by Zélia Roelofse-Campbell
Zélia Roelofse-Campbell is the Head and Chief Executive officer of the Unisa Centre for Latin American Studies. She is the editor of the bi-annual journal Unisa Latin American Report. Born in Brazil, where she completed the Normal College training, she studied further at Unisa. Her MA dissertation deals with the history of the Rebellion of Canudos, as depicted in Mario Vargas Llosa's novel The war of the end of the world. Her research interests include social policies in Latin America and their relevance to South Africa.
The issues surrounding the 1896-97 Canudos War in Brazil remain of vital relevance to this day, for all countries where there is a cleavage between the élite and the poor masses. At Canudos 30 000 perished at the hands of a government that saw itself as superior. Furthermore, the authorities portrayed the rebels as reactionary religious fanatics, the untruth of which was not exposed for decades. Canudos gave rise to the greatest work of Brazilian literature, Euclides da Cunha's Os Sertões (Rebellion in the backlands). Although very critical of government atrocities, this book perpetuated the myth of the rebels as barbarians. Many of the issues raised by Canudos remain unresolved in Brazil and many other countries today.
Todo lo relacionado con la guerra de Canudos en Brasil, desde 1896 hasta 1897, es de vital importancia aún hoy para todos los países donde existe una brecha entre la élite y las masas empobrecidas. En Canudos murieron 30 000 personas a manos de un gobierno que se consideraba superior. Es más, las autoridades presentaban a los rebeldes como fanáticos religiosos reaccionarios, desconociándose la verdad durante decenios. Canudos dió lugar a la mayor obra de la literatura brasileña, Os Sertões (Los Sertones) de Euclides da Cunha. Aunque muy crítico de las atrocidades gubernamentales, este libro perpetúa el mito de los rebeldes como bárbaros. Hoy, muchos de los temas de Canudos aún permanecen sin esclarecer en Brasil y en muchos otros países.
Para todos os países onde há uma divisão entre a elite e as massas pobres, as questões à volta da Guerra de Canudos (1896-97) continuam pertinentes at hoje. Trinta mil pessoas pereceram sob um governo que se considerava superior. Alám disso, as autoridades classificaram os rebeldes como fanáticos religiosos reacionários, uma falsidade que perdurou durante décadas. Canudos deu origem à maior obra da literatura brasileira - Os Sertões de Euclides da Cunha. Embora apresente uma crítica às atrocidades do governo, o livro perpetuou o mito de que os rebeldes eram uns bárbaros. Muitos dos problemas levantados por Canudos continuam sem solução até hoje, tanto no Brasil como em outros países.
The causes and consequences of the Canudos Rebellion which took place in the remote north-east of Brazil in 1896-1897 remain of vital relevance to this day, not only for Brazil, but for all countries where there is a cleavage between a ruling élite and the mass of the poor. (Indeed, a similar but smaller episode took place in South Africa in 1921, namely the Massacre of the Israelites at Bulhoek.)
In Canudos, 30 000  people (who never surrendered) perished at the hands of a government which considered itself superior. Through its control of the means of communication of the time, the ruling élite were able to silence the voices of their victims and portray them as dangerous fanatics and traitors who, through their leader, Antônio Conselheiro, worked against the newly instituted Republic.
In studying the Rebellion of Canudos, one soon becomes aware that there are many factors which have to be taken into consideration if one is to understand why such an event occurred. Brazil, after all, had developed relatively peacefully, from the time of its discovery by the Portuguese (1500) to a bloodless declaration of Independence in 1822 and through the period of the Empire (up to 1889). What follows is a brief history to the Rebellion of Canudos. This took place in a remote and arid region of Brazil, forgotten by the federal authorities who ruled from the more developed South.
