“Freyre and others maintain that there was considerable miscegenation between the Portuguese and the Moors and Jews which reputedly resulted in a Portuguese tolerance of, even preference for, dark complexioned women. This miscegenation, however, may have been more common during the Moorish occupation. Unquestionably the most peaceful and tolerant relations between the Portuguese, Moors, and Jews transpired under the Moorish rule of Portugal.”

“Ironically, Portugal manifested its most intolerant and brutal behavior towards its own ‘infidels’ at the very time the Portuguese were meeting and colonizing the African and Indian ‘infidels’. In fact, prior to the end of the Inquisition in 1769, Jews, Moors, and Negroes were frequently referred to in official documents as racas infectadas (infected races).”

“If there was a legacy of amicability among the Portuguese towards the Moors after seven centuries of contact in Iberia, it was not apparent in their relations with the Moors they encountered in Africa. Beginning with the conquest of the Moroccan coast town of Ceuta in 1415 and until the middle of the eighteenth century, Portugal was engaged in almost constant warfare with the Moors. At times these battles reached the proportion of a holy crusade; personal accounts of some of the battles reveal that the Portuguese soldiers often made no distinction between combatants and civilians since none of the infidels was deemed worthy of human consideration.”

 “A richly detailed narration of these voyages by Henry’s personal chronicler, Gomes Eanes de Azurara, recounts the initiation of the African slave trade with the exons of Antao Goncalvez and Nuno Tristao to Senegal in 1441 and 1442 respectively. By 1446 there were nearly a thousand African slaves in Portugal. Azurara, who witnessed the return of many of the early slave ships, described the anguish which overcame the Africans as families and friends were separated indiscriminately, ‘faces bathed in tears…[while] others struck their faces with the palms of their hands, throwing themselves upon the ground.”

 “Slavery, however, was not the only objective of the Portuguese explorations. They also sought minerals, ivory, spices, and souls as they searched for a land or sea route to the fabled riches of the Orient. Their experience in the Maghreb provided them with important knowledge which fed these ambitions: they learned of gold on the Guinea coast which was beyond the control of their Muslims enemies, and of Arab navigation on the East African coast, confirming that the continent was surrounded by water.”

 “By 1471 Portuguese sailors had arrived in Ghana and found it so rich in gold that a decade later they built their first fort in West Africa (Elmina), in order to deter other European explorers from following in their wake. Another fort was built at Benin (Nigeria), where Portugal found not only more wealth but a well-developed kingdom which greatly impressed the crown. The Portuguese and Benin kings exchanged gifts and diplomatic missions and the latter’s son even adopted Christianity. Further down the coast, along the northern frontiers of Angola, the Portuguese encountered in 1482 the undisputed leader among the coastal states of Central Africa–the vast Kongo Kingdom. In a letter directred to Joao III (1526) Afonso wrote, ‘there are many traders in all corners of the country. They bring ruin to the country. Everday people are enslaved and kidnapped, even nobles, even members of the King’s own family.” 

“Portugal, the native inhabitants of Portugal were influenced and shaped by a variety of cultural, ethnic, racial and religious groups. From the arrival of the Phoenicians in the eighth century BC until the final expulsion of the Moors in the thirteenth century AD, the Iberian tribes absorbed at least seven major civilizations including the Greeks, Celts, Carthaginians, Romans, Visigoths, and Moors. Each left an indelible mark on the emerging Portuguese society.”

“Unfortunately, there is scanty information concerning miscegenation in Portugal during the period when blacks formed a part of its population. In fact, most histories of Portugal contain little more than passing references to the presence of African slaves. Yet, African slaves constituted an important segment of Portuguese society, being an integral part of the labor force, for more than three centuries–long than the period of slavery in the United States.”

“In a 1533 letter written from Evora, a Flemish priest wrote, undoubtedly exaggerating that ‘slaves were swarming all over. All the work is done by captive blacks and Moors. Portugal is being glutted with this race. I’m beginning to believe that the slaves in Lisbon outnumber the Portuguese. Actually, from about the middle of the sixteenth century until at least 1620 approximately 10 percent of Lisbon’s 100,000 inhabitants were Africans.”

“Although slavery was abolished in Portugal (not in the colonies in 1761, as late as the mid-nineteenth century Lichnowsky reported seeing ‘thousands of blacks on the streets in Lisbon’, noting that they were not treated as men by the Portuguese ‘but as an inferior race of domestic animals’.”

 Source: Angola Under the Portuguese: The Myth and the Reality By Gerald J. Bender


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