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Conceição das Crioulas

Conceição das Crioulas stands out for being one of the first communities in the state to seek their rights as Quilombolas, with a history of organisation and mobilisation strongly characterized by female leadership.

Conceição das Crioulas

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Last update: 09/06/2015

By: Júlia Morim - N/I

The arrival of six black women, possibly freed slaves, at the foot of the Serra do Umã (now Serra das Crioulas) marks the foundation of Conceição das Crioulas, a Quilombo Community Remnant (CRQ) located in the municipality of Salgueiro, in Pernambuco’s semi-arid region, approximately 500km from the capital, Recife. This story told by elders, as written documents are scarce, has been built on since the 1980s by the inhabitants of Conceição das Crioulas.

According to the elders’ memories, in the early 19th century, the creoles leased three square leagues of land, whose payment was made with the fruit of labour in cotton spinning and its sale. Besides work, to be owners of the land, they asked Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception for help. With the grace achieved, as payment, they donated part of the land to the Saint and erected a chapel. Hence the community’s name, translated as Conception of the Creoles.

The struggle for possession and use of land, considered its greatest asset (CONCEIÇÃO DAS CRIOULAS QUILOMBOLA ASSOCIATION, 2007, p.4), permeates the history of the area, located in the Northeast’s semi-arid region, whose colonisation began in the 17th century through land donations. As white people were entering the semi-arid region, Indians and blacks who had sought refuge in these areas fled from the sugarcane and livestock expansion fronts and began to occupy the ranges. In the case of Conceição das Crioulas, their land bordered the Aticum Indigenous Land and reports indicate that the relations between the peoples were always friendly and with trade.

Until today, the Quilombolas of Conceição das Crioulas live with the encroachment of their land. According to Souza (2002, p.114), “the best areas [are] under the control of farmers. The strips left over for the inhabitants of Conceição are very rocky and unsuitable for agriculture.” According to the Conceição das Crioulas Quilombo Association (2007, p.4), although the community received the land title for its territory in 2000 and was certified in 2005, both by the Palmares Foundation,

there is still much to do, because we only have free access to approximately 30% of all our territory. This disrupts our lives greatly. Fences prevent us from collecting raw material, gathering fruit, and accessing the stone cauldrons (natural water reservoirs).

The importance of territory for the people of Conceição das Crioulas lies in its social and cultural dimensions. It is there where they plant, where they live, where they celebrate, where they work, where they bond, where their and their families’ story was built. The land has senses and meanings that ensure the group’s feeling of belonging, unity and identity.

In 1998, the population of Conceição das Crioulas was of 1,780 inhabitants, divided into three hundred and fifty-six families spread over sixteen settlements (SOUZA, 2002, p.112). In 2010, according to Souza (2010, p.2), there were 3,800 inhabitants, forming seven hundred and fifty families scattered across twenty settlements. The distance between the village of Conceição, the community’s largest, and the council buildings of the Salgueiro municipality is 42km, of which 27km is dirt road, which makes both the transport and the flow of local production difficult.

Conceição das Crioulas stands out for being one of the first communities in the state to seek their rights as Quilombolas, with a history of organisation and mobilisation strongly characterized by female leadership. In the late 1980s, contact with a mission of Carmelite nuns aroused the interest of the people in their own story and encouraged engagement with trade unions, NGOs and social movements, such as the movement of rural workers and the black movement. In 2000, the Conceição das Crioulas Quilombo Association (AQCC) was founded, now responsible for the State Joint Committee of Pernambuco Quilombo Communities. According to the Pro-Indian Commission of São Paulo: “In addition to its leadership in the state’s political activity, the Community of Conceição das Crioulas also stands out for the formulation of an important differentiated education project in the Quilombos and its ground-breaking work in handicrafts.”

Cotton was a source of income for the people of Conceição das Crioulas until 1987, when there was a plague in the region. Today, subsistence agriculture, the sale of umbu fruit, small goat, cattle and pig farms, and handicrafts have been the main economic activities of the locality. The main raw materials used are caroá fibre for making bags, dolls and games, and clay, to produce pans, cups, pots and necklaces. It is worth noting that creating handicrafts is not merely a source of income, but also a way of perpetuating their history, since the dolls represent women leaders of great importance in the search for community development.

Currently the community has several schools, including a secondary school built in 1995, a health centre, post office, marketplace and a community house. Many of these services are the result of the organisation of the people of Conceição das Crioulas demanding their rights. With regard to health, even with the presence of health workers and the existence of the Health Centre, healers continue to serve the population. Electricity reaches 95% of the territory. However, as for others in the semi-arid region, access to water is poor.

With regard to the most significant celebrations for the community, the feast of Our Lady of the Assumption in August is considered the great celebration, marked by presentations of fife bands and the trancelim dance, along with the Feast of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception in December. Novenas, masses and processions are also important moments, with regard to both religion and socialisation. Graduation, in late December, commemorates the struggle for access to education.

The journey travelled by its people in rescuing their history, appreciating their culture and joining political movements makes Conceição das Crioulas “a reference for self-esteem and appreciation of ethnic and cultural identity, helping to awaken and sensitise people from other territories to the importance of self-assertion and to be recognised as Quilombola black people.” (CONCEIÇÃO DAS CRIOULAS QUILOMBOLA ASSOCIATION, 2007, p.3).
Recife 7 May 2014.
Translated by Peter Leamy, May 2015.

sources consulted

ASSOCIAÇÃO QUILOMBOLA DE CONCEIÇÃO DAS CRIOULAS (AQCC). Quilombolas de Conceição das Crioulas, Salgueiro, Pernambuco. Brasília: Projeto Nova Cartografia Social dos Povos e Comunidades Tradicionais do Brasil, 2007. Fascículo 6.

COMISSÃO PRÓ-ÍNDIO DE SÃO PAULO. Conceição das Crioulas. Available at: <
html/brasil/pe/pe_conceicao.html>. Accessed: 28 mar. 2014.

LEITE, Maria Jorge dos Santos. Mulheres negras, história e política. In: CONGRESSO LUSO-AFRO-BRASILEIRO DE CIÊNCIAS SOCIAIS, 11., 2011, Salvador. Anais eletrônicos... Salvador: UFBA, 2011. Available at <>. Accessed: 10 mar. 2014

SOUZA, Maria Aparecida de Oliveira. A Comunidade de Conceição e o início da ocupação do território. Em Tempo de Histórias, Brasília, n.9, p. 115-130, 2005. Available at: <
>. Accessed: 10 mar. 2014. 

SOUZA, Maria Aparecida de Oliveira. Mulheres da Comunidade de Conceição e a comunidade das mulheres: histórias que se confundem. In: SEMINÁRIO INTERNACIONAL FAZENDO GÊNERO, 9., 2010, Florianópolis. Anais eletrônicos...: diásporas, diversidades, deslocamentos. Florianópolis: Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina, 2010. Available at:<
>. Accessed: 10 mar. 2014.

SOUZA, Vânia Rocha Fialho de Paiva e. Conceição das Crioulas, Salgueiro (PE). In: O’DWYER, Eliane Cantarino (Org.). Quilombos: identidade étnica e territorialidade. Rio de Janeiro: Editora FGV/ABA, 2002. p. 109-140.

how to quote this text

Source: MORIM, Júlia. Conceição das Crioulas. Pesquisa Escolar Online, Joaquim Nabuco Foundation, Recife. Available at <>. Accessed: day month year. Ex: 6 ago. 2009