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5 Arraial do Tejuco

The multiple geographies of a colonial urbe

Junia Ferreira Furtado


The objective of this chapter is to unravel some of the multiple geographies of Arraial do Tejuco, today the city of Diamantina. This study proposes to make the pioneering collation of a census and a cartographic document based on the locality, both produced in the last quarter of the 18th century. The information extracted from these sources was associated with other information collected during several research projects I carried out on the village of Tejuco and the Diamantina Demarcation over the last few decades, as well as with data from records by foreign travelers and various studies on mining cities.

In 1771, a decree of King Joseph I turned diamond mining into a Crown monopoly by creating the Real Extração dos Diamantes, the royal company responsible for diamond exploitation run by an Intendent, a Fiscal (auditor) and three clerks who formed the Junta Diamantina. In 1771 the Diamond District Regulations were published, also known as the Livro da Capa Verde (Book with the Green Cover). The Junta was based in Arraial[1] do Tejuco, now called Diamantina, since the main town of the county (comarca)[2], Vila do Príncipe, was located outside the Diamond District (Figure 1). Local residents, who had been prohibited from directly mining diamonds since 1729, lived on the jornais (day rate) which the company paid for hiring slaves. On average, between one and two thousand slaves were used; between March and July 1781 alone, 985 new slaves were brought to the area.[3] This resulted in economic stability and brought opulence to the village. It is thus no wonder that, in 1821, the traveler Auguste de Saint-Hilaire considered Tejuco to be the most pleasant and richest urban settlement he had visited in the entire captaincy, where the educated elite were capable of speaking his language, French, fluently (Saint-Hilaire, 1975, pp. 29-33).Based on the analysis of the map and the census, this chapter looks at some of the geographic layers of Tejuco’s physical, social, economic, and political reality, unveiling a panorama quite different from the elite urbe idealized by the French traveler.

Figure 1 – Map of the Diamond Demarcation, 1787

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Source: Arquivo Histórico Ultramarino (AHU), Cartografia (C), n.260/1167.

In 1774, a little after taking up his position, the Intendent João da Rocha Dantas e Mendonça carried out a census of the arraial, called Mapa dos moradores da cidade de Tejuco, de acordo com cada uma das ruas que compõem a cidade,[4] in which he listed all the heads of households, grouped by the streets on which they lived. Stated for each were their name, color, condition —when they were freed (forro(a)s), i.e., former slaves who had been manumitted—,[5] profession, and civil status. The census also recorded the total number of residents in each household, excepting slaves, and specified their relationship with the head of household —relative, farm hand (agregado)[6] or servant—, and whether the property was rented or owned. From the names listed it is possible to know the gender of each person. This census was sent to accompany the Pequena Planta do Arraial do Tejuco (Figure 2), an anonymous manuscript map in color that measured 17 x 21.7 cm. The precautions of the authorities —residents were always under surveillance, as entrance to and residence within the Diamond Region was restricted[7]— left two valuable registers whose comparison reveals the geographies around which the arraial was structured.

Figure 2 – Pequena Planta do Arraial do Tejuco, 1774

Source: AHU, C, n.255/1162.

Geography of Farewell

The upper part of the map sheet Pequena Planta do Arraial do Tejuco, as can be seen by the compass rose, is not oriented to the north but rather to the southwest. It was no coincidence that the mapmaker should choose this very particular point of view, since Tejuco is located on the side of the Santo Antônio mountain range and faces the São Francisco mountain, both separated by the river valley also named as the latter. Its best view was (and still is) afforded to those who positioned themselves on top of the São Francisco mountain range, from where the arraial could be seen spreading along the opposite slopes. The subtitle of the map, which along with the title and the legend are written on a separate page (Figure 3), explain this shape, determinant in the choice of the position in which it was drawn: “It is located at the face of a hill, and extends almost to the riverbank below.”

Figure 3 – Title and key of Pequena Planta do Arraial do Tejuco, 1774

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Though impossible to perceive from the map, being drawn in only two dimensions (length and width), Tejuco looked like a little crib from the distance, due to the simplicity and rusticity of its houses and chapels, built in clay and stone. The buildings painted in white and covered with clay-colored roof tiles can be better seen in a drawing by the Prussian traveler Johann Moritz Rugendas, who was in Brazil between 1821 and 1825 (Figure 4). Snaking up and down the mountain, the streets of Tejuco appear dotted with white houses, surrounded by gardens with fruit trees and flower beds, vegetables and greens, like an oasis in the middle of the inhospitable and stony landscape of the region (Gardner,1942, p. 382).

Figure 4 – Caravanne de Marchands allant à Tijuca, 1835, Rugendas

Uma imagem com exterior, montanha, natureza, rocha  Descrição gerada automaticamente

Source: Rugendas, J. M. (1998) O Brasil de Rugendas. Belo Horizonte: Itatiaia.

Not coincidentally, Rugendas chose the same perspective as the map to portray the arraial. In the image, a caravan of traders arrives as another caravan departs; the former is on top of the São Francisco mountain range, from where Tejuco can be seen far ahead, on the opposite hill. From that precise spot, all travelers saw Tejuco for the first time or gave it their final farewell. As in a game of mirrors, the Planta adopts the same point of view with a birds-eye perspective, but it is incapable of reproducing the profundity of the scene captured by the human eye.

Despite this limitation, the geography of arrivals and departures, of the adeus (farewells), is made visible, since once a year the diamonds had to be transported to a port, while goods and people, most of them slaves, came in the opposite direction and were redirected to the principal villages and mineral beds explored by the Royal Diamond Company in the Diamond District. The geography of the farewell mirrored the maps’ drawing of the three principal access routes, carrying away from the center of the settlement in the form of arrows, and, as explained in the map’s subtitle, “the dots are the roads which leave the same arrayal,” connected to the urban area through the suburban streets of Rosário, Campo, Macau, and Burgalhao.