In the 1870s, when the Brazilian Empire was at its height under Emperor Dom Pedro II, a man called Antõnio Vicente Mendes Maciel (who was born in the backlands of the State of Ceará, Brazil, in 1828) began roaming the sertão (backlands) of north-eastern Brazil as a beato (blessed). As a child Maciel had witnessed various violent episodes as a result of the feud between his own family, the Maciéis, and the Araújos. The battle between these two families had begun in 1833 and was quite well known in the interior of Ceará. Family feuds were common in the backlands of north-eastern Brazil, and often led to bloody confrontations and assassinations. The whole family Maciel, or at least the adult males, were massacred by the Araújos in an act of treachery. The young adult life of Antônio Maciel was as unsettled as his childhood had been. His young wife left him for a police officer, an event which left him feeling deeply humiliated. After attempting several professions, including teacher, scrivener to a justice of the peace and solicitor, he began his journey through the sertão, gathering people around him who helped him in volunteering to reconstruct churches and erect cemetery walls. With the consent of the local parish priests, Maciel preached in the backlands, and soon had a number of followers, all of whom were jagunços (landless peasants).
The jagunços (or capangas) were landless, but armed, inhabitants of the backlands; these people were hired by latifundiários (owners of large estates) for protection in the frequent boundary disputes with other land-owning families of the region (see Facó 1983). Jagunços also defended estates from Indian attackers. (In Os Sertões, Euclides da Cunha  uses the term jagunço as being synonymous with sertanejo, or backlander. For a more expanded explanation of the word in the context of Canudos one should read Calasans ).
Antônio Maciel became known as Conselheiro (the Counsellor, the one who gives good counsel), although later he was often referred to by his followers as Bom Jesus Conselheiro (Blessed Jesus the Counsellor). He settled with his followers in the district of Itapicuru, Bahia, in 1877, where, within the confines of a local abandoned farm, the hamlet of Bom Jesus was established (Cunha 1966; Queiroz 1977; Moniz 1984; Calasans 1950; Montenegro 1954).
In the ensuing twelve years misunderstandings developed between the Counsellor and his followers and the established Church until, in 1882, the Archbishop of Bahia ordered the parish priests to forbid Antônio Conselheiro to preach, on the grounds that his sermons had become politically subversive (Mendes Jr & Maranhão 1973:170). Two decisive historical events subsequently occurred: on 13 May 1888, the legal decree abolishing slavery was signed by Princess Isabel, daughter of Emperor Dom Pedro II, and on 15 November 1889, a group of military officers and intellectuals of Positivist persuasion overthrew the monarchy. Tension mounted between the Counsellor and the authorities until, in 1893, in the early years of the Republic, the Counsellor staged a protest against the payment of taxes in Bom Conselho, in the interior of the state of Bahia. Antônio Conselheiro and his followers burned government tax notices and departed. However, they were pursued by thirty policemen as far as the nearby settlement of Masseté where, after a brief skirmish, the police fled. Following this, Antônio Conselheiro and his jagunços settled on the abandoned farm of Canudos on the banks of the Vaza-Barris river, in northern Bahia, where he founded the village of Belo Monte, later to be known as Canudos. Euclides da Cunha maintains that, previously, this farm had sheltered `an idle and suspect population armed to the teeth whose sole occupation, almost, consisted in drinking brandy and smoking certain strange clay pipes with stems a yard long, made of natural tubes furnished by the solanaceae canudos de pito (pipe reeds), which grew in great abundance on the river's bank' (Cunha 1944:143). Shortly after Antônio Conselheiro had settled there, landless peasants from all corners of the sertão began streaming into Canudos, which became the second most populous town in the state of Bahia after the capital, Salvador (Levine 1991:207). There an orderly self-supporting community of between 25 000 and 30 000 people developed around their spiritual leader - Antônio Conselheiro.
