The plantation owners were not fans of the Jesuits and criticized them for their interference and obstruction of their labor supply, yet in the end it did not matter. The Indian’s, not understanding the capitalist lifestyle, refused to comply with the work the Portuguese demanded of them causing the colonialist to turn towards another source of labor, slavery. At first the use of African slaves was quite minimal within the Portuguese of Brazil. However, colonials quickly found that the indigenous labor, which their sugar economy was founded on, held high death rates and frequently abandoned plantations. This made Africans the ultimate choice for slave labor, “establishing one of the most enduring slave systems in the history of the world.”
African slave life in colonial Brazil.
Many Jesuit monasteries in the new world from the beginning had been using African and native slave labor to run and make profit off their large land holdings within the new world. To legitimize this offense they followed the lead of the Catholic Church and monarchy, claiming it legitimate because the slaves were gathered in a “just war.” The acts of Jesuit monastic members varied from region to region, but it is easy to see why theological and political debate varied so widely on the subject of slaves. There was no easy answer on what was right or wrong, but the overall actions of Jesuit members still had a deep impact on the lives of the African and native slaves.
The Jesuits also affected slavery with some of the institutions they erected in the Portuguese model, one such institution was the confraternity. The confraternities were founded by Jesuits for the elite as well as for African slaves. Through these confraternities the Jesuits were able to ensure that the newly baptized blacks would attend mass and join in religious training. However, for the African slaves the confraternities held a more vital role by easing them into life as a slave. At these meetings blacks were able to find other Africans who spoke their language, or understood their cultural traditions, helping the frighten transition. Along with that slaves were able to incorporate their old traditions into the religious festivals and processions held by the confraternities. The establishment of African confraternities by the Jesuits is seen as one of the main sources of Afro-Brazilian Catholicism and shows that the Jesuit influence had lasting effects on the Slave population of Brazil.