- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 2, 2007


Now well past 90, Judith MacKnight Jones is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, the illness that robbed her of all of her memory, her most precious asset.

She has been lying here for the past 11 years, covered by a patchwork blanket, made from pieces her great-grandmother brought from the United States between 1865 and 1885, after the Confederacy lost the Civil War.

Unable to speak or remember now, her book “Soldado Descanso” (“Rest Soldier”) is written in Portuguese, but soon will be translated into English, as the publisher thinks Americans should know about the proud history of Confederate immigrants settling in Brazil, finding a new home here but maintaining many of the traditions they brought from Alabama, Texas, Louisiana, Tennessee, Arkansas, the Carolinas and Georgia.

Her daughter-in-law, Heloisa Jones, said patchwork is only one of the values the Americans have brought.

This blanket is not just any patchwork, she said, “these pieces are very old and reflect a valuable tradition,” she said.

“Over a century old and symbolizing our heritage, the flight from our homelands, it is extremely important to keep it that way. I teach my children and grandchildren the American values our ancestors have brought with them. And I expect them to teach their children and grandchildren the same,” she said.

Every spring, hundreds of the descendants of the soldiers who lost the war against the North go to the cemetery they call O Campo. They party and meet dressed in traditional costumes, staging shows, singing Southern songs like “When the Saints Come Marching In” or “Oh Susannah,” playing banjos and blowing trumpets, the men eventually getting drunk on home-brewed beer.

Many of the men are dressed in gray uniforms with yellow stripes while the women are in blue and pinkish frocks with matching bows in their hair.

The men replay the war and yell “Attention” and “Left, right, left, right,” looking like they are celebrating a victory. But at the end of the performance the false-bearded actor, playing Gen. Robert E. Lee, falls down as if wounded, a Confederate flag wrapped around him.

There are toffee apples and roast chicken and corn, there are square and other dances by the Presbyterian church, the first non-Catholic church ever built in Brazil.

The Confederates were very warmly received in Brazil by Emperor Dom Pedro II, who was in power when the Joneses” family, the MacKnights, Daniels — of Alabama; please don’t mix them up with those from Texas — and Steagall families started to arrive.

“We built the cemetery around the church as we had no place to bury our dead. That was forbidden by the Catholics,” Mrs. MacKnight Jones’ granddaughter, Becky Jones, explained.

“It was a struggle, but we made it. Now the cemetery is the center of our social activities, but it is not as if we are dancing on the graves. We respect our ancestors deeply and are thankful they came to these new lands.”

Becky Jones is Brazilian but insists on speaking English. She learned it not at school, but from her parents and will most certainly pass it on to her children.

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