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«Social cleavages in the last Portuguese colonial empire Maria Eugénia Mata1 Abstract Social cohesion in the Portuguese colonial empire is approached ...»

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The “white” category would include people from Mainland Portugal or other European countries. Would it include people having a distant miscegenation? Very probably yes, while the “mestiços” included all mixed people, most probably those whose miscegenation was more recent and visible. The “negroes” group included native African people. Did it include mixed people also? This is a difficult question, as we know how variable its meaning is in current societies. If we compare the Brazilian meaning of “negro” or “mixed” with the prevailing meanings in the USA or in South Africa, a wide range of difference is obvious. “In fact, the word “mestizo” as it is used in Spanish America does not translate well into Portuguese, for in Portuguese a “mestiço” can be any mixture. In the case of Brazil, it can mean either a descendant of Indian-European parents or of 7 African-European parents”, says Nazzari, 2001.16 According to Telles, 1995, in Brazil “structural inequalities are particularly great between whites and non-whites compared to between browns and blacks”.17 The category of yellow was reserved, very probably, for people having a Chinese link, as their weight is almost absolute in classifications in the territory of Macau and very scarce in all other territories, thanks to a relatively low mobility among the territories before the colonial wars.

To what extent did this classification of “yellow” include mixed people? As the statistics for the territory of Macau value for “negros” and “mixed” people, this may mean that all the miscegenation with “yellows” was lumped into the same category of “yellow”. People from Timor or neighboring regions were classified as “Timorese”. Did this classification of “Timorese” include mixed people? Just as in Macau, the statistics refer to the presence of “mixed” (probably from blacks). So, very probably miscegenation with Timorese was considered in the group of “Timorese”. Anyway, if these were the used classifications they surely reflected the social divisions according to the mental background of those societies at that time. In one way or another, the use of these categories is unavoidable in this paper.

Fractionalization among these groups was quite different among the Portuguese colonial territories, as the table shows. In a brief summary one can see that white people never represented more than 2% of the total population. Numerically dominant categories are the natives of each territory: negros in Guinea, São Tomé and Príncipe, Angola and Mozambique; Indians in India;

Yellows in Macau, Timorese in Timor, and “mestiços” in Cape Verde, which is the territory showing the largest miscegenation, by far.

Another main conclusion can be drawn.. Among residents in Cape Verde there are no Asians (Indians, Yellows or Timorese). In Guinea there were no Indians and no “Timorese”. Negroes represented 99% of the population and miscegenation was very scarce. In the islands of São Tomé and Príncipe, miscegenation was significant: “Where miscegenation was practiced as a matter of Crown policy at an early date was in the island of São Tomé”.18 This archipelago was not inhabited when Portuguese navigators visited the two islands for the first time in the 15th century and tended to share the characteristics of the continental African colonies. Since the nineteenth century this colony had been devoted to farming for the production of cocoa, using Angolan labor force. As the return was not assured, miscegenation in the islands attained 7% of “mestiços” in 1950 and represented middle class and administrative services, while the white population, made up of landowners and senior staff of local government, was residual. In fact, these “somatic 8 groups” represented a real ethnic fractionalization in Portuguese colonial societies: “race (…) and class are not distinct realms of experience, existing in splendid isolation from each other”.19 As for the definition for “uncivilized”, it is said that it includes those “who preserve a traditional African culture”, while the “assimilated” are those “who totally or partially adopted a Western European culture”. In practice, only a small minority enjoyed civilized status in the Portuguese colonies. In 1950, figures amounted to 8,000 in Guinea (less than 2% of the population), 135,000 in Angola (less than 4% of the population), 93,000 in Mozambique (less than 2% of the population), 7,000 in Timor (less than 2% of the population). São Tomé and Príncipe was a partial exception with 43,000 civilized people (around 72% of the population). As pointed out above, there was no indigenous status in Cape Verde. The same was true in India and Macau, but most of the population did not live according to standard Portuguese law, as there were special regimes for Hindus in India and for Chinese people in Macau. The classification was therefore used for five territories (Guinea, São Tomé and Príncipe, Angola, Mozambique and Timor), but it did not apply to the other three colonial territories (Cape Verde, India, and Macau), where all people were considered “civilized” for statistical purposes. This was a general consensus in the Portuguese society of the time, as we can read: “(…) in India the designation of “indigenous” never applies, as this word is appropriate, in its technical-juridical meaning, to the backward populations of Angola, Mozambique and Guinea. In India there never were “indigenous”, under the legal meaning of the word; they are all citizens, even the most uncultivated”.20 Curiously, the same applied in British India. Indians were considered civilized. The community of mixed people from British/Indian parents, the so-called Anglo-Indians, was defined as “Statutory Natives of India” and “for defense and education were classified as European”.21 The mixed Anglo-Indian community of about 300,000 persons in the 1940s, 100% literate, was considered reliable, and people had access to the Indian Defense Force, for example. Sons of British fathers went freely into the “covenanted ranks of the British services and reached the highest positions of trust and responsibility” while 80% of nursing services were provided by Anglo-Indian women.22 In all Portuguese colonies the army recruited local soldiers. People from Cape Verde, India and Macau also had frequent access to the highest functions in the bureaucracy or in private activities, as some of them were even very eminent and erudite: Ministers, officers in the Army or the Navy, magistrates, professors in Universities, doctors, priests, scientists, and diplomats, 9 according to Godinho, 1954. There may be two reasons for this: high miscegenation or the hegemony of a different culture and civilization. The explanation related to the reason “miscegenation” applies more to Cape Verde. It was settled by a mixture of European colonists and African slaves, and became thereafter the main base for Portuguese contacts with the nearby coasts (Guinea proper and the Gulf of Guinea, respectively).23 Cape Verde developed a mixed population with its own language, a creole of Portuguese and Guinea languages and 70% of the “civilized” people were “mixed” people. A higher level of education prevailed in the islands of Cape Verde as well. Cape Verdians mostly occupied the available administrative positions in their islands, in Guinea and in other African territories.