One of the roads led to the settlements and mineral beds located in the Diamond District, running to the Minas Novas village, from where the routes to Bahia could be reached. Along the road passed goods coming from outside, including slaves, and foodstuff produced in the county (comarca) of Serro do Frio (Meneses, 2000). This is what Rugendas portrays, and the image shows the loaded mules going from one side to another (Figure 4). Those who arrived by this route reached the top of the São Francisco Mountain, from where a small trail curved down to the bottom of the valley. After crossing the river, it went through the Arraial de Baixo, climbing the Santo Antônio hill and entering Tejuco by Burgalhao, the central street, or by Macau, a more peripheral street located to the west, until it reached the urban center, built on a plateau halfway to the top, where the main church was located.

Burgalhao and Macau, which ran up to the suburbs, can be seen in Rugendas’ image. The former rises from the valley which separates the two mountain ranges —the view of which is partially covered by the São Francisco mountain— and runs to the center, where the two towers of the central church can be seen. From this church, Macau runs northwest, on the right of the image. As the street is located in the middle part of the village, parallel to the Santo Antônio mountain range, the painter only drew the frontage of the houses and the tower of São Francisco church, which was located there.

The second road could be reached from the suburban Campo street, the principal route which ran southwest from the center until the top of Santo Antônio hill. On top, before saying goodbye to Tejuco, travelers would pass through Arraial de Cima (not drawn on the map), where they took the road running to the south of the captaincy until reaching Vila Rica, its administrative center. The road, which was called Campo Road and gave its name to the urban access route, ran along the west of the so-called Serra Grande, now called Espinhaço Mountain, and.

On the east side of the arraial, starting in Rosário Street, was the third road, which ran to Vila do Príncipe and from there to the village of Conceição do Mato Dentro. For this reason, it was known as the Mato Dentro Road, or Gerais, running along the east side of Serra Grande up to the county of Rio das Velhas, into the village of Sabará. It was frequently used to reach the Convent of Macaúbas, where select women from the local elite received a proper education; among these were the daughters of the famous former slave Chica da Silva, nickname of Francisca da Silva de Oliveira. This was almost the only educational institution available for the female population of the captaincy (Algranti, 1993; Furtado, 2009, pp. 198-201). In Rugendas’ image, we can see Rosário Church, which gave its name to this street that appears isolated on the extreme left of the image, a peripheral area that was scarcely populated at that time.

Suburban Geography

The use of colors is never random on a map. In the Pequena Planta do Arraial do Tejuco, the subtitle clarifies that it “contains more than 567 houses; these are shown in the darkened places and almost all of them are still in its center.” The aim was to highlight in ochre a part of the urbe, the central axis of the village, distinguishing the place and its residents from the uncolored suburbs, something that could be immediately understood by the reader. However, there are some discrepancies between what is illustrated on the map and stated in the census. The latter lists only 521 residences; some of the absences can be explained by the fact that the properties occupied by the Royal Diamond Company administration, such as the building of the diamond intendency, where the Junta Diamantina met, are not counted. However, the Arraial de Baixo, located at the foot of the hill, and Burgalhao —which was not named as a street in the census, thus accentuating its peripheral nature— are colored ochre on the map. This is explained by the antiquity of these two places’ settlement (dated back to the origins of Tejuco), thus distinguishing them and their residents from the rest of the periphery, in white.

The center of Tejuco was built around the Santo Antônio Church and the urbe acquired a “quadrangular, concentrated, and reticular” appearance, different from other urban settlements of Minas Gerais, generally more scattered and disordered (Vasconcelos (1959, p. 121). A distinct outline can be observed in its suburban streets, which became more irregular towards the edge of the urban reticle, located alongside the frame of the map. Burgalhao, Cavalhada Velha, Campo, and Macau fit into this category of not being labelled as streets in the census. The latter two suburban streets had a much greater number of properties than the streets located in the town center (23 and 103 houses respectively), with Macau being the longest of all.

In terms of gender, the heads of household who lived on Campo Street were almost equally balanced: 12 were men and 11 women. The same occurred with the typology of the properties: 12 were owned and 11 rented. However, the similarities stop there. In relation to civil status, there were predominantly unmarried people, with a total of 16, against six married people and one widow. In relation to color, the majority was white (9), and there were seven pardos,[8] five blacks[9] and two crioulos.[10] When crossing the data according to the geography of the blocks, the hierarchies among their residents become evident.

In the first part, or block, consisting of just seven houses, there were only white men, four of whom were married and only one, Manoel Francisco de Souza, was a tenant. Agostinho dos Santos, Manoel Vieira Couto, Pedro de Oliveira Lage, and Domingos Gomes Tibaens, lived with their wives and had extensive offspring, while Domingos dos Santos Barros, despite being single, lived with three sons and a daughter. Manoel Vieira Couto was the father of José Vieira Couto, who became a famous naturalist and latter investigated the economic potential of the region. In 1774, as he was studying in the University of Coimbra, his house was inhabited only by his father, his mother Antônia Teresa do Prado and his two sisters, since the rest of his brothers was also absent. As we can see, the part of the street that was closest to the center housed the most distinguished residents.

In the third and fourth blocks, there were also seven houses. All of these were headed by people of color, most of them tenants, with the exception of the pardo Florêncio Gonçalves, who owned his property. There were four black African women (Ana Pereira, Jacinta Gomes, Luiza de Macedo, and Josefa de Sousa), two pardo men and a parda woman, a widow who lived with her daughter, unlike the others, who were single and lived alone. In other words, the periphery of the street was restricted to the darkening of skin, the precariousness of conjugal relations, and the worsened economic condition of its residents.