By 1895, the village of Canudos had grown disproportionately, as a result not only of the pilgrims who settled there, but also of people who proclaimed the area the `Promised Land', where there flowed `a river of milk' and `the embankments were of couscous' (Moniz 1984:54 - own translation). Alarmed by such a rapid growth and the religious undertones of the community life in Canudos, the Archbishop of Bahia decided to discuss the matter with Rodrigues Lima, Governor of the State. As a result of their discussion, it was decided to send a peace mission to Canudos, led by João Evangelista de Monte Marciano, an Italian Capuchin friar. Marciano was accompanied by Friar Caetano de São Leo and Father Sabino, the curé of Cumbe. Their mission was to persuade Antônio Conselheiro and his `fanatics' to return to the bosom of the Church and to obey the laws laid down by the country's authorities (Moniz 1984:54). However, the Capuchin, `who had the courage of a believer but not the fine tact of an apostle' (Cunha 1944:167) failed in his mission. He submitted a detailed report of his visit, in which he concluded that the Canudos movement was political, rather than religious, in nature.
Towards the end of 1896, the jagunços decided to build a new church, placing an order for construction timber at Juazeiro, Bahia. Although the order was paid for in advance, the timber was never delivered. Euclides da Cunha mentions this episode and suggests it may have been a deliberate breach of contract (Cunha 1966:241). Since the reason given for the non-delivery was a shortage of personnel, the jagunços announced that they were willing to collect the merchandise themselves. This statement of intent provided a pretext for action by the authorities: in October 1896 the Magistrate of Juazeiro, Dr Arlindo Leôni, telegraphed the Governor of Bahia, Dr Luís Vianna, requesting that the village of Juazeiro receive protection from a possible attack by the Counsellor's men. General Frederico Solon Ribeiro, Commander of the Third Military District and a staunch Republican, complied with the Governor's request and sent a force of three officers and more than a hundred soldiers of the Ninth Infantry Battalion under the command of Lieutenant Manuel da Silva Pires Ferreira, accompanied by a medical doctor from Juazeiro, to meet the Counsellor's men. This force was attacked by the jagunµos in Uauá. The demoralized soldiers retreated, the doctor became insane, and the canudenses (inhabitants of Canudos) were labelled dangerous rebels. This abortive operation subsequently became known as `The First Expedition'.
THE WAR AGAINST THE REBELS
The Second Expedition, this time sent by the Federal Government, not merely by the Government of Bahia, was under the command of Major Febrônio de Brito. With reinforcements obtained from Bahia, the force consisted of fourteen officers, 543 soldiers, and three medical doctors. Military equipment consisted of two Krupp cannons and two machine-guns. The army arrived in Monte Santo on 29 December 1896 and left for Canudos on 12 January 1897. The first engagement took place as the force was crossing the Cambaio mountains. The soldiers pressed on towards Canudos. They did not reach it, however, for after a second engagement the army was forced to retreat, a retreat which was made particularly humiliating by the hissing of the jagunços. Another engagement took place at Bendegó de Baixo, before the army finally retreated to Monte Santo.
A Third Expedition of the Brazilian National Armed Forces was organized, under the command of Colonel Antônio Moreira César, a Brazilian war hero famous for his ruthlessness and tenacity. This expedition had the advantage of an artillery unit and a cavalry squadron. The force (which totalled 1 300 men) was thoroughly equipped with 1 500 000 cartridges and 70 rounds of cannon shot (Cunha 1944:235). It departed from Rio de Janeiro on 3 February 1897 and arrived at the Alto da Favela (a hill overlooking Canudos) on 2 March, from which point it proceeded to attack the settlement. Notwithstanding its numbers and military equipment, on 3 March this army was forced to retreat (Colonel Moreira César was mortally wounded on the first day of the engagement and died on the following day). Colonel Tamarindo, who replaced Moreira César, also died of wounds sustained during the retreat. Once again, retreat was accompanied by the humiliating sound of the jagunµos's hisses. Antônio Conselheiro's victories were nothing short of spectacular. The defeat of the Third Expedition was perceived as a national disaster, both by the press of the day and by the Minister of War, Carlos Machado Bittencourt, who solemnly declared a state of national mourning: `Our Armed Forces are draped in crêpe' (Cunha 1966; Monteiro 1985; Mendes Jr & Maranhão 1983).
