Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Archibald Lyall: Black and White Make Brown, 1938 (excerpt 1)

Soon the republication of Archibald Lyall's visit to the Cape Verde Islands and 'Portuguese Guinea' of 1936 - published as Black and White Make Brown in 1938 - is finished. As a teaser, I will pre-publish some excerpts here. [About St. Vicent] "...there is now nobody to say a mass, since the old black priest of Ribeira Grande died two or three years ago. I should have liked to have met the old padre. He was reputed to have a hundred children, and his parishioners respected him equally for his fecundity and for his political influence. Most of the old negro priests of Santiago have, or at any rate used to have, large families. Nobody thinks the worse of them, for blood runs warm in the tropics and the morals of the old slave days still survive in the Islands; the old days when the master took any girl he fancied and the blacks mated together like animals. When I was in St. Vincent, I was told of a recent case in which a woman brought a man into Court for attempted rape. The judge was puzzled, when she had finished her story. He said: "But there is one thing you have not made clear. What was your reason for resisting this man?" The woman replied rather lamely that she was defending her virginity. "Ah, now that is a reason," said the judge. "Let us see if it is true." The Court thereupon adjourned while the plaintiff underwent a medical examination. When it met again, the doctor reported that she was not a virgin. The case was dismissed on the ground that she had nothing to defend, and she was severely reprimanded for wasting the time of the Court. Among the lower classes marriage is looked on as an entirely unnecessary bother and expense. The latest statistics show that at least two-thirds of the children born in the Islands are technically illegitimate, and a priest whom Dr. Friedlander met in St. Vincent in 1912 put the proportion there as high as 98 per cent. This does not matter to them, for the Capverdians are very fond of children, and no stigma attaches to bastardy."

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