The reasons related to the dominance of different civilization and cultures apply much more to Portuguese India and Macau. People from India and Macau were respected because of the sophistication of the Indian and Chinese civilizations, respectively, and their role on mentalities in these territories. In Goa and Macau, an elite comprising people of European origin and natives who had converted to Christianity, formed the dominant social stratum and manned the administration of the other Indian territories and Timor. The bulk of the population remained linked to Hindu, Chinese and Timorese cultural traditions and languages (Concani, Cantonese and Tetum, respectively).

While in São Tomé and Príncipe 72% of the population was considered “civilized” in Portuguese statistics, in Guinea, Angola, Mozambique and Timor only 2 to 3% of the population was counted as such.

For a better understanding of the “civilized” category, educational levels should be considered, too. Crossed classifications with educational levels are too scarce. Only for two colonies – Guinea, and Mozambique – can one find information on education for the total population. However, it is not enough to conclude that choking asymmetric levels of literacy existed in these two colonies, and a very small number of graduated people lived there (as table 2D shows).

–  –  –

It would be desirable to have details on the educational levels of each “somatic group”.

Unfortunately, data on education for Portuguese colonies is not disaggregated according to the “somatic groups”. Curiously, only for the white people, can one find educational information (including the territory of Macau), which must be for one of two possible reasons: 1- All categories of literate people were related with “white” people; 2- Inquiring difficulties or racial prejudice hampered the collection of statistics in the Portuguese Empire.

The first hypothesis is not true, although values certainly would be very low for some other somatic groups, particularly for blacks (“negros”). The second explanation must, therefore, apply.

The two territories of continental Africa - Guinea and Mozambique - had developed in the late 19 th century from trade factories established on the coast in the 15 th or 16th centuries. Although in both of them the bulk of the population remained linked to traditional culture and languages, the presence of large private companies in Mozambique may explain the stronger connection to markets and literacy. A small elite of European, Cape Verdian (in the territories of West Africa, especially in Guinea), and Goese (in Mozambique) origin joined the dominant social stratum and manned the administration.

–  –  –

Marriage as an indicator of social cleavages According to Stoler 1997 “Imperial discourses that divide colonizer from colonized, metropolitan observers from colonial agents, and bourgeois colonizers from their subaltern compatriots designated certain cultural competencies, sexual proclivities, psychological dispositions, and cultivated habits. These in turn defined the hidden fault lines (…) along which gendered assessments of class and racial membership were drawn”.24 Fractionalization meant social fragmentation, even where institutions tried to overcome conflicts or at least mitigate cleavages.25 Law is a very important institution to address potential social conflicts. However, whatever may be the juridical background to settle existing conflicts social fractionalization may continue if people do not accept differences in everyday life. Literature from economics also stresses how different groups, particularly ethnic groups, may have different preferences regarding which type of public goods to produce in a society.26 In fact, for a given public good, each ethnic group’s utility level seems to drop whenever other ethnic groups also use it. Such a situation introduces considerable difficulties for public choice in economics and much indecision for government and political or administrative authorities. This argument has been used to explain how ethnic division in the African continent can explain such great difficulties in determining a safe economic growth path in present days.27 The more mixed a society is, the fewer effects of this kind will occur. Miscegenation is an excellent way of getting a larger social (and political) consensus. Social (and political consensus) are, therefore, conditions for economic efficiency, economic growth, development and peace and miscegenation contributes toward reducing social tensions.

A large amount of miscegenation in divided societies occurs spontaneously and depends on cultural and moral factors. Portuguese historical experiences in colonization were always strongly marked by miscegenation. The foremost example of miscegenation is the case of the Brazilian empire, which lasted until the independence of this colony in 1822.28 Sometimes miscegenation is 12 not based on marriage, but on personal relationships having no legal recognition. This seems to be the case of the first Luso-Africans in Angola, according to Miller 1988.29 If, however, a fragmented society experiences a large amount of heterogamy, coalitions’ membership is reinforced between the participant groups in mixed marriages. This paper accepts marriage, a special institution, as a very safe solution for attaining social cohesion.. “Anyone (…) knows that marriage is a legal creation.”30 Moreover, mixed marriage is a very special institution for this aim.31 It is possible to say that sharing public spaces, attending the same schools, applying to the same jobs are good examples of racial sociability. However, the ready example of affability comes from mixed marriages, because of family links of blood among different social/ethnic groups. Violent confrontation among ethnic lines may be prevented, because ethnic cleavages break down. Not only do mixed marriages mean miscegenation, but also strong personal ties of solidarity and love.



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