceeding to have it published soon thereafter in English in the United States.

When published in English, the book could be a timely addition to the current discussion, including both the legitimate effort to minimize future display of the Confederate battle flag and the less logical disparagement of Confederate heroes like Robert E. Lee and anything relating to the citizens of the Confederacy.

Neeleman's

Gary and Rose Neeleman

research over the past 40 years through aged documents, old letters and newspaper clips brings him to conclude that history not racial hatred, pride not prejudice, were the driving force for those who migrated to Brazil rather than again become part of the United States.

 

My friendship with Neeleman, 81, extends back more than 40 years, beginning with our more than a decade as executives at United Press International. And I've been struck by his perpetual zeal to evangelize "the spiritual link between the United States and Brazil."

 

While a focus of this column is on Neeleman's book on the Confederate migration, because of its timeliness, the column is really more about the journalist who built a lifelong love affair with Brazil and its people and has left his imprint on the nation, where his contributions will be honored in a few weeks in San Paulo.

But to first finish the story of the Confederates, obviously, no slaves accompanied the some 7,000 "Confederado" families in the 1866 migration, in which they were personally greeted by Emperor Dom Pedro II upon their arrival in their new home. But interestingly, the southerners avoided acquiring slaves in Brazil, a country where slaves were more common at that time than in virtually any country in the world.  

Neeleman notes that when leaders of the more than 20,000 southerners who founded two communities in Brazil were asked about the fact they didn't have slaves, they replied that they no longer wanted to own people but preferred to employ them "so we can fire them if they don't do their job."

The southerners, many of them from the most important and prominent families in the southern part of the United States, established the cities of Americana and Santa Barbara do Este.

And, as Neeleman notes, for 150 years the descendants of those Confederate communities have gathered annually to celebrate their heritage at the Cemetario de Campo, the old cemetery where about 2,000 Confederate soldiers and their families have been buried. And the Stars and Bars that were the Confederate Battle Flag were and have remained highly visible there, some Confederates actually being buried wrapped in the flag. 

He recalls the year he was asked to help arrange for former President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, as well as aide Jody Powell to attend the Confederate picnic at the cemetery and how "they sat at the cemetery, sang Dixie and all three had tears streaming down their faces."

 

"That portion of American history and the stories of the 'Confederadoes' are lost in a linguistic tomb because Portuguese is a barrier to entry for those seeking to explore history," explains Neeleman. who hopes those stories in English will bring a closer look in this country at that history.

 

Neeleman routinely refers to "the two giants of the Western Hemisphere" and his research on Brazil and its people has actually resulted in not just a book on the Confederate but also two other books that emphasize the ties between the two nations.

 

One already published, "Tracks in the Amazon," details the construction of a railroad through the jungle, at a cost of thousands of lives, to bring goods from Bolivia, down the Amazon to the coast. The other book tells the also little-known story of how Brazilian rubber saved the allied war effort in World War II after Japanese victories in the South Pacific captured the Indonesian rubber fields that represented about 98 percent of the world's rubber production at that time. Restoring brazilian rubber production  was vital to the Allied success. 

 

It was in the early '60s that UPI plucked Neeleman, as a young reporter from Salt Lake City, and sent him to Brazil, where he had learned Portuguese as a young Mormon missionary. His regard for Brazil and Brazilians developed quickly and three of his seven children were born there, including David, whose launch of Azul as his third airline, following Morris Air and Jet Blue, has resulted in the fastest-growing carrier in Brazil.

 

During the 1963 Pan American Games in San Paulo, Neeleman recalled being struck by the conduct of U.S. athletes who played what he described as "the Ugly Americans," overwhelmingly defeating their South American opponents and treating them with disdain following the competition.

 

"I made up my mind right there that I would someday do something about that attitude," Neeleman told me. And so he did when, after returning to Salt lake City, he called upon the close-knit Utah coaches to help him put together a college basketball post-season tour of South America.  

 

That tour, with Neeleman acting as scheduler, accommodations arranger and bag-boy, became an NCAA post-season fixture and Neeleman became a regular luncheon speaker each year at the NCAA tournament.

 

Gary and Rose travel to Brazil about three times a year and when they're not traveling on personal or client business, or traveling to the Brazilian back country as part of their research for his books, he's doing Brazil's business as honorary counsel in Salt Lake City.

 

His next trip will be in September, when Neeleman will receive an unusual honor as the fourth recipient of an award whose English translation is Citizen of San Paulo. Others who preceded him as recipients of the honor named for the State of San Paulo were the Pope, the Dalai Lama and the founder of the Mormon Church in Brazil. Add Neeleman to the list.

Continue reading
  1551 Hits
  0 Comments
1551 Hits
0 Comments

Confederates' "dixie" transplant in Brazil is lost chapter in the saga of the Civil War

The least-known yet most compelling chapter of the Civil War saga may well be the story of the thousands of Confederates who refused to come back into the Union after 1865, opting instead to create a new "Dixie" in Brazil.

