The history of Chica da Silva is now a significant part of Brazilian folklore and age old controversy. It is said Chica was born to an African slave mother and Portuguese nobleman father in the diamond mining region of Tejuco, Brazil.
As a young girl she was sold in the 1750’s to the household of João Fernandes de Oliveira, proprietor of a diamond mining estate. As the story goes, Oliveira was engaged, but he fell so madly in love with Chica that he called off the engagement and married Chica. João Fernandes de Oliveira, publicly validated their relationship, instead of just taking Chica as a mistress. Between 1755 and 1770 they had 13 children. Adding to the the story it is often said that because Chica wasn’t allowed to enter the normal town church, Joao built her a private cathedral in which to pray.
The myth of Chica da Silva is permanently woven into Brazilian culture. Books, films and even a popular telanovela series was created about Chica or also known as Xica. Considered a heroine for as a slave she used her charm, good looks, and personal fortitude to climb the ranks of the rich. Many oppressed minorities, view her as a hero for their cause.
Chica da Silva achieved prestige in the local society. At the time, all people were associated with religious sororities according to their social position. Chica da Silva belonged to the Irmandades de São Francisco e do Carmo (Confraternity of São Francisco and do Carmo), which were exclusively white, but also to sororities of Mercês, composed of mulattoes , and Rosário, reserved for blacks. Therefore, Chica da Silva had income to make donations to four different sororities and was accepted as part of the local elite composed almost exclusively by whites, but she maintained ties with mulattoes and blacks through their sororities.
Chica da Silva ‘s personal history provides a historical perspective on the cultural climate she inhabited, and the myths that were created around her in subsequent centuries, as Chica de Silva came to symbolize both an example of racial democracy and the stereotype of licentiousness and sensuality always attributed to the black or mulatta female in the Brazilian popular imagination.
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