As the streets moved away from the center, the hierarchical geography of the blocks revealed the progressive social declassification of its residents. The second block confirms this tendency. It had nine houses, and the heads of household had an intermediate profile in relation to the previous two, establishing a transition zone between the elite, who lived closer to the center, and the plebeians at the end of the street. Six women and three men lived in it. The white tenants, José Dias Barbosa and Antônia Maria da Conceição, had as their neighbors two crioula[11] women, three parda women, a pardo man, and a black man. Five heads of household —the crioulas Ana Pereira and Maria Antunes, the parda women Josefa Teixeira and Romana Tereza, and the pardo tinsmith Caetano de Azevedo— lived in their own houses, while the other four rented their properties. Only the latter and the white Manoel Lopes were married; the others were single, but the two crioulas lived with their children. The transitory nature of this area is reaffirmed by the absence of black African women on the block.

Macau, the longest street in Tejuco, which ran northwest away from the arraial, had a profile of properties and heads of household compatible with its peripheral and transitory nature between the urban and rural. The white man Cosme João had a small farm there, where he was a horticulturist, while the black woman Inácia da Cunha had her own rancho, a very precarious pousada or inn, which was a “house, or mobile stall, built along the paths” (Moraes Silva,1799, v.2, p. 287).

The first part of the street, which had eight houses, is very revealing of the geographical hierarchy of the blocks, increasingly fluid towards the periphery. Its heads of household were three white men, two pardos, a crioulo, and a black man. They all shared the facts of being men and having a trade, such as the crioulo Manoel Soares, tenant of the first house, who was a carpenter; Antônio Fernandes, a siriqueiro, a weaver of ropes and threads of silk; or the tailor José Luís Veloso (the latter two were white). The male residents worked all along the road. The black man João de Matos was the only who exercised no profession, living in his own house and certainly surviving on the daily work of his slaves. In turn, João da Rocha, another white man, installed an inn in his own residence.

The most distinguished residents of Campo, spread among different blocks, were the Guarda-mor José Soares, Captain Antônio Machado, and Dona Ana Marcelina Perpétua da Fonseca, all white and living in their own houses. Soares lived alone; Machado, with his wife, and his brother-in-law and sister-in-law; and Dona Ana, with two sons and a daughter, since her husband, the doctor Luís José de Figueiredo, had been expelled from the Diamond District, accused of misappropriating diamonds (Furtado, 1996, p. 98). Fr. João Correia, Chaplain of Rosário Church, lived in the house owned by his mother, while Fr. Pedro Machado, from São Francisco Church, lived in a rented house. There was a certain Maria da Costa, a black woman who lived in her own house and was, as everything seems to indicate, the mother of Chica da Silva. Just like her, another 11 black women lived alone (five in their own houses and eight in rented property), revealing the eclectic profile of the street’s heads of household on the street and its fluid geography.

Topographic Geography

Some street names are revealing of the social profile or economic functions exercised by their residents. This is the case of those streets named after an old or important resident, creating a geography of citizenship. The adnominal adjunct de-da-do (of), which connects the street’s name and the name of the person being honored, suggests either the latter’s importance or possession or dominion over the place, distinguishing one head of household over his neighbors. An example of this is Luís Gomes Street, named in tribute to Luís Gomes da Fonseca, attorney of the brotherhoods, who lived there. His father had been notary of the Court of Orphans of Rio das Velhas county, and a few years later, in 1799, he reached the rank of Captain of Cavalry of the Vila Rica militia, a fact that shows his importance.[12] Strangely, the record does not detail whether he owned or rented his house, though the former is more likely. Though probably unrelated, there were two neighbors with the surname Gomes: Captain José Gomes Ferreira, a surgeon from the Royal Diamond Company Hospital, nephew of another surgeon, Luís Gomes Ferreira, who authored the famous medicine book Erário Mineral; and Carlos Gomes, who lived with his wife and daughter in their own house.

On Fr. Bartolomeu Street, which had 22 houses, lived the eponymous priest, who was Chaplain of the Lady of the Rosary chapel (Senhora do Terço). The main church housed a brotherhood formed by free whites. By one side of the property where the priest lived, a black African freedwoman, Ignácia Barbosa, lived in a rented house; by the other side, there was the house of Captain João Gonçalves Ramos, who lived with his son and traded dry goods. On the corner, Manoel Barboza de Souza, married, also had a dry goods business in his own house. 14 of the heads of household living there were white, among the most notable being Luís de Almeida Vila Nova —commissioner of the Brotherhood of Mount Carmel (Carmo)—, Dr. Manoel Neto da Silva, and Sebastião Francisco, respectively a doctor in the Hospital and a Royal Diamond Company clerk. Of the seven colored heads of household, there were three black African women, four pardo men —three of whom were tailors and one a hairdresser—, and one parda woman. All the African women were single and lived alone, two in rented houses and one in a property she owned.

In the aforementioned Fr. José Guedes Alley lived the priest of the same name, chaplain of Chapel of Souls, also housed in the main church. The priest who had lent his name to Fr. Manoel da Costa street, on the other hand, is not listed as living there and was probably a former resident. Within the 25 houses of this street, 14 of the heads of household were freed Africans, 12 of whom were women. All of them, except for Josefa Pimenta, who owned her house, were single and lived alone in rented houses. The two Black men were Joaquim da Silva, a miner, and the lodger José Francisco Pinto. There were also five crioulos, two parda women, a cabra,[13] and three white men. Most were single and lived alone. The exceptions were the married crioulo Francisco Gomes; the single parda women Juliana Francisca, who lived with a handyman and her daughter, and Maria Angélica, who also lived with a handyman. Only five of the houses were owned; besides the two mentioned above, the rest were owned by the whites Francisco Ferreira Campos and Custódio Alves da Costa, and the cabra Anna dos Santos.

