"A pioneer in the study of Black culture"

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Manuel Querino defended Africans and their descendants, but considered himself a "mestiço" (person of mixed race). In his day, "negro" was considered an insulting term in Portuguese, and dark-skinned Blacks preferred to be called "preto". Although the language contains numerous racially offensive epithets, there is no direct equivalent for the "N-word" in Brazilian Portuguese.


Mulatto "escape hatch" or "trap door"?

In 1971, Carl Degler concluded:
"The significant point is that the mulatto escape hatch ... has ... had the effect of inhibiting the advancement of the Negroes as group ... ; what was once a drawback, under new circumstances, becomes a gain for the Negro in the United States, but just the opposite in Brazil. The historical and deep virulence of North American racism has welded Negroes into an effective social force, whereas the ambiguity of the color-class line in Brazil has left the blacks without cohesion or leaders."*
So the question is: was Manuel Querino a victim of the mulatto "escape hatch" or, as it has also been called, a "trap door" for people of African descent who refused to overlook, whitewash and/or subliminate their African heritage in order to be accepted by the "white," mainstream community?

*In Neither Black Nor White: Slavery and Race Relations in Brazil and the United States


"Foe collector"

According to Brazilian scholar Wlamyra Ribeiro de Albuquerque, "Manuel Querino is generally described as having a penchant for being reckless in his words and actions; a foe collector." Here is a case in point that illustrates how he got that reputation: Querino was a member of the Sociedade Protetora dos Desvalidos, an association founded in 1832 by a free African, Manoel Victor Serra, for the initial purpose of building up enough funds to purchase the manumission of enslaved brothers and sisters. After the abolition of slavery, it became a "private pension fund" that protected invalids and the elderly. Kim D. Butler describes Querino's relationship with the society as being of the type that was not always "characterized by fraternal kindness" (p. 164). After leaving the society for unknown reasons, Querino asked to be reinstated in 1892, but his request was rejected after two secret ballots "blackballed" him. He finally managed to rejoin the society in 1894. The main quarrel started when Querino began receiving a disability pension in 1896, only to have the payments suspended when the directorate found that "it is well known that this gentleman has been seen lately in various places, parading in uniformed processions, staying up into the night at weddings, and taking strolls, et cetera...." (Ibid.) Coincidentally or not, the society soon stopped receiving its government subsidy - possibly due to Querino's political influence. In the end, it got its own back, by rejecting Querino's request for a retirement pension.
In Butler's analysis: "The Querino case raises interesting questions about leadership and political strategies. Querino had risen to great prominence, as a politician, an elector (very few Brazilians of any race met the suffrage qualifications), and a scholar.... He was intimately acquainted with African Bahian life and customs, yet his experience with the Sociedade calls into question the nature of the relationships he maintained with various sectors of the community of African descent.... Further research may shed light on whether blacks as a group resisted patronage politics, if they rejected Querino personally, or even if Querino sought such a role at all" (p. 165).
Despite his prestige and influence, Querino died a poor man. Ironically, the Sociedade Protetora dos Desvalidos now houses the Manuel Raimundo Querino Cultural Centre at its headquarters in the historic district of Salvador, Bahia.

ALBUQUERQUE, Wlamyra Ribeiro de. Hopes of blessedness: African constructions and africanisms in Bahia (1887-1910). Estud. afro-asiát. [online]. 2002, vol. 24, no. 2 [cited 2007-04-03], pp. 215-245. Available from: . ISSN 0101-546X. doi: 10.1590/S0101-546X2002000200001
BUTLER, Kim D. Freedoms Given, Freedoms Won: Afro-Brazilians in Post-Abolition São Paulo and Bahia. New Brunswick and London: Rutgers University Press, 2000, pp. 164-165.



