Last modified: 2003-04-12 by
Keywords: jeova | brazil | espirito santo | stripe: diagonal (white) | cotaxe | udelino |
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by Joseph McMillan
The following is a summary in English of "The Short Life of União de Jeová," by Geraldo Hasse.
Udelino Alves de Matos was a radical religious visionary from Bahia who came to Espírito Santo and preached a message to small farmers that paradise was to be attained in the mountains and valleys along the northern frontier between Minas Gerais and Espírito Santo. Inspired by Antônio Conselheiro, who some decades before had tried to create an independent religious community in Canudos (Bahia), and the "Blessed" José Maria, who had tried to do the same in the Contestado region between Santa Catarina and Paraná in 1910, Udelino envisioned a new Brazilian state to be known as the União de Jeová (Union of Jehovah). The territory he had in mind, about 10,000 sq km in extent, was rife with disorder, and Udelino's strategy was simply to have his followers unite there, seize and divide up the large estates, expel the landowners, cease to pay taxes, and defend the new "state" by force of arms.
From July 1952 to February 1953, Udelino and some 800 men armed with machetes, sickles, and rifles actually did control a small area centered on the village of Cotaxé, a district of the Espírito Santo municipality of Ecoporanga. Udelino designated Cotaxé as his capital and adopted an official anthem and a state flag, green with a white diagonal stripe. He also organized a petition with 866 signatures and carried it to Rio de Janeiro, where he sought (but apparently did not receive) an audience with President Getúlio Vargas. However, he did return from Rio with some papers stamped with the Brazilian government coat of arms, which he claimed gave him authority to govern União de Jeová as the president's delegate. Armed with that "authority," he proceeded to name a provisional government with himself as "director-general."
Udelino now claimed he was outside the authority of the state and local officials. They, however, apparently saw the matter differently, as the rebellion was firmly put down by the Minas Gerais and Espírito Santo state military police between February and March 1953. Udelino vanished, leaving only some documents behind, written in "almost incomprehensible Portuguese," says Hasse. Different accounts say he was captured and killed by the police or that he escaped to Bahia or Paraná. One former comrade testified long afterward that he had received a message almost ten years later that Udelino was living in Parati, in the State of Rio de Janeiro.
The story of União de Jeová was largely forgotten, even within Espírito Santo, until it was told in a 1988 historical novel by the journalist Adilson Vilaça entitled Cotaxé - Romance of the Ephemeral State of União de Jeova, later the basis of a television documentary.
Joseph McMillan, 19 February 2003