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Book Review Of "Rebellion In The Backlands"

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Book Review of "Rebellion in the Backlands"

By Euclides da Cunha

Rebellion in the Backlands is set in the Northeastern backlands of Brazil. It is basically, a historical narration of a period of time (1896 and 1897) where the government of the Republic of Brazil decided to wage war against a religious group of people of about 5000. This group of people, lead by a charismatic religious leader named Antonio Conselheiro, did not accept the Brazilian government as their legitimate government and was therefore deemed a threat to the rest of the country. Some of the members of this rebellion were in fact very aggressive and uncontrollable. Eventually the Brazilian government led an attack on these people launching a battle that lasted almost a year and took the lives of hundreds of Brazilian army soldiers, and thousands of native Brazilian rebels. The poor, native people of the backlands proved impressive opposition and in fact defeated every single force sent against them and even killed the commander of the first expedition. Although, in the end the governments military did prevail over the rural people, and they were all eventually killed. Still, the interesting thing about his book is that it seems to demonstrate that there is more to the story than just a battle lost.

When I began this assignment, I set out to read each and every page of this book. Unfortunately, it is not an easy book to read and due to time limitations as well as a curiosity to "peek ahead" to further chapters, I was subsequently constrained to skim the entire book. From what I did gather this is a very well written book, incredibly detailed, by someone who is clearly well educated in Latin American History as well as military tactics and it seems as though, geology and geography as well. The amount of imagery and detail that was put into the chapter on land alone was enough to fill it's own book. "...an unlooked-for picture awaits the traveler ... all of which confers upon the landscape in a fuse in a distant and amazing blend of color." The physical descriptions of the land were beautiful and vivid, but what really interested me was the chapter entitled "Man".

Being a psychology major, this was by far my preferred chapter. Here Da Cunha really gets into the meat of the story he is telling about Brazilian history. In this chapter Da Cunha describes the differing types of people, how they interacted, where they came from, some of their beliefs, their views on society and their very own psychology.

He describes Brazilians as "...an abstract type in process of formation ... as a result of a more than ordinarily complex intermingling of races." Just a few of the peoples who's culture he explores are: the Negro's (Bantu or Kafir), with strong religious sentiment, the Portuguese (the first settlers), and legitimate pardo (a mixture of Chaffer, Portuguese and Tape Indian), the mulatto, the jaguncos, the influential Jesuits,

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