The geography of citizenship also prevented some names from being forgotten. Such was the case of Julião Antônio and Custódio Barbosa Streets and Tomás de Aquino Alley, where the honored individuals no longer appear as residents, nor was it possible to get any information about them. This is a toponymy meant to commemorate certain individuals who, at some point, were important for the neighborhood or were the first to settle there. It is noteworthy that they were all men. The memory of the women who lived there was erased from this toponymy, revealing that the geography of the streets, which echoed the geography of command, was hierarchical, and had both gender and color: masculine and white.

Geography of Commerce

Streets were also named in accordance with their economic function, forming Tejuco’s geography of commerce, concentrated in Quitanda and Vendas streets. It should be noted that the opening of commercial establishments in the village was regulated. Each commerce required the authorization of the Junta Diamantina and had to be located in the owner’s house. In December 1789, its members stated that, “in relation to dry goods stores and taverns, both were reduced after the [1771 Diamond District] Regulations. So, in Tejuco, in the year of 1772, there were 19 stores (lojas) and 21 taverns; in the year of 1773, there were 18 stores and 19 taverns; in the year of 1774, there were 16 stores and 15 taverns; […] from which it can be seen that the number has always been falling”. However, the administrators warned that his could be detrimental, as they depended on taxes to support the “troops of this detachment,” and the commercial monopoly of a reduced number of establishments would increase prices, affecting the residents and the Royal Diamond Company itself.[14] The 1774 census used a different classification when not referring to the establishment, informing that there existed 20 heads of household “with dry goods,” six with “with wet goods,” two apothecaries, one selling china from India and wet goods, a casa de corte (a cutting house or butcher’s), two algibebes —who sold old or patched clothes—. five taverns and three vendas (small shops): a total of 40 houses with commercial establishments. Let us look at them.

Most of this activity was concentrated in Quitanda Street. Quitanda, from the African language Kimbundu, signified a street food market and called attention to the importance of African women in this type of commerce in the captaincy, following the custom in Africa (Pantoja, 2001, pp. 42-67). However, on Quitanda Street, out of a total of 25 houses, only three were headed by colored women (one Black, one crioula, and one parda), but none of them were involved in any commercial activity. Nevertheless, in the past there had been a black African quitandeiras market on the street, until the prohibition of this activity in 1732 (Furtado, 1996, p. 77). Later, there came to exist a “house established for the roceiros [small farmers], commonly called the Quitanda de Santo Antônio”,[15] which served as a market of wholesale products sold by county farmers. It is not listed in the census, indicating that the property did not belong to a private individual but to the Royal Diamond Company administration. The name of the neighboring Quitanda Alley appears to derive from its location and not from the economic function of the properties there, since none of the heads of household performed any commercial activity, and among them only Josefa Gonçalves was a black African woman.

On Quitanda Street, heads of household were involved in the dry goods trade, three sold wet goods and two were algibebes: Martinho Alves and Domingos Rodrigues.[16] There was also a tavern and a venda. Of the total of 15 traders, 14 were white and only one was a woman, the widow Joana Maria de Lião. (It was common for women to take over the business in the absence of husbands.) Manoel da Encarnação, a parda woman living, unlike the rest, in a rented house, sold wet goods and also china from India, revealing how luxuriously local tables were adorned and also the connections between Tejuco and India, from where the first diamond cutters came. Three male traders were married, though only one of them and a widow lived with their children. In relation to the properties, eight were owned and seven rented, and the commercial establishment was commonly located on the ground floor.

In the stores of the widow and of Jerônimo da Silva Ferreira, a dry goods seller, the clerks also lived in their homes. The census informs the typical profile of these clerks. There were 20 in Tejuco, all young white men and probably Portuguese. Fifteen of them lived in the homes of their employers and their names were not listed; three lived alone, and only one was a hand in the house where he worked. Except for Custódio Vieira da Costa, the clerk of judge João Fernandes de Oliveira( who was married and lived on Fr. Bartolomeu Street with his wife, two sons, two daughters, and a nephew), the others were single, indicating that they were young (Furtado, 1996, pp. 251-255).

Commercial networks were frequently used as conduits to introduce poorer relatives who looked for social ascension, tapping on the capital of being literate. Many clerks were relatives of their employers. This was apparently the case of João Batista Bitancour, who sold wet goods on Quitanda Street,; João Marinho, a pardo ensign; and João Gomes Leal, another wet goods merchant. They probably worked as clerks for their respective uncles, who introduced them to the trade.

Another street related to commerce was Vendas Street. A venda was a retail shop, normally selling food or wet goods directly to the customer. On this street, there were three heads of household. The pardo man Francisco Pereira da Fonseca ran a dry goods business in a rented property, while Manoel Gonçalves Sá, who was an itinerant trader, transported cargo from the coastal ports and had a wet goods business of a reasonable size, employing two clerks who lived in his own house. The third commerce belonged to the aforementioned João Gomes Leal, who lived in a rented property.

Traditionally, it was believed that the name given to commercial establishments referred to the type of product sold, with shops selling dry goods and vendas selling wet ones. However, although the census covered what kinds of products were sold by each head of household, not the establishment itself, the distinction between shops and vendas was more properly based on the property’s central or peripheral location; the size of the business, measured by the number of clerks employed; and the profile of its owners and customers. This explains why the census lists 20 dry goods merchants, but the Junta lists only 16 shops, where it purchased “powder, iron, steel, salt, and various items from the warehouse”.[17] A clearer example was the establishment of the pardo Manoel da Encarnação, who sold both wet goods and china from India. The shops were larger establishments located on the more central streets which employed clerks and required large amounts of capital; the vendas were located on the more peripheral streets and alleys and sold wholesale and retail food,[18] while taverns offered drink and food. This is confirmed by the fact that all clerks were employed in shop establishments on central streets, such as Intendência (6), Fr. Bartolomeu (4), and Direita (4); Quitanda, Vendas, and Bonfim, for their part, had two clerks each. Only three vendas are listed, thus reinforcing this hierarchy despite their central location. They all belonged to white men, although two of them were single and did not even have surnames: José Antônio was on Quitanda Street and Felis Antônio was in Custódio Barbosa Alley (both in rented properties); conversely, the owner Antônio Alves Pereira[19] was in Mandioca Alley.

