The King of the Bailundo Kingdom in Angola visited a community descended from self-escaped slaves on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro on Wednesday (Nov. 08) as part of a trip to Brazil that began three weeks ago.
Residents danced and chanted in the Quilombo do Camorim as they welcomed King Tchongolola Tchongonga Ekuikui VI from Angola, where many of the residents trace their ancestry.
Camorim dates back to 1614 when it would have been forested land and is the area's oldest “quilombo,” or community of escaped slaves. Nearly 100 people live there today, maintaining their traditional religion, medicinal plants and an archeological site.
They celebrated the visit of the King who kicked off a Brazil trip during whih he's met with the Angolan diaspora.
"Receiving the visit of the King reminds us of this glorious and pretty past, we are not slaves, we were enslaved, descendent of kings and queens, and we have this in our veins," biologist and nurse Marilene Lopes de Jesus said.
"For me, he brings hope for the unity of our people because for a long time we were disjointed and disunited. And with the presence of the King saying that we are all part of the same family, that we are kings and queens, descendants of kings and queens, this strengthens us for our everyday fight," student Erik da Silva Santos doubled down.
King Ekuikui VI is his nation’s most important king, representing the largest Angolan ethnic group the Ovimbundu peoples. While Bailundo is a non-sovereign kingdom, he holds political importance and is often consulted by Angolan authorities.
On Tuesday (Nov. 07), the king visited Rio's Valongo Wharf, a UNESCO world heritage site where as many as 900-thousand slaves made landfall after crossing the Atlantic Ocean, considered “the most important physical trace of the arrival of African slaves on the American continent.”
Of the 10.5 million Africans who were captured, more than a third disembarked in Brazil, according to the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database. Some experts place that number higher, saying as many as five million Africans landed in the country.
And Brazil was the last country in the Western Hemisphere to abolish slavery in 1888. The communities of formerly enslaved people persisted, but it was not until a century later that a new constitution recognized their right to the lands they occupied.
Brazil’s most-recent census found quilombos in almost 1,700 municipalities; they are home to 1.3 million people, in a country of about 203 million people.