On 5 April 1897 the Fourth Expedition was organized, under the command of General Artur Oscar de Andrade Guimarães, whose order of the day was to form six units in two columns, under the command of Generals João da Silva Barbosa and Claudio do Amaral Savaget. This Fourth Expedition was a powerful war machine, and one in which the Minister of War played an active role. In the end, the force amassed against Antônio Conselheiro totalled more than 8 000 men using the most modern military equipment available. However, the jagunços were determined to fight to the death, and the federal troops suffered an alarming number of fatalities and casualties in various battles. Finally, in October of that year Canudos was razed; but it never surrendered. Antônio Conselheiro had died that August (1897) of natural causes. Those jagunços who were not killed in combat were taken prisoner and summarily executed (by beheading) by the army (Cunha 1966; Fac 1983:108ss; Monteiro 1985:58-61).
It would be easy to oversimplify the Canudos war, and see it as nothing more than a local incident whose central character was a religious fanatic backed by a deluded band of followers. Historians in the last fifteen to twenty years have come to realize that Antônio Conselheiro was by no means a fanatic who preached nothing but rambling sermons (a view of him that was
(Manuscript found among the ruins at Canudos, at the end of the War)
perpetuated by Euclides da Cunha himself). Since the publication of his sermons by Ataliba Nogueira (1974), Antônio Conselheiro has been vindicated; his preaching reveals a man of a deep religious conviction, a man who advocated justice, diligence and love among human beings. This new perception of the Counsellor and his life is compellingly upheld in several books published since the early 1970s, including Facó (1983), Moniz (1984), Moniz (1987), Montenegro (1973) and Queiroz (1977).
The Canudos event must be understood against a complex socio-economic and political background. The region where the events described above occurred had, by the time of the Rebellion, been almost destroyed by a long cycle of droughts, a cycle which lasted from 1877 to 1915. During this period, the traditional economic activities of the north-east - cotton and cattle - were threatened with annihilation (Della Cava 1970:411). This had led to large-scale unemployment, and a high percentage of sertanejos (backlanders) had, as a result, migrated to other parts of the country, thus creating a situation of general turmoil. The backlanders were also attracted to other parts of the country (São Paulo and the Amazon) by the farming activities in these areas (coffee growing and rubber plantations). In short, the sertão had been robbed of its labour force.
To understand the impact this had on the region, one needs to understand just how crucial the sertão's labour force was to the area's socio-economy. Throughout the colonial period, this labour force had become part of a well-structured network of favours, better known as coronelismo; this was an age-old paternalistic system whereby the `colonels', or landlords, `helped' the poor by providing for their basic needs, offering them protection against the police and allowing them the right to live on their latifúndios (large landed estates). In return, the peasantry had to be prepared to render certain `services' to the colonel (for example defending him in attack, helping with the harvest and providing him with political support). The long years of drought and the depletion of the sertão's labour force destroyed this structure: the `colonels' could no longer afford to keep many sertanejos; and the sertanejos, in turn, migrated from the area or joined bands of cangaceiros (outlaws). Alternatively, as in Canudos (and similar situations such as Juazeiro and Contestado), they grouped themselves around a religious leader (see Barros 1988).
This socio-economic instability was aggravated by a political factor, and one which needs to be constantly borne in mind if the broader implications of the Canudos Rebellion are to be understood. The political factor in question was the complete separation of Church and State, a separation which was the direct result of the establishment of the Republic (in 1889). A church wedding, for example, lost its former legal status and was only permitted after a civil marriage ceremony had taken place. The sacrament of Holy Matrimony was thus relegated to the status of a ritual and nothing more (Della Cava 1970:408). The Church's loss of prominence provoked men like Antônio Conselheiro into a new type of militancy in order to defend the old order (in which the Church had full jurisdiction over marriages and burials, as had been the custom during the monarchy). The Counsellor's militancy was later interpreted as the political statement of a fanatical anti-Republican; in other words, he was branded a militant Monarchist (Mendes Jr & Maranhão 1983:168-171).
