While the latest media-driven culture-war frenzy leaves America doubled over in agony about the Confederate battle flag, the path of tolerance and historical memory is much easier in the Brazilian town of Santa Barbara D’Oeste, where regular events bring together descendants of some ten thousand Confederates, seven generations removed, for what the BBC describes as “a sort of family reunion.”
“They all take part in stereotypically southern things like square dances, eating fried chicken and biscuits, and listening to George Strait. And a lot of Confederate flags everywhere, all over the place,” explains Reuters correspondent Asher Levine.
Brazilians living in Santa Barbara D’Oeste “still maintain strong ties to Southern culture,” according to Levine, viewing themselves as “ethnically American to some degree” and waving the Confederate flag as a symbol of pride during their festivals, which are held several times each year, in much the same way Irish flags are waved on St. Patrick’s Day.
The result is a smooth blend of ethnic and cultural assimilation, including an inter-generational mix of white Southerners and Brazilians, dancing in period uniforms and dresses. “A lot of people who are descendants of these confederates have African blood as well, so you’ll see at the party people with dark skin waving the Confederate flag,” said Levine, who describes residents of the town as untroubled by the layers of symbolism heaped atop that flag in the United States over the years.
ABC News quotes historian Ron Soodalter describing the townsfolk as dressing up in rebel uniforms and hoop skirts to dance to “old Dixie songs like ‘Turkey in the Straw’ and ‘The Yellow Rose of Texas.'”
Soodalter says these “Confederados” mostly speak both Portuguese and “fluent English, with a very noticeable Southern drawl.” Multiple websites have organized names of individuals who fled the South for Brazil, for those looking to find their genealogies. One of these websites reads that it is dedicated to “those who left their homes and their country, moving to a faraway land to rebuild their lives after the War Between the States. Our ancestors will always have our undying reverence and our admiration for their courage, their braveness, and their loyalty to the Confederacy.”