Zumbi dos Palmares

Between the years 1624 and 1630, the Dutch invaded Brasil. The invasion created a perfect opportunity for slaves to free themselves and escape the Portuguese regimes. Slaves began a mass exodus to the northeastern part of the country and created large working communities called the quilombos for refuge. Quilombo dos Palmares was the largest of all the quilombos.

Zumbi dos Palmares was born around 1655 in the Quilombo dos Palmares. As an infant, he was captured by Portuguese soldiers and was given to Father Antonio Melo in Porto Calvo. The priest baptized Zumbi as Francisco and gave him an education consisting of learning Portuguese, Latin, and other subjects. Still unsettled in that world, Zumbi decided at the age of 15 to run away and return to the Quilombo dos Palmares. In the quilombo, he trained himself and others in an early version of Capoeira, firearms, swords, arrows, and defense strategies. His training proved great in 1675; Zumbi and other warriors of the community defeated Portuguese soldiers in a major battle.

With his proven braveness, Zumbi became a leader in the quilombo army. Even though he was adored and preferred by all in the community, another, named Ganga Zumba, was king. In an attack on the quilombo in 1677, one of Ganga Zumba’s sons was murdered and two others were captured. Tired of war, the king of the Quilombo dos Palmares accepted a peace treaty from the Portuguese to return any fugitive slaves living in the Palmares. Zumbi and most other in the quilombo disagreed with this idea of peace with Portugal so for his protection, Ganga Zumba moved to the Cucaú Valley under government supervision. Sometime later, Ganga Zumba died of poisoning and Zumbi became the new king of the Quilombo dos Palmares. Even whites who lived near the quilombo respected him so much that they called him captain. After many failed battles, the Portuguese attacked the withstanding quilombo again in 1693. During the battle, Zumbi was shot twice by soldiers, but managed to escape. In hiding for over a year, Zumbi was betrayed by one of his commanders. The betrayal led to the revelation of Zumbi’s location and eventually to his death. On November 20, 1695, the strong and resilient warrior was beheaded.

After Zumbi's death, the Quilombo dos Palmares was abandoned and ruined. Yet to this day, its history still lives on for it is recognized by some as the birthplace of Capoeira. Zumbi, as ruler of the quilombo, is largely responsible for that. Being the warrior he was, Zumbi earned the respect and loyalty of the people fighting and dying for their freedom. He led the slaves of the Palmares in their struggle and resistance against the Portuguese and, eventually, to their emancipation. He may have lived 300 years ago, but Zumbi exists today as a symbol of the African slaves fight for freedom and social equality.