In attempting to understand the period, one also needs to realize that the abolition of slavery and the transition from monarchy to Republic were far from smooth processes. The Republicans believed that the new regime would bring prosperity to all, but this state of affairs did not materialize: the central and southern regions of the country prospered, as did the Amazon region, while the economy of the north-east remained stagnant (Levine 1991:288).
It is against this background that the phenomenon of Antônio Conselheiro must be understood. Landless peasants suffered hardships due to natural disasters and the old order, which had, at least to a certain extent, sustained them, was crumbling - the colonels who had looked after them were no longer able to and this meant the loss of their very livelihood. As a direct result of these changes, banditismo (brigandage) became rife in the region. Since this brigandage took place within the framework of a very tenuous, new political order, any great concentration of people around a leader was perceived by the authorities as a threat to the survival of the Republic.
The poor who congregated at Canudos were victims of structural inequality, governmental neglect and land hunger. In this context Canudos represented a heroic effort of self-help. The unifying force which made Canudos possible was a millenarian vision articulated by Conselheiro; the landless peasants, the suffering and the oppressed who flocked to the `New Jerusalem' would find happiness and fulfilment in the other world.
Until recently, the official history has portrayed Conselheiro and his followers as religious fanatics and dangerous outlaws. This line of thought was reinforced at the time by the humiliating defeats inflicted upon the military columns sent against Canudos. So pervasive was the official line that even those accounts of Canudos that denounced the atrocities of the state continued to portray the Canudos poor as a threat to civilization.
As a consequence, the victims of Canudos were also made the victims of history. For decades, history books persisted in ignoring the viewpoint of the poor of Canudos. This was even the case with Euclides da Cunha, whose account of the war, Os Sertões (Cunha 1966), is now regarded as the great classic of Brazilian literature and one of the greatest books ever written in Latin America.
EUCLIDES DA CUNHA AND OS SERTÕES
Euclides da Cunha was born in 1866 on a farm in the State of Rio de Janeiro. His childhood was rather unsettled following the death of his mother when he was three years old; he spent his formative years in the care of various relatives.
Taciturn in temperament, Da Cunha frequently avoided the company of school classmates, preferring the company of nature. This induced in him a contemplative turn of mind (Venâncio Filho 1966:35--36). Da Cunha began writing at an early age; already when in high school in 1883/84, he published his first articles in O Democrata, a small journal for students. He was `shy, distrustful, difficult, often rude and aggressive, apart from being irritable, as he suffered from dyspepsia' (Peregrino 1983:109 - own translation).
Euclides da Cunha joined the Military Academy, where he clearly showed his anti-Monarchist feeling in a pro-Republican speech he made in 1888, a year before the proclamation of the Republic. During a military ceremony, he thrust his sword at the Minister of War (a Minister of the Empire), and this act of insubordination led to his expulsion. Subsequently he registered at the Politícnica (State Institute of Technology). After the Republic was instituted in 1889, he was readmitted to the Army and registered at the Staff College. By profession he was a military engineer, but his knowledge and interests were very eclectic.
Euclides da Cunha was obsessed by the idea of the Republic, which for him was more like a living person, an ideal woman (Freyre 1943:31). This obsession becomes apparent in the statement which he is said to have made when he married Anna Solon Ribeiro, (later Anna de Assis), the daughter of General Frederico Solon Ribeiro - one of the founders of the Brazilian Republic (and the man who in 1889 was assigned the task of issuing Pedro II his exile orders). Euclides da Cunha's cousin, Dona Walinda da Cunha (who lived in the city of São Paulo), told the author of this dissertation in 1959 that her uncle had declared to the family: `Now I have married the Republic!'. The marriage, which took place in September 1891, was very unhappy and fraught with tensions, due to Da Cunha's frequent, long absences from home (Assis 1987). In fact, Euclides da Cunha himself referred to his life as a `romance mal arranjado' [a badly structured novel (Freyre 1943:29 - own translation)].