The name of this alley – Mandioca (Manioc) — referred to the most popular native diet, often given to the slaves employed in mining. In consonance with its peripheral nature, the alley contained 15 houses, eleven of them rented by black freedwomen. There was also the butcher shop belonging to Capitan Antônio Machado, where the white Manoel de Souza supervised another four comrades employed in it. The denominations alley and venda are almost transitive and denote the inferior social and geographic situation of the place, its owners, and even its customers. Furthermore, there were five taverns, all of them belonging to Portuguese men, only one of whom was married. Four out of five of these properties were rented, and they were dispersed throughout the center: on Direita, Intendência, Quitanda streets, and in Custódio Barbosa Alley.

The commercial establishments spread around the center reinforced the geographic hierarchy that distinguished the most important streets. Intendência Street appears to have been the most important and distinguished commercial axis, due to its proximity to the building from where all the power of the Crown emanated, the Intendance House, thus granting a higher value to the properties located there. Of the six private houses, four housed commercial establishments, where the six clerks who lived there worked. Two heads of household sold dry goods, one had a tavern, and the marechal de campo Ignácio Correa Pamplona, who traded wet goods, lived with his clerk in his own house. Ignácio was not a fixed resident of Tejuco; he was from Vila de São João del Rei, where he was a prominent figure, but ran an important business in the arraial. Three dry goods traders lived in their own properties on Direita Street: the pardo ensign João Marinho, Manoel de Figueiredo Banha, and Julião Antônio de Araújo. However, everything indicates that the latter two had larger businesses and could be called shops, since they employed two and one clerk, respectively. Caetano da Silva Feio traded wet goods, and there were also two taverns.

On Fr. Bartolomeu Street there were another three dry goods establishments, all belonging to white men, probably Portuguese, one of them being Captain João Gonçalves Ramos. On Bonfim street, Captain Antônio José Barbosa and Antônio José Soares had dry goods businesses in their own houses, the latter helped by his clerk. The geography of commerce was concentrated in the town center, which was easier to control. This central location conferred distinction to some of its streets, where the largest establishments were located.

Geography of water

The subtitle of the map states that at the foot of the hill, below the arraial, is the São Francisco River, and then informs the reader that “all the places [on the Planta] where a blue shadow accompanies a black mark are valleys with some body of water that flows into the same river.” The geography of water, which is clearly illustrated on the map, calls attention to its importance not only for the survival of men, animals, and plants, but also as an indispensable component for mining, being used to separate sediment from diamonds and gold nuggets. To prevent the water collected on the hills from falling directly into the rivers, a series of long canals, called regas, were opened to drain it into the mining areas on the hills, or into storage tanks called mundéus.

In Tejuco, the springs located on the upper parts of Santo Antônio hill were accessed early on and the water was drained to the canals and ditches opened on the slope. The first of them, around half a league long and built in 1740, was used to wash of gold in Grupiara, where the mining was carried out by a company called Lavra da Roda. The canal began in one of the streams that ran down from Santo Antônio hill, called Pedras stream, whose “waters were diverted to the settlement.” Before reaching the arraial, a tank was built to capture the mud and water which ran down the hill mixed together, separating by decantation the gold from the sediments. Even after this mineral bed was disactivated, the canal continued to supply the city, but since the water quality was low, “it was only used for the washing of clothes and gardens.”[20]

Portrayed on the map are five springs: three above the urban center, forming three main streams (Tejuco, Piruruca, and Bicas); one in the central southeastern part; and one below the urbe. All of them ran into the São Francisco River, an affluent of the Grande River, located at the foot of the hill. This network was organized into four canal distribution systems —painted blue and black on the map— which distributed water among the public fountains and private residences, a great luxury in the panorama of other urban centers in the captaincy. Although Vila do Príncipe (now Serro) was the capital of the county, it did not have a water system, nor even a fountain in the town center, at this time. The water was instead supplied by slaves who carried barrels from the surrounding area. The geography of water revealed that there was a hierarchy among the mining municipalities, with Tejuco having a favorable position as a reflection of its diamond wealth.[21]

The first public canal for supplying drinking water was a derivation of the oldest one, opened in 1752 to collect the water from the Tejuco stream, a tributary of the Pedras stream, which also ran down Santo Antônio hill (Vasconcelos, 1959, p.127). Part of this canal appears on the upper part of the map under the label “Water canal”, and the decantation tank, used to purify the water for human consumption, appears in the middle of the way to Tejuco. Below it, the canal is divided into two to directly supply the back gardens of some of the residences on Direita Street.

This pluvial system fed public water sources and private taps in the main local residences. Initially, the canal that brought drinking water from the Tejuco stream only supplied the sole public fountain, built in the center, around 1752, at the beginning of Direita Street, beside the head church and the house of José da Silva de Oliveira. As we can see on the map, from that point the water passed through an underground channel, reappearing on the other side of the street and becoming divided into two canals to supply some nearby houses. These canals later reunited and ran down the hill, passing under Paciência Alley. At the end of the 18th century, with the growth of the population and the settlement’s expansion, Tejuco gained a second fountain, built near Rosário Church, which is not shown on the map as it did not exist in 1774.[22]

Figure 5 – Planta do arraial do Tejuco, 1784

Source: Arquivo Histórico do Exército, 06.01.1131, CEH 3207.

