Christian Cravo's Backlands
November 7, 2004 5:08 PM   Subscribe

Irredentos. The sun beats down insufferably on the rust coloured landscape, stretching for mile after mile under a cobalt blue sky. In the distance, a convoy of rented farm trucks packed with thousands of penitents kicks up a serpentine cloud of dust that rises and then dissipates over the land. Through the dry air comes a jingling of chimes and a clicking of rosaries, a shuffling of processions, and with eyes heavenward, a ceaseless chanting of invocations. This is a holy and sun-scorched land, the Backlands of Brazil's northeast - the Sertão. Some believe Jesus is buried here.
Christian Cravo, the photographer, is Mario Cravo Neto's son.
posted by matteo (7 comments total)
About the Sertanejos
posted by matteo at 5:17 PM on November 7, 2004

For three centuries Brazil’s devout Sertanejos (Backlanders) have relied on pilgrimages to sacred sites deep in this inhospitable land to expiate their sins. To acquire the amulets, figures of saints and religious icons that will protect them until the next gathering.

Redemption here comes in the form of life-giving rain, which must fall from Heaven, and it’s primarily with prayers for which that these journeys continue. So dry is the Sertão that places have been known to go for more than three years at a time without a single drop of rain. Here, the climate and the people’s religious fervor are closely linked.

Between the 17th and early 20th centuries, religious leaders condemned as pagans fled persecution from both the State and the Church by hiding themselves in this difficult-to-access land and establishing their own communities. In 1900 an uprising led by Antonio Conselheiro against a government led army resulted in his death and the massacre of thousands at the now sacred site of Canudos – today a small village where one can still find on the dusty surface fragments of this battle.

Most Sertanejos believe that the Good Jesus of Lapa (a local reinterpretation of Christ) is manifested in Antônio Conselheiro and other charismatic leaders of old, especially one Father Cícero. Today the Sertanejos remain ‘irredentos’ (the unredeemed) and consider the unassuming town of Canudos as hallowed ground, a place where one can hope to inch ever closer to the divine.

posted by matteo at 5:21 PM on November 7, 2004

Cravo's work echoes some of Sebastiao Salgado's Sertão images
posted by matteo at 5:30 PM on November 7, 2004

In 1900 an uprising led by Antonio Conselheiro against a government led army resulted in his death and the massacre of thousands at the now sacred site of Canudos

That little footnote is worthy of a post by itself. Conselheiro ("The Counselor") wasnt just the leader of a rebellion. Many believed him to be the next incarnation of Christ.

The community he formed drew the disenfranchised from all over Brazil. This community grew to a population of about 30,000. They developed their own system of government, laws, culture, and infrastructure. The government of course saw this growing independent "state" as a growing threat. They sent in troops and pretty much massacred the residents of this peaceful utopia.

The writer Mario Vargas Llosa wrote a piece of historical fiction about - The War of the End of the World, probably one of his best books. Its a gripping novel, a real page-turner. Highly recommended.
posted by vacapinta at 5:30 PM on November 7, 2004

If this movement remains archaic, as in the case of the village of Canudos, founded by the poor peasants of the Brazilian Northeast at the end of the nineteenth century under the leadership of the millenarian prophet Antonio Conselheiro, it is destined, Hobsbawm proves, to defeat; the peasants' "mystical" and prepolitical revolt was crushed by the army after a long and bloody conflict. But it can also become the point of departure for an actual modern social movement, as in the case of the Sicilian Peasant Leagues of 1891-1894.
from The Socio-Religious Origins of Brazil's Landless Rural Workers Movement


Rebellion in the Backlands by Euclides da Cunha
posted by matteo at 5:39 PM on November 7, 2004

Obrigado, matteo. Cool stuff.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 7:46 PM on November 7, 2004

Wow. You have been on a roll lately with the good FPPs. Keep it up! Yay!
posted by dejah420 at 9:38 PM on November 7, 2004

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