Despite the many engineering projects he was involved in, Euclides da Cunha still found time to write essays and articles. In March and July 1897, at the height of the Canudos Rebellion, he published two articles in the daily newspaper O Estado de São Paulo, both entitled `A Nossa Vendéia' (`Our own Vendée war'). In Os Sertões he explains the comparison between the chouans of Brittany and the jagunµos in terms of the environment in which they lived (Cunha 1944:196). Da Cunha was also a friend of the newspaper's director, Julio Mesquita, who invited him to go to Canudos as a correspondent, accompanying the Minister of War's party. He was thus an eye-witness to at least some of the events of the Fourth Expedition. After returning to Rio de Janeiro in October 1897, Euclides da Cunha published an article in the Jornal do Commércio; this article provided him with the outline for his forthcoming book on the Canudos Campaign entitled A Nossa Vendéia. This later became Os Sertões, which was originally intended as a cry of protest at the way the government of the day allowed events to develop. In addition to his news reports, Euclides da Cunha also published several essays on Canudos. After the Canudos Rebellion, he returned to his old profession, engineering, and was appointed Public Works Engineer for the State of São Paulo. He was soon sent to the small town of São José do Rio Pardo, in the interior of the State, in order to rebuild a bridge which had collapsed. It was there, in a peaceful and quiet atmosphere, living in modest, if not precarious circ;umstances, that Euclides da Cunha wrote Os Sertões. The bridge and the book took the same time to be completed - three years. Os Sertões was published in 1902, five years after the end of the Canudos Rebellion. It was an instant commercial and literary success. An account of the extent of this success is given by Venâncio Filho (1966:40). The following year Euclides da Cunha was elected a member of the Brazilian Academy of Letters, as well as a member of the Historical and Geographical Institute. He also headed several technical commissions on behalf of the Brazilian government. One of the most famous of such commissions was the Commission for the Reconnaissance of the Alto Purus (Upper Purus River), which Euclides da Cunha headed in August 1904. For him this was an opportunity to visit the Amazon region. In 1907 he published a book on a boundary dispute, Peru versus Bolivia, which was so well received that in 1907 he became an adviser to the office of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Baron of Rio Branco. In 1909 Da Cunha applied for the Chair of Logic at the Colégio D. Pedro II (a teachers' training college and secondary school of the Municipality of Rio de Janeiro). He was appointed amid strong competition, but delivered a mere ten lectures before being assassinated by his wife's lover on 15 August 1909.
Over the years, Euclides da Cunha was to become acknowledged as one of the great exponents of Brazilian literature. He recognized both the value and the necessity of incorporating indigenous elements into his writing. For him it became a conscious duty to reveal something non-European (or even anti-European) in his writings, since he was always aware of his Amerindian background, referring to himself as a `Tapuia (a member of the Tapuia Indian nation) with Greek and Celtic elements' (Freyre 1966:23 -- own translation). Freyre summarizes the character of Euclides da Cunha as `the spirit of a caboclo (mestizo) with the training of a military engineer and the concepts of the sociologist, or social ecologist' (own translation).
Euclides da Cunha was influenced by the Positivist thinkers of the late nineteenth century, for example Spencer and Comte and `such imported fare as Buckle, Bryce, Taine, Renan, Ratzel, Gumplowicz and Gobineau', apart from being influenced by the North American geologist Orville A Derby and by certain Brazilians as well (Benjamim Constant in particular). He had a deep interest in poetry and wrote verse in his spare time. He was fond of Brazilian poets such as Gonçalves Dias, an indigenist, and Castro Alves, the famous abolitionist; his favourite foreign poet seems to have been Victor Hugo (Samuel Putnam in Cunha 1944:xii).
Euclides da Cunha is often portrayed by his biographers as a genius, but one lacking in compassion. However, Da Cunha's humanity found expression in many different ways. For example, when he had completed his task in Canudos and was making ready to return to Rio, General Artur Oscar presented to him a jagunçinho (a boy jagunço) who had been orphaned in the conflict. Euclides da Cunha took the boy with him, taking great care of him. In Rio, he entrusted the boy to the director of the Normal College where the boy later qualified as a teacher (Peregrino 1983:116).