The 1784 Planta do arraial do Tejuco (Figure 5), by Antônio Pinto de Miranda, also portrays this ingenious pluvial system. The arraial had expanded in all directions, covering a slightly larger territory than in the 1774 map: there appears a fifth canal, situated to the west (extreme right), as well as a larger part of the canal which carried the water from the Tejuco stream, situated to the southwest (upper right).

Gardens and flower beds, colored green and yellow respectively, proliferated all over the urbe, benefitting from this irrigation system. This is clear in the case of the Tejuco stream: as soon as it enters the map (upper right) a small open canal runs into the garden of a private residence just below, feeding its fountain, drawn in the form of a square. There are two new reservoirs. One of them, represented by a square on the two maps, is located above the compass rose;the other is above the scale, in the left corner. The water collected in the former benefitted the property located nearby.

Another interesting aspect of this map is that the ditches, colored brown, are in some parts blurred, suggesting that they were drained underground. An underground supply system was built in the central part of Tejuco, using tubes or “bicames (pipes with rectangular sections made from wood, with a lid on top)” (Delforge, 2009, p. 1), which redistributed the precious liquid to the residences located there. Some remnants of this system are still extant in the present-day Mota and Alecrim alleys, and in Mercês, Augusto Nelson, and Silvério Lessa streets, which were recent sites of excavation. They reveal the sophistication attained by the geography of water in the town, privileging the center and some of the most distinguished houses.

This is what can be observed with the canal which supplied water to the garden of Chica da Silva’s house, where there existed two sources of water, now dry, fed by nearby springs (Number 8 on the key). It is known that, like the latter, private residences captured water directly from “small springs in the mountain where the village is built” and, in some there were “springs in their gardens.” While the precocious capture of water benefitted all residents of Tejuco, the presence of the central underground system, canals made to supply just some houses and private sources, reproduced in the geography of water the hierarchy of spaces and residents of Tejuco, to the detriment of the less privileged (Saint-Hilaire, 1974, p. 29; Delforge, 2009, p. 10).

Geography of faith

The subtitle of the map stated that “this Arraial contained seven Churches, which are numbered in their places, as will be shown later.” Below this line on the map, there is a list with the names of the churches and chapels, as a city ordered by the geography of faith. Number 1 referred to Santo Antônio Church and called it the “Head Church,” highlighting its importance and its location in the central square. Three streets were named after the religious buildings located on them: “Lady of the Rosary (Senhora do Rosário), Church of the blacks,” number 2; “Lady of Bonfim (Senhora do Bonfim), a small chapel,” number 3; and “Lady of Amparo (Senhora do Amparo), Church of the Pardos,” number 6. The first was the oldest and dated from the first half of the eighteenth century; it initially housed the brotherhood that included all people of color. In 1756, the divisions between slaves and freed people generated the need for exclusive representation for mulattos and pardos. These sought to distinguish themselves from the blacks, the majority of whom were slaves, resulting in the emergence of new brotherhoods to congregate them. First, they built Senhora do Amparo dos Pardos Church and raised an altar dedicated to Nosso Senhor dos Passos, in Bonfim chapel. In 1771, the crioulos founded the brotherhood of Our Lady of Mercy (Nossa Senhora das Mercês), afterwards starting the construction of their own church. This church was portrayed only in the 1784 Planta of the arraial (number 7 in the key). It should also be noted that, despite their later construction, the latter were constructed on the more central streets, while Rosário Church was built in a peripheral zone, reflecting the lower status of the black brothers.

The churches listed as numbers 4 and 5 were also constructed in the second half of the century, and were aimed only at the white population. São Francisco de Paula, Church of the Third Order of Mount Carmel, was built mostly at the expense of Judge João Fernandes de Oliveira, one of its most important members; Senhora da Conceição, Church of the Franciscan Third Order, was built on Macau street. Though the latter congregated only white people, Chica da Silva was buried there, as a clear sign of her importance. The ‘small chapel’ built in her house, dedicated to Santa Quiteria, the saint to whom the Judge’s family was devoted, confirms her distinction. It was the last to appear, listed as number 7 on the 1774 map and as number 8 ten years later.

However, the census reveals the existence of other chapels or spaces of faith around the city, such as one in the Royal Diamond Company Hospital, or the Almas and Senhora do Terço chapels. The last two did not occupy their own properties —they were housed in altars within the main church— and thus were not portrayed on the map, but their priests (7), all of them white, appeared as residents of various streets around the center. While the chaplain of Santa Quitéria chapel lived on Direita Street, in his own house, that of São Francisco Church rented a more peripheral house in Macau, revealing that faith and its representatives in Tejuco also had an earthy hierarchy.

Geography of professions

A society based on Ancien Regime values despised manual labor, something reinforced by colonial slavery. The geography of color and gender thus had its reflection in a geography of professions, since there were gaps between serving the king and working. In the former category were the military, royal officials, the clergy, those in the liberal professions, farmers, and, more recently, wholesale merchants and miners (Stumpf, 2014). The latter category included those who practiced the mechanical or manual trades. In Tejuco, as in the Portuguese empire as a whole, the majority of whites served, and of the people of color worked.

