History for the Rest of Us

Conselheiro – Mysteries of a Mystic

Conselheiro – Mysteries of a Mystic

Sep 20, 2012

INTRODUCTION Historical information about internationally-prominent controversial individuals is often difficult to decipher. Reports of their lives vary widely based on the perspectives and prejudices of the individuals documenting the events. Add to that the challenges of re-creating the facts surrounding the life of an obscure individual whose life would suddenly be cast into the spotlight after having spent the majority of his years wandering quietly through the backlands of Brazil, and it becomes easier to understand why there are so many mysteries surrounding the Mystic of Canudos. EARLY YEARS In the small town of Quixeramobim, a child was born in 1828 whose destiny would threaten, albeit briefly, the foundation of the First Republic of Brazil. Antonio Vicente Mendes Maciel, later known as Conselheiro (the Councilor) was a sober child. His mother, Maria Joaquina de Nascimento, died when he was six. Antonio worked as a cashier or manager of his father’s store as a youth, and discharged his responsibilities carefully. The death of his father in 1855 left Antonio with complete responsibility for his father’s business and his four unmarried younger sisters. His marriage in 1857 to his fifteen-year-old cousin Brasilina Laurentina de Lima would be one of the key turning points in his life. Brasilina would have an affair with Joao de Melo a non-commissioned soldier (she would later leave him as well, ending her days as a beggar in the streets of Sobral.) Wishing to distance himself from the shame, Antonio went to the south of Ceara. Fate would place him in the path of his wife’s lover, and the mild-mannered even-tempered Antonio would crack. Unable to successfully lay hands on de Melo, he unleashed his frustrations on one of his relatives who had provided him with shelter. Maciel was imprisoned for the event, notwithstanding the fact that the victim testified at the trial that Antonio was within his rights. He would eventually escape from prison. Ten years would pass and ‘what he was doing, how he lived during these ten veiled years, that is to us unknown…He himself never unlocked his lips upon his wanderings.’ REAPPEARANCE After ten years he would again resurface in the state of Bahia. No longer would he...