The "mulattos" of the Sado: genetic evidence
(Thanks to Teuton)
[The following text addresses the main theme of a program produced in 1998 by the Portuguese state television RTP, about the untold story of the African slaves in Portugal]
Negroes far away from History

«O Lugar da História» brings to our knowledge stories about blacks, mulattos, and cultural mixing in Portugal. An almost unknown side of our past, that stretches from slavery to the "mulattos of the river Sado".

António Carvalho

«Knock! Knock!» «Who's there?» «It's the Negro from Guinea»

At a time when we are talking so much about Guinea and the misfortunes of its inhabitants, and in the eve of one of the most important journeys of the Portuguese speaking communities, the TV2 documentary reopens old and recent wounds, lifting the veil that covers the African presence in Portugal since the XV century
The Black Jewels of the Empire, a work signed by the journalist Anabela Saint-Maurice, is a long journey through time: it starts in the year 1444, date of the first auction of black slaves in Lagos, to our days. After interviewing several specialists, doubts and questions are raised about the first contacts between the Portuguese population and the newly arrived Africans: the shock and the disgust for the difference in skin colour, other differences always seen as negative, the imagery of the African as a human being - yes, as a human but as an inferior human, situated somewhere between Man and the Beast. To this day, the slave market of Lagos built in the XVII century (which shows how important that infamous commerce was) stands in perfect condition, to remember the role of the Portuguese as slave traders - it should always be pointed out that we were no better nor worse than any others: when the Portuguese sailors arrived in Africa, there already were caravan routes kept by Muslims that connected the continent.

Initially abducted, afterwards the object of bargaining by the African chieftains themselves, the black slaves arrived to Portugal in the same decks where the sugar and other merchandise were kept. In Lisbon, there was a "House of the Slaves", from where the slaves were shipped to Seville or Valencia. In 1550, there were 10.000 in Lisbon, and some say that they made 10% of the capital's population. They were present in the royal court, in the houses of the middle class and of the clerics. Baptism was compulsory. When they tried to escape and were recaptured, they were branded with a hot iron on their faces. Inevitably, there were several mixed "unions", which resulted in a large number of half-breeds. A study made by the Ricardo Jorge Institute, mentions that the presence of African DNA is higher in the South of the country, with important pockets near Alcácer do Sal and Coruche.

The program, reveals the existence, until the 1930s, of the so called "crows", "frizzy haired ones", or "mulattoes of the banks of the river Sado" - an untold story. In the community of Rio de Moinhos, that subject is to this day taboo, but little by little, stories of extreme poverty are revealed, a life of near slavery in the 1950s. On the other side, there are stories of "Black Brotherhoods" - in the Church of the Mercês, in Lisbon, the Book of the Brotherhood of Black Men is kept. These brotherhoods, enlightened religious processions with flutes, drums, and their shows helped to pay for the ransom of fellow Africans. In the XVIII century, there were seven such brotherhoods in Lisbon.

When freed, the Africans often became criminals, but some managed to find a job in the worst lines of work
[cleaning latrines, etc]. They were also the party fools - during bullfights, for instance -, and they influenced the culture both in Brazil and in Portugal - the Black Men's dances reached as far as Northern Portugal. In Moncorvo, in the 30s, the «pingacho» was still danced at the sound of a group of white musicians with black shoe polish over their faces...

Today, in the Rossio
[Lisbon], where in other times one would buy the services of the black house painters, today many Africans still gather to find a job. In all truth, the subject of the Blacks in Portugal is still unsolved. If in other days they stood next to princesses, as the «black jewellery» of the court, nowadays, with the days of the Empire long gone, they are still outlaws.
My comments
The program clearly over-rated the importance of the racial mixing, and to a certain extent confused cultural contribution with genetic contribution. Genetics proves that there is an average of (about) 3% Black DNA in the Portuguese population, and there is every reason to believe that the vast majority of that negligible Black DNA was due to the Neolithic migrants that settled the Iberian Peninsula. There are indeed regional differences, that span from little more than 1% in Northern Portugal to about 4-5% in Southern Portugal.

As the article said, there are two or three pockets where the percentages are higher: Alcácer do Sal, Altér do Chão and Coruche.
The places where the values are notably higher are not in the cities, but in a few isolated villages where the racism and social ostracism to which the mixed race descendents of the Black slaves were voted by the white population, meant that they married to each other for over 400 years (thus maintaining visible black admixture). These individuals number probably less than 1000 people, and are distributed by half a dozen or so isolated villages.
[The following abstract addresses the level of Negroid admixture in the Portuguese population, and some of the reasons why the level of admixture has been largely over-rated, in great part for political reasons; the study also addresses the topic of the so called "Sado mulattos"]
Old encyclopaedias may list black African as one of the strains that constitute the Portuguese people. Most newer encyclopaedias no longer list this, since it is known to be minuscule and the original reasons for including it were politically motivated. In other words, it was always known to be negligible. There is now proof, and this proof has come via Portuguese anthropologists, historians, and, most importantly, geneticists. In samples taken throughout Portugal, no sub-Saharan Y-chromosomes were found at all, suggesting that there were few black African male - Portuguese female unions. In the case of mtDNA, enough sub-Saharan sequences were found to suggest that black African female - Portuguese male unions did exist. However, this black African contribution to the gene pool is minimal at best. Even in the southern provinces, where Africans were imported in rather large numbers to till the soil of the fields, the input is negligible. According to the latest findings, the highest percentage of overall sub-Saharan DNA in southern native Portuguese is about 5%; in the central areas of Portugal (including Lisbon) and in the Azores and Madeira, the highest percentage drops to about 3%; and it declines to almost nil in the northern reaches of the country. In many individuals, even in the south, no black African genetic material was found at all. Two small areas, however, have proven to be an exception to the above: sparsely populated rural areas around the towns of Alcácer do Sal and Alter do Chão. In some cases here, sub-Saharan input was found to be at above 20%. These are the only areas in Portugal where black African physical features occasionally mildly manifest themselves in the natives. However, even in these areas, most individuals appear entirely European and many individuals were found to have no black African sequences at all. It is interesting to note that sub-Saharan sequences have also been detected at low levels in the natives of various parts of Italy, including Sardinia and Sicily, Spain, France, The Netherlands, Great Britain, and Germany.
in The Anthropology and Genetics Journal
Refuting Kemp
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