Among the mostly serving white men, there were 17 royal officials, 30 merchants, seven priests, two doutores —probably lawyers—, a miner, a farmer, and a doctor. In total they held 26 military ranks, with the lowest being the dragoon trooper Custódio Rodrigues, who lived in his own house on Amparo Street. However, the people of lower birth (a total of 43, or 21.3% of the white population) worked or exercised some manual trade. The majority were tailors (10), shoemakers (7, one of them only repaired shoes), carpenters (5), blacksmiths (3), and saddle makers (3). Some were more distinguished than others and had been educated, such as the “teacher of boys,” the apothecaries, and the surgeon; others were specialized in a craft, such as the watchmaker, the cutler, the ventanário (a carpenter who made doors and windows), the salteiro (who played the stringed instrument called the psaltery), and the siriqueiro (who wove threads); a few of them did physical work, such as the caboqueiro (a stone breaker), a bricklayer, or a carter.

The situation of the freed men was very diverse. Out of the total 88, the majority (56, or 67.4%) had some sort of manual trade: there were tailors (14), shoemakers (11), blacksmiths (6), hairdressers (3), barbers (3), carpenters (2), a painter, a siriqueiro, a sculptor, and a tinsmith. The establishment of the pardo shoemaker João Simões Roza on Vendas Street, despite being in a rented property, was of a considerable size, since he had three employees. Three musicians, whose work was much demanded both in the Opera House and in religious ceremonies, confirmed the opinion of Antônio da Mota e Magalhães, a notary in Vila Rica who, missing the concerts held by the slaves of Judge João Fernandes de Oliveira, stated that, as musicians, “one could never enjoy the blacks from Africa; [only] some crioulos and mulattos are good” (Furtado, 2009, pp. 196-197).

Among the freed people, access to these trades depended on complexion, since 44, or 78.5%, of the men of color who had a trade were pardos. For men and women, the geography of freedom was based on different colors: for women it was black, but for men it was brown. And while most of them depended on savings to buy their manumission, the women soon abandoned the world of work, but freed men continued to exercise their professions. Not by chance, among the freed, all those who practiced the most distinguished trades were pardos, including the surgeon Vitorino José Barbalho, who lived on Direita Street; the teacher Francisco Pacheco; the “teacher of boys” José da Silva Lopes; the miner Joaquim da Silva, who had his own property; the “royal Blacksmith” José da Silva Julião; the “royal saddlemaker” Joaquim Xavier dos Santos; and three merchants, such as the dry goods traders, Francisco Pereira da Fonseca, on Vendas street; and Captain João Ferreira de São Miguel, on Intendência Street, the only one who held a military rank.

Medicine was one of the few areas where professionals from the two worlds intersected, but each occupied their place within the hierarchical geography of the professions. In Tejuco, most of them worked in the Royal Diamond Company Hospital, treating the enormous mass of captives under the Royal Company administration. At the top were the doctors, white men who had had the privilege of a university education in Portugal. The arraial had only one doctor, Manoel Neto da Silva, who worked in the Hospital and rented a house on Fr. Bartolomeu Street. The commercial profile of the profession of apothecary required not only training in the regulated profession, but also capital to acquire the products used in medical treatments, most of which came from Portugal. It is no coincidence that the apothecaries of the Contract, the Captain Manoel Rodrigues de Carvalho and his brother, were whites; they both lived on Bonfim Street in a rented house. Antônio Pinto de Miranda, also a white, had an apothecary business in his own house on Macau. This was the only commercial establishment located in the periphery of Tejuco. Surgeons, most of whom were white, held an intermediate position. This was a manual trade which required training in a hospital or with a regulated professional, and a license from the Municipal Chamber, granted by the First Surgeon (Cirurgião-mor). The aforementioned captain José Gomes Ferreira was the surgeon at the Hospital, while the licenciado[23] Francisco Jacinto practiced the profession in his own house on Macau street. The bottom of the pyramid was occupied by barbers and midwives, whose training was informal but required a license. They were generally people of color and frequently applied knowledge learned in Africa. None of the midwives working in Tejuco was listed as a head of household; instead, the black barber Felis lived in a rented house on Cavalhada Nova.

It is striking that a quite common and essential trade in Europe at that time does not appear in Tejuco: the baker. The reason is that wheat was rarely planted in the zone and bread from this cereal was not part of the daily diet, having been replaced by homemade corn and mandioca flour.[24]

From the geography of captivity to freedom

The slaves were tied to a geography marked by absence. A deafening silence abounds in the Mapa de População about the captive mass, the hands and feet of their masters, who lived in large numbers in the senzalas (slave quarters) of the houses. The fact that only the heads of household, their relatives, and hands were listed reveals their exclusion from the geography of citizenship. Just to have an idea, in 1772, Tejuco had 4600 inhabitants, of whom 3610 were slaves; this was 78.5% of the population. Two years later, they were not considered by the authorities in the census sent to Portugal. Two coartado slaves, however, were included: the blacks Vitoriano and Anacleto, who shared a rented house on Rosário Street where they worked as shoemakers. Coartação was a process which allowed slaves to buy their freedom, specifying a period to pay their owner, either in money or in services. Their inclusion in the list speaks of an intermediate condition between slavery and freedom.

Another resident of Rosário Street was the capitão do mato (a slave hunter, literally “captain of the bush”), Manoel da Fonseca Milanês, a pardo. The world of slavery is here revealed from the perspective of repression, with the administration keeping a watchful eye over the fleeing slaves who sought their freedom outside the few existing legal means. Manoel da Fonseca Milanês’ color reveals that the geography of complexion did not necessarily produce ties of solidarity with his fellow men.