Versão em português

1850 Brazil abolishes the slave trade de jure and (relatively) de facto after decades of pressure from the British (who are currently commemorating Britain's official abolition of the slave trade in 1807)
1851 Probably the year in which Manuel Raimundo Querino was born in Santo Amaro da Purificação, Bahia, in the Brazilian Northeast. His birth mother (shown on his death certificate) was named Maria Adalgisa, and his foster parents were freeborn and both were probably black - Jorge Calmon identifies them as the carpenter José Joaquim dos Santos Querino and Luzia da Rocha Pita
1855 A cholera epidemic kills one or both of Querino's foster parents; he is taken to the city of Salvador where Manoel Correia Garcia – a state deputy for the Liberal Party, educator and historian – is appointed his guardian
1865 The Triple Alliance War against Paraguay begins; Manoel Correia Garcia founds the Instituto Histórico Provincial
1868 Querino leaves Bahia and travels in the Northeast, possibly seeking to escape the draft, but is "recruited" in the province of Piauí. Because he was both literate (a rarity among the freeborn population) and slightly built, he became a clerk at his battalion's headquarters in Rio de Janeiro and rose to the rank of Squadron Corporal.
1870 Triple Alliance War ends; Querino signs Republican Manifesto calling for the end of imperial rule in Brazil
1871 Free Womb Law frees children born to slaves, with certain restrictions. Querino returns to Bahia, demobilized early through the influence of his powerful godfather, Manuel Pinto Sousa Dantas, the leader of the Liberal Party in Bahia and, for a time, Prime Minister of Brazil. Querino begins working as a painter and decorator in Bahia and gets involved in local politics
1872 He takes night classes at the Liceu de Artes e Ofícios, studying the humanities. He received honours in French studies and full marks in Portuguese
1874 Now 23 years old, he helps get the Liga Operária Baiana workers' movement started
1876 His political career begins; Liga Operária Baiana is founded on November 26
1877 Querino helps found and build the Escola de Belas Artes (School of Fine Arts) as a founding student, after his teacher and mentor Miguel Navarro y Cañizares when the Spanish artist breaks with the Liceu
1881/84 Studies Architecture at the Escola de Belas Artes
1882 Graduates in industrial design
1885 Teaches geometric design at the Liceu de Artes e Ofícios da Bahia and the São Joaquim Orphanage School; becomes a member-benefactor of the Liceu; joins the abolitionist movement alongside Frederico Marinho de Araújo, Eduardo Carigé and others.
1887/88 Querino founds the abolitionist newspaper A Província
1888 Slavery is officially abolished in Brazil on May 13
1888/95 Querino becomes a civil servant, working at the Public Works Department and designs the city of Salvador's trams
1889 Declaration of the Republic
1890/91 Querino's first term as city councilman
1892 Querino founds the newspaper O Trabalho as an outlet for the labour movement
1884 Instituto Geográfico e Histórico da Bahia (IGHB) is founded - Querino is a founding member, later a benefactor
1896 Querino works at the State Department of Agriculture until his retirement in 1916
1897/99 His second term as city councilman
1899 He leaves politics and devotes himself to studying the history and folklore of Bahia
1900 Member of the board of "Pândegos da África" carnival group
1909 Publication of Artistas Baianos and As Artes na Bahia
1914 Bailes Pastoris published
1916 A raça africana e os seus costumes na Bahia published
1918 “O colono preto como fator da civilização brasileira” published
1923 Manuel Querino dies on February 14, leaving a widow, Laura (his second wife) and survived by two of his four children
1928 A arte culinária published; on May 13, the IGHB hangs his portrait in its gallery of notables.
2006 A scholar discovers that the portrait has been missing from the gallery since the 1970s

Querino blog in Portuguese

I've published a blog on Querino in Portuguese here. It includes a biography written for the Dicionário Biográfico e Histórico da Bahia.


Founder of Bahian Art History

According to Brazilian art historian Luiz Alberto Freire:
Manuel Querino, the founder of Bahian Art History, based his work on the system of artists’ biographies whose prototype for Western Art History is Le vite de' più eccellenti pittori, scultori, e architettori (1550) by the Italian artist Giorgio Vasari. In his most important book [Artistas Bahianos], Querino set down the knowledge handed down by oral tradition, accounts of day-to-day events, his personal experience and artists he knew and knew of, as well as using documents such as laws and decrees to discuss the institutionalization of artistic education. I found extremely valuable “ballast” in his writings, particularly information that is not found in documents and that only narratives of daily life can offer. (Neoclassical Carvings in Bahia, 2007, Odebrecht)

Remembering Manuel Querino

ln a racial climate that was at best condescending and at worst genocidal toward blacks, Manuel Querino helped pioneer the study of the Afro-Brazilians and their culture.

This blog is dedicated to the life and the work of this African-Brazilian scholar, which will be discussed in the context of the racial attitudes that dominated the intellectual life of Brazil before the 1930s. The importance of his pioneering efforts in the study of Afro-Brazilian culture can only be understood in the perspective of the environment of pseudoscientific racism in which all intellectuals lived in nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Brazil.
Early ethnographic research in that country had focused on the Amerindian, and according to Thomas Skidmore, none of the three existing research centers (located in Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo and Belem) "devoted any attention to the African in Brazil. The African 'immigrant' and his Afro-American progeny aroused no scientific interest among their staffs" (Skidmore 1974: 57). [Skidmore notes the exception of Alexandre Jose de Melo Moraes Filho, who "performed pioneering work in collecting Afro-Brazilian folklore" (1974: 57). Moraes Filho's principal work was Festas e tradições populares do Brazil [sic] published in 1901. ]

By recognizing the contributions of Africans and their descendants to Brazil's national identity and culture, even a Brazilian "race," Querino displayed phenomenal independence of scholarship and mind. He defied the influence of European pseudoscientific racism in a country whose economy was partially based on racial slavery until 1888.
Like most Brazilian intellectuals, Querino was seeking to provide a scientific or historical basis for a founding myth of Brazilian nationality and culture: in searching for the characteristic that gave their country and people their unique identity, he chose the fait accompli and undeniable fact of widespread cultural and biological miscegenation.