Sunday, August 26, 2012

Vendetta in Pernambuco

Do you have a Hatfield or a Mccoy plot in your family tree? I do have on mine. I always post on this blog stories about my maternal lineage, from the Azores, but today I’m going to talk a little about my paternal lineage.

The mini-series “Hatfields & McCoys – Never Forgive, Never Forget”1 released a few months ago, at the History Channel, trace the saga of these two families and the bitterness that grew between them through the years after the Civil War. Kevin Costner and Bill Paxton are the patriarchs, Hatfield and McCoy, in this three mini-serie episodes.

What happened to the Hatfields and McCoys was not something that only took place in United States. “Eye for an eye” was a common expression and the “law” in Brazil during many years. "Vendetta” and “coronelismo”2­­ were part of the daily lives of many families in the northeast, especially in the XIX century. In 1840’s some families were living in constant peril, my family was one of them.

All the information you are about to read is based on the research I have been doing, on my free time, reading books and newspapers from that period, to say the least. It’s just a brief description of what happened between 1842/1843 and culminated with the murder of Antonio Francisco do Rego Barros, my 3x great grandfather owner of “Engenho Genipapo”, situated at Rio Formoso, Pernambuco, Brazil.

I’m not a scholar and my description has the only intent of being informative besides its genealogical nature, as my paternal side of the family was involved. To understand all that took place at my 3x great grandfather’s plantation I need to go further in my research and bring up more information.­­

Associate Professor of History, Jeffrey Mosher3, in his book Political Struggle, Ideology and State Building, describes the political situation that was taking place in the Province of Pernambuco between 1815 and 1850 and, briefly, describes the assassination of some members of my family, including my 3x great grandfather, Antonio Francisco do Rego Barros, at the Genipapo Estate. I also had the opportunity to read the Diário Novo4, newspaper of that time, and which describes the murder, extensively, and other crimes in that Province.

It all started in July 1842, when the interim police commissioner of Rio Formoso, Pedro Cavalcanti Uchoa, was murdered in the vicinities of my family plantation. A reaction was promptly ignited and attacks to the property and to some family members were just beginning.

“Wealth did not provide sure protection from crime. In July 1842 the interim police commissioner of Rio Formoso, Pedro Cavalcanti de Albuquerque Uchoa, was murdered near the Genipapo estate. In response, a group of armed men surrounded the plantation and killed a man they thought to be the murderer. On October 19, 1842, a group again surrounded the estate and proceeded to kill two individuals”5.

At some point, Antonio Francisco travelled to Ceará, that has a border with Pernambuco, and while he was there his sugar cane plantation “had been overrun several times, his crops burned and two of his nephews killed and another wounded”6. He decided to come back home, in January 1843, backed by armed men. His wife, Maria Marroquina de Jesus Nazareno, my 3x great grandmother was pregnant and almost giving birth. This baby was going to be their 10th children.

The animosities just grew in Rio Formoso, knowing that Antonio Francisco was back. On January 7, 1843, two days after their baby was born, the Genipapo Estate awake knowing that this wasn’t going to be a normal day, their lives were going to change forever.

“Antonio Francisco and his men were surrounded for twelve hours, until a local police official convinced them to accept an offer of reconciliation. When his armed men disbanded, Antonio Francisco’s house was broken into and he was chased out a window, shot on the roof, and after he fell to the ground, repeatedly shot in the stomach. The attackers mutilated the ears and cut the face of the corpse. The victim left a widow and ten children, including a baby born only two days before his murder.”7

The Police sent by the Province arrived less than an hour after the murder and was unable to do anything but help the widow and the children. My 3x great grandmother, Antonio Francisco’s wife, Maria Marroquina, moved to the Paraíba Province with all her children and later sold the Genipapo Estate.

Genipapo Estate Deed

Two of their children are in my direct ancestor line, my 2x great grandmother, Maria das Merces do Rego Barros, and my 2x great grandfather, Claudino do Rego Barros.  Maria das Merces do Rego Barros married  Antonio Ferreira Baltar;  Claudino do Rego Barros married Josepha Antonieta Vasconcellos, daughter of José Teixeira de Vasconcellos, Baron of Marau. Their children, as well as cousins, Antonio Ferreira Baltar Filho, on one side, and Amalia, on the other side, married on 18 April 1880, at Engenho Munguengue, Paraiba.

Claudino do Rego Barros, son of Antonio Francisco and my 2x great grandfather

Antonio Ferreira Baltar Filho, my great grandfather, studied at the first law school in Brazil, Faculdade de Direito do Recife, Pernambuco and became later in this carreer  a Chief of Justice and a High Court Judge, in Paraiba. Since them all is peace and part of history.

Desembargador Antonio Ferreira Baltar

P.S. A special thank you to my cousin and genealogist, Adauto Ramos, for my great grandfather photo as well as names and dates information on my father's side; and Fabio Arruda, genealogist and researcher of families and "engenhos" from the northeast of Brazil, who provided information on Genipapo Estate location and Deed. They are both members of Colegio Brasileiro de Genealogia -
  1. "Hatfieds and McCoys"
  2.  a word in Portuguese to express the power of the land owners in rural areas of Brazil..
  3.  Jeffrey Mosher
  4.  Newspaper research in Brazil -
  5.  Mosher, Jeffrey C. Political Struggle, Ideology and State Building – Pernambuco and the Construction of Brazil, 1817 – 1850. University of Nebraska Press. 2008. Page 126
  6.  Mosher, page 149.
  7.  Mosher, page 149
  8. History Magazine, May/June 2012
  9. Diario Novo. 1 Agosto 1842, 13 Janeiro 1843, 18 Janeiro 1843.