However, there are cases which reveal ties of solidarity between freed people and captives, or perhaps only among the latter. This is the case of some of the female heads of household who shared their properties with their parents or relatives, revealing successful processes of familial strategies to obtain freedom (alforria) and reconstruct kinship ties in liberty. This strategy seemed to be more accessible to women from a clan, of which there were 10 cases in Tejuco. The single cabra Anna Maria lived on Direita Street with her mother and sister; on Amparo Street lived the mixed Anna Verônica with her mother, probably a black African, as well as the black woman Josefa Granada and her sister. On Luís Gomes Street, the parda Felipa Antônia lived with her sister, and in a rented house on Burgalhao Street, Teresa Maria sheltered her mother, the same case as Josefa Maria in Macau; all of the latter were crioulas. The four colored male heads of household who had relatives at home were all pardos. Both Francisco Pereira da Fonseca and João Ferreira de Carvalho lived with their parents, and the hairdresser José Pimenta lived with his brother. The geography of familial freedom had gender gaps: women showed solidarity with mothers and sisters, while men did so with fathers and brothers. The pardo captain João Ferreira de São Miguel, who housed his mother and sister, was an exception.

Although most heads of household in Tejuco were freed (286, or 54.6% out of the total), the geography of the memory of captivity is a silence underlying the data obtained from the census. Malungo was the name given to Africans brought to Brazil on the same slave ship, a journey that established important ties of solidarity which lasted for the rest of a slave’s life. But more generically, the term signified companionship, friendship, and a shared destiny, ties which could also be forged in the slave quarters, principally among those born in Brazil, and many freed people brought to the world of freedom their malunga experience.

The intersection of multiple geographies, even those which lay hidden under the data of Pequena Planta do Arraial do Tejuco and the 1774 Mapa dos moradores, reveals a heterogeneous local society. The two documents evince the physical aspects of the city and how men and women, whether white and colored, free or freed, lived very close to each other, As well as the economic, religious, and social activities that characterized Tejuco.


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Bluteau, R. (1712). Vocabulario Portuguez e Latino. Coimbra: Colégio das Artes da Companhia de Jesus.

D’Orbigny, A. (1976). Viagem pitoresca através do Brasil. Belo Horizonte: Editora Itatiaia.

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Furtado, J. F. (2005). ‘Piccola Africa: il mondo degli schiavi nel Distretto Diamantino e nel villaggio di Tejuco (Minas Gerais, Brasile)’, Terra d’Africa, (XIV), pp. 143-159.

Furtado, J. F. (2006). ‘Quem Nasce, quem chega: o mundo dos escravos no Distrito Diamantino e no arraial do Tejuco’ in Furtado, J. F. and Libby, D. C. (eds.) Trabalho livre, trabalho escravo Brasil e Europa, séculos XVIII e XIX. São Paulo: Editora Annablume, pp. 223-225.

Furtado, J. F. (2007). ‘O Distrito dos Diamantes: uma terra de estrelas’ in Resende, M. E. e Villalta, L. C. (eds.). História de Minas Gerais: as Minas setecentistas. Belo Horizonte: Autêntica, v.1, pp. 303-320.

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  1. In the Portuguese administrative organization, an arrayal (arraial) is submitted to a main village (vila). The vila holds the main administrative and judicial institutions, the most important being the Municipal Council. Some vilas were also the seats of counties.
  2. In Minas Gerais, at this time, there were four counties, subdivisions of the captaincy: Rio das Velhas, Ouro Preto, Rio das Mortes, and Serro do Frio. The Diamond District was located in the latter.
  3. Princeton University (PU), Firestone Library, Rare Books (FLRB), Diamond Codex (DC), f.2-10v. This figure grew up to around 5,000 slaves for some years.
  4. It was sent to Portugal on February 15, 1775. AHU, Manuscritos Avulsos de Minas Gerais (MAMG), caixa 108, doc. 9, f. 1-9.
  5. The condition of being free is not stated, though it is the omission of the condition of forro (manumitted) which evidences this.
  6. Agregado, meaning farm hand or hand, is part of a relationship of subordination with the head of household which implied not only cohabitation, but also work and political patronage.
  7. Tribunal de Contas de Portugal, Livro 4.088, doc. 135, 20/6/1775, Letter to the Intendent, referring to the order that those considered useless or suspicious should leave the Demarcação Diamantina.
  8. Pardo or parda refers to a mixed blood mullato(a) with lighter skin.
  9. Being referred to as black in the census points to an African origin.
  10. Crioulo or crioula refers to a black slave born in Brazil who could be freed afterwards, as the cases listed in this article.
  11. Crioulo or crioula refers to a black slave born in Brazil that could be freed afterwards, as in the cases listed in this article.
  12. AHU, MAMG, caixa 51, doc.42 and caixa 150, doc.52.
  13. A cabra was a person of mixed blood with Indian origins.
  14. PU, FLRB, DC, 29/12/1789, f.129.
  15. PU, FLRB, DC, 27/4/1781 f.4v.
  16. It was probably to take advantage of this trade that two tailors also established themselves on the street, João Branco and Mateus de Souza, a pardo man, both in rented houses.
  17. PU, FLRB, DC, 29/12/1789, f.129.
  18. In the captaincy, these vendas were commonly established on the hills, by the mining areas, to provide food for the slaves working there. In Tejuco, it was strictly forbidden establish them near the fields, and thus they had to be lodged in the merchants’ houses in the urban centers. PU, FLRB, DC, 22/04/1785, f. 62v; 28/06/1785, f.81.
  19. Perhaps it was the same inherited property mentioned in 1785: “the closure of the venda of Antônio Luis Pereira de Campos has been ordered after his removal from the respective registration book, having abandoned this continent and county.” PU, FLRB, DC, 22/04/1785, f.63.
  20. See Santos (1976, p. 103); Saint-Hilaire (1974, p. 29).
  21. See Tedeschi (2014); Delforge (2009); Furtado (2019).
  22. D’Orbigny (1976, p. 135); Vasconcelos (1959, p. 127).
  23. Licenciado (licensed) means a license holder examined and approved by the First Surgeon.
  24. In contrast, in 1804, there were 4 bakers, all women of color, in Vila Rica. Mathias (1969, pp. 34, 63, 80, 154).

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