How Enslaved African Chico Rei Hid Gold In His Hair To Raise Funds To Buy His Freedom

Photo: Wikimedia Commons/ Plazak


Chico Rei is thought to have come from the Kongo Kingdom in West Central Africa. He was born into the royal family in the early 1800s. His fortunes changed when members of his family and himself were kidnapped by slave raiders and shipped to work on European plantations.

Chico and his family were relocated to the hilly region of Vila Rica, where they worked in the Minas Gerais gold mines.

Chico was determined to free himself from the harsh conditions of the mine pits while working in them.

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He started hiding the gold he found while working in the mines. He eventually sold it to buy his freedom. He went on to save his family after making enough money from a goldfield he purchased in Vila Rica shortly after becoming a free man.


According to oral tradition, the gold he used to buy his freedom was a gift from his former slave owner for his sterling work output. According to historical records, when Chico and his family established themselves after their freedom, they initiated plans to build the Church of Saint Iphigenia, which is now used by the Brotherhood of Our Lady of Rosary.

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In his book ‘História antiga de Minas,’ published in 1904, Brazilian historian Diogo Luiz de Almeida Pereira de Vasconcelos wrote about Chico’s exploits. Chico has become a folklore legend in popular Brazilian culture, with schools and theaters staging dramas and plays based on his exploits. Chico Rei’s heroic deeds were depicted in a play performed by Rio de Janeiro’s Salgueiro samba school in 1964.

Chico represents the horrors of Africans captured and placed in European mines and plantations, their trials while in captivity, and their eventual freedom. His story has been used by playwrights and local Afro-Brazilian groups to promote the story of enslaved people’s resilience and victory.

Chico Rei’s mine was named after a local resident who discovered a mine blocked with stones in 1946. The mother of the teenager who discovered the gold mine was adamant that it was synonymous with what was described in Maria Bárbara de Lima’s Histórias da terra mineira. It has been illuminated to improve visibility in the one-mile-deep mine shaft.

The authorities have used the location to promote tourism by opening a small restaurant to the public. For over a decade, there has been a concerted effort to promote Chico Rei’s values in scholarly articles and literature in Portuguese, English, and Spanish.

His story is significant because, despite being a minority, the Afro-Brazilian population has become an important pillar in the history and economic growth of Brazilian society.

He is thought to have gone through the various heinous experiences that many enslaved people went through after being shipped from Africa to work in the gold mines of southeastern Brazil and earn his freedom through his ingenuity.



Written by How Africa News

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