Quebra-quilos and peasant resistance: peasants, religion, and politics in nineteenth-century Brazil
MetadataShow full item record
On October 31, 1874, market-goers in the town of Fagundes, near Campina Grande, Paraíba, rioted, smashing recently-installed scales based on weights and measures of the metric system. They resorted to violence to protest increased taxes, high prices of goods, the forced implementation of the metric system, fear of being drafted into the army or enslaved, and the imprisonment of two leading bishops. Dubbed Quebra-Quilos, or “Break the Scales,” by the authorities, this uprising quickly spread from Paraíba to Pernambuco, Alagoas, and Rio Grande do Norte, fifty uprisings in all, before finally being suppressed by the authorities. This dissertation reconstructs the social and political world of peasants in the northeast. Examinations of what I believe to be an alliance between the peasants and various priests will allow my analysis to integrate the rural lower classes with the high politics of the empire. It brings to light the issue of what constitutes morally acceptable behavior by groups of people faced with what they viewed as an impossible economic future and violations of community norms of justice: what happens when groups of people (in this case mostly peasants, but cutting across class lines, with the apparent alliance with priests) see their economic livelihood, social status, and religious institutions threatened by egregious violations of acceptable behavior? In this case, the government—local, municipal, provincial, and imperial—was held to be the cause of the current crises and was targeted by these rioters as a result.