Anthropology in the Colonization of Brazil

Anthropology focuses on objectifying a person and a culture’s behavior. In one of my other classes we encountered a reading about the colonization of Brazil by Portugal. In the book Colonial Latin America the social science of anthropology is still an undiscovered subject. However, I was able to connect some of the events and ideas to the study of anthropology.

In this book we focused on the letter from a Jesuit, Nóbrega and another letter from the Bishop Fernandes. Both wrote to Padre Simão in Portugal complaining about each others tactics to convert the natives into Christianity. The main conflict between them was whether the natives should be allowed to personalize Christianity to their culture.

Before the Jesuits, the natives would make songs with their instruments, but not to worship Jesus, the Jesuits described this old habit as “demonic”. When the Jesuits embedded their religion into the natives, although they succesful in changing their beliefs, they were unsuccessful in transforming the native’s culture and way of life. This provides another example in how a culture can heavily affect an individual or even a religion.  In this case, singing and creating music is a way the natives use to motivate the youth. Whenever they gather as a group, music is a resource of happiness. If these Jesuits and Bishops used anthropological skills the argument would have been settled and music would not be banned from being practiced during their Christianity gatherings, because they would objectify their experience and conclude that the practice of music is a way of strengthening their bonds raising morale.


Colonial Latin America A Documentary History, Edited by Kenneth Mills, Sandra Lauderdale Graham, and William B Taylor. Wilmington: Scholarly Resources Inc, 2002.