Euclides da Cunha combined his professional expertise with a broad range of interests. It was his spirit of adventure and his enquiring mind that brought him to Canudos. What he witnessed there imbued him with a sense of passionate outrage which, after a time, found expression in his greatest work, S. But his Positivist outlook prevented him from seeing the conflict from the point of view of the sertanejos who, to the end, remained barbarians in his mind.
It is only in the last two decades that other interpretations have begun to emerge, since the publication of Conselheiro's sermons, which reflect a coherent, rational and practical approach. Other books and articles also began to appear leading to a process of re-evaluation, leading to the discovery that Canudos was a viable community where former criminals were fully rehabilitated and the poor regained their dignity and hope.
Today (1997), one hundred years after the massacre, history is being rewritten and a new perspective uncovered, against the background of the modern-day Landless Movement (Movimento Sem Terra) and the Brazilian government's failure to address their demands. (As recently as this year, landless peasants have been massacred by uniformed police.)
The Centenary of the Canudos War provides an opportunity for reflection and reassessment of an episode which is a shameful reminder of the consequences of the lack of true understanding between an authoritarian regime and the oppressed.
One hundred years after the destruction of Canudos, it has become clear that the Counsellor's preachings were not only coherent but, in the light of subsequent events, prophetic. We can point out, in particular, to the Counsellor's words: `O sertão virará praia e a praia virará sertão' (`The sertão will become sea and the sea will become sertão'). In the late 1960s the Brazilian government ordered that Canudos be flooded and transformed into the Cocorobó dam, in an apparent attempt to destroy the memory of Canudos.
But the inhabitants of the region have not forgotten Canudos. Each year, since 1984, they meet on the edge of the dam in order to commemorate the end of the war. Even more significantly, the inhabitants of the region now have a new `counsellor': Father Enoque José de Oliveira, of the Popular Church. With his followers he discusses the question of land ownership and the importance of popular uprisings in the History of Brazil: `We believe in the struggle for the land, in water and bread' and `We believe in the people's resistance' (own translation). Father Enoque calls his followers profetas caatingueiros (prophets of the scrub forest), and together they aim at achieving liberation (Malina 1989:42).
Ironically, the defeat of the jagunços' struggle for freedom at Canudos may very well have ensured a triumph for freedom across the whole of the country. For, contrary to the views of the ruling élite, the real threat to Brazilian liberty and progress lay within the ranks of the Republican movement itself - the jocobinos. These were extremist Republicans, who wished to impose an authoritarian military regime to `protect the Republic'. The figure they originally looked to for leadership was Marshal Floriano Peixoto, who had been the country's second president. In power, he had ruled with an iron hand, disregarding the democratic constitution of 1891. However, serious crises in 1893, including the Revolt of the Navy, forced Peixoto to compromise with the democratic forces and allow the elections scheduled for 1894, which elected Brazil's first civilian president, Prudente de Moraes (Burns 1980:292--299).
The jacobinos were contemptuous of the new civilian government, but Peixoto, aware of political divisions in the Army, ignored their urgings to seize power again. When he died in 1895, Colonel Moreira César succeeded him in the minds of the jacobinos. Unlike Peixoto, Moreira César seems to have been willing to play the part desired of him - Euclides da Cunha certainly regarded him as an unbalanced, violent, and insubordinate fanatic (Cunha 1966:96-99). Moreira César's death at Canudos in 1897 thus saved Brazil from a violent coup attempt by an intolerant fanatic, and left the extremists without a leader. In desperation they attempted to assassinate the elected president, failed, and were totally discredited. Today the jacobinos are totally forgotten, except as a footnote to the struggle of the jagunços. The Republic was saved from its true enemies and successfully consolidated.
One hundred years after Canudos, the Counsellor has finally been vindicated.