 

That portion of American history and the stories of the "Confederadoes" who carved out new colonies in Brazil "are lost in a linguistic tomb because Portuguese is a barrier to entry for those seeking to explore history," explains Gary Neeleman.

 

He and his wife, Rose, have completed the most thorough history of that story and turned it over to a Brazilian publisher. His hope is that "Stars and Bars Under the Southern Cross: Confederate Migration to Brazil" will soon be published in English as well and be available for U.S. distribution.

 

I write about Neeleman, 78, and his book because, as a 40-year friend and a colleague at United Press International for half of those years, I've been struck by his perpetual zeal to evangelize on what he describes as "the spiritual link between the United States and Brazil, the two giants of the Western Hemisphere."

 

"It's even called the United States of Brazil and the whole constitutional structure of the nation is intentionally patterned after the U.S.," says Neeleman of his love affair with two countries. "And the Brazilian people have always viewed themselves as friends of America."

 

It's a spiritual cause, second only to his Mormon faith, that began when he was UPI's manager in Brazil, a country where three of his seven children were born and where one of those Brazilian born, David, has started his third airline, Azul, the fastest-growing carrier in Brazil.

 

The fact he had learned Portuguese as a youthful Mormon missionary prompted UPI to pluck Neeleman from Salt Lake City in the early '60s and send him to Brazil. It was there, almost 50 years ago, that he met a blond-haired blue-eyed young Brazilian woman with a soft southern accent. She was on an LDS mission at the time.

 

"I was sure she was probably from Georgia, but asked her where in the South she was from," Neeleman recalls. "The southern accent came through even in Portuguese and when she told me she had never been to the South, I was blown away."

 

Through her he learned about the Confederates in Brazil, including the Fraternity of Confederate Descendants, whose annual picnic at Campo Cemetery, between the Confederate-established towns of Americano and Santa Barbara, draws up to 1,500 people. The cemetery, which has about 1,000 Confederates graves, has a 25-foot granite obelisk, emblazoned with a Confederate flag, that lists names from Ayees to Yancee. And Americana's city crest incorporates the Confederate battle flag.

 

Neeleman, whose consulting clients include media companies in Brazil, Sweden and Japan, as well as the Washington Post, will be attending next month's gathering of the Confederate descendants at the cemetery.

 

When he's not traveling with Rose on personal oir client business, he's doing Brazil' business as honorary counsel in Salt Lake City, as with his current effort helping the Utah Governor's office with a trade mission to Brazil.

 

After years of gathering historical data and personal recollections, Neeleman wrote his first book in 1985, a fictional account of the Brazilian Confederates titled "Farewell my South." 

 

"But more than 25 years since then, having more accumulated data than any living person, I realized that if something happened to me, all my research would go with me, so Rose and I said to each other: 'let's get it done,'" Neeleman said.

 

The book about the Confederates is one of three he has written about Brazil and its ties to the U.S. A soon-to-be-published one deals with the ties that allowed the U.S. and its allies to tap the Amazon rubber trees as the only rubber not controlled by Japan.

 

"If it hadn't been for Brazilian rubber in World War II, we would not have been able to wage the war and would have lost," Neeleman said.

 

He recalls the year he was asked to help arrange for former President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, as well as aide Jody Powell to attend the Confederate picnic and how "they sat at the cemetery, sang Dixie and all three had tears streaming down their faces."

 

Neeleman explained to me, "Brazil's Emperor Dom Pedro II set out to convince the Confederates to move to his country in the hope they would help establish a cotton industry in Brazil, which the Southerners proceeded to do."

 

Dom Pedro had offered subsidized passage and land with rich, red soil like Georgia's for 22 cents an acre. He was intent on making Brazil a major player in world agriculture, and his investment paid off.

 

The Confederates employed their technology and established the cotton industry, but also brought a focus on education, with the major law school and the hospital where the Neelemans' children were born established by a grandson of one of the Confederates.

 

"Although Brazil was a Catholic country, and Dom Pedro was Catholic, he was also a Mason and the Confederates set up Masonic lodges under his direction," Neeleman noted. "They thus legitimized the Masonic movement in Brazil."

 

As Neeleman wrote in the prologue to his book, "The young emperor correctly reasoned that these talented, but shattered people could rise again in a new land - his land - and while doing so, provide Brazil with much-needed technology and cultural development."

 

"The results of his efforts produced the only reverse migration in American history, and established a spiritual link between the two young hemispheric giants that only a very few today know exists."

Continue reading
  1698 Hits
  0 Comments
1698 Hits
0 Comments

52°F

Seattle

Mostly Cloudy

Humidity: 63%

Wind: 14 mph

  • 24 Mar 2016 52°F 42°F
  • 25 Mar 2016 54°F 40°F
Banner 468 x 60 px