Dragão do Mar - Dragon of The Sea
Dragão do Mar
The slavery in Brazil was abolished on May 13th 1888, when Princess Isabel signed the Lei Áurea (Golden Law).
In Ceará, liberty came sooner. The Abolishionist Moviment of Ceará had been in activity since 1879. In 1884, Ceará was the first province in Brazil to free all slaves.
Slave owners reacted fiercely. Many farmers were having a hard time because of a prolongued drought which hit Ceará late in the 1800s, and some were trying to sell slaves to markets in the South of Brazil.
Eminent abolishionists from the entire country, such as José do Patrocínio and Joaquim Nabuco, came to Ceará to join local leaders, like João Cordeiro, and manifest their support. Their voices were important to propagate the ideals of the movement, and certainly had influence in Princess Isabel´s decision a few years later.
During this period of turbulence, a humble character gained projection.
Chico da Matilde was born in Aracati, Ceará, on April 15th 1839. With a black ancestry, soon he started to fish in jangadas; his natural abilities took him to become the main Pratico (person who knows the sea paths and guides the ships and vessels) in Fortaleza. As he soon joined the Abolishion movement, he lost his job; the fact that he gave up a well paid job in favor of his ideals gave Chico da Matilde a huge prestige among his fellows.
Chico da Matilde and his wife, Francisca Joaquina, incentivated all jangadeiros to not transport the slaves between the beach and the ships; because they could not use the piers, the jangadas were the means to take slaves to the ships.
Chico had his importance recognized. He was taken to Rio de Janeiro, to visit the Emperor and other authorities. On return, he was received with a shower of flowers and a new name, more compatible with his grandness: Dragão do Mar - the Dragon of Sea.
Dragão do Mar died in 1914, with the ranks of Tenent of the Navy.
In 1999, when the largest cultural center of Fortaleza was opened, the city paid a tribute to that man who defended liberty on the nearby beach of Iracema, and the center was called Centro Cultural Dragão do Mar.