Urban Porters, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 1819-1820

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Image Reference

Henry Chamberlain, Views and costumes of the city and neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, from drawings taken by Lieutenant Chamberlain, Royal Artillery, during the years 1819 and 1820, with descriptive explanations (London, 1822). The illustration shown here is taken from the Brazilian (Portuguese) edition, Vistas e costumes de cidade e arredores do Rio de Janeiro em 1819-1820 (Livaria Kosmos, Rio de Janeiro, 1943), p. 167 (plate 7 in the 1822 London edition). (Copy in University of Florida Library, Gainesville)

Title, "Pretos de Ganho or Black Porters," depicts two ways in which wine and other heavy items are transported. The porters are "invariably slaves working for their masters, to whom they pay a fixed sum every evening upon their return home, keeping for themselves the overplus, if any, of what they may have earned; and, at other times, after a bad day, making up the deficiency. Many families are entirely supported by slaves of this description. When the burthen is too great for one man, it is slung to one of these poles and thus carried by two to its place of destination; with still heavier loads, four, six, or even more, are called in . . . one of them generally bargains for the whole and acts as their leader . . . . When all is ready they gently raise the burthen and each putting his hand on his neighbor's should for support, begin to move; to maintain the regularity of step, so necessary to produce uniformity of effort, the [leader] chants a few African words, at the close of which the whole body join in chorus . . . ." The "truck" shown on the right, is "a most inconvenient unmanageable machine (p. 230). The foreground figures in Chamberlain's book were copied from two separate water-colors drawn earlier by Joaquim Candido Guillobel. Born in Portugual in 1787, Guillobel came to Brazil in 1808, and from 1812 started "drawing and painting small pictures on cards of everyday scenes in Rio de Janeiro." For biographical details on Guillobel, who died in 1859, and reproductions of about 60 of his original drawings in color (including the ones shown here), see Joaquim Candido Guillobel, Usos e Costumes do Rio de Janeiro nas figurinhas de Guillobel [1978]. The text of this volume is given in both Portuguese and English; the author of the biographical notes who is, presumably the compiler of the volume, is not given in the Library of Congress copy that was consulted. (See this website, "Chamberlain" for related drawings.)