Chika Da Silva remains one of Brazils most spoken about female slaves till date. Her life story is talked about as a Brazilian fairytale inspiring many romance novels and telenovelas over the years. Like many success stories, Chika endured years of suffering and later lived a luxurious and comfortable life before her death.
Chika Da Silva was born between 1731 and 1733; the actual year cannot be stated because of varied accounts that cannot be verified. Her mother, Maria Dacosta was an enslaved West African in Brazil who was impregnated by a white miner and trader Antonio Caetano de Sá. She lived in a village which had a high population of enslaved Africans than white settlers.
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In 1749, Chika was in her late teens when she was sold as a slave to a Portuguese physician, Manuel Pires Sardinh. While working for him as a domestic slave, she bore him two sons. When the boys began to grow, Manuel Pires Sardinh decided to sell Chika to Jose da Silva de Oliveira to protect his image.
After serving him for a while, Jose da Silva de Oliveira was left with no choice but to sell Chika off again to another white owner Jose Fernandes de Oliveira. Jose Fernandes de Oliveira was a wealthy Portuguese diamond merchant and miner who enjoyed aristocracy and privileges due to his wealth.
Captivated by her beauty and warmth, it didn’t take long until Jose Fernandes de Oliveira fell in love with Chika. The affection Jose Fernandes de Oliveira had for Chika was genuine, and after a few years into their relationship, he decided to give her her freedom by no longer claiming her as his property. Jose Fernandes de Oliveira attempted to seek legal ways of marrying Chika, but the relationship was frowned upon, and the couple had to make do with living together as partners.
Chika Da Silva and her white partner Jose Fernandes de Oliveira were together for 15 years, and Chika became popularly known as “the girl in charge”. Chika’s life changed from living in a cabin to living in a castle-like house with her new partner. She amassed a lot of wealth and had 13 children for Jose Fernandes de Oliveira.
In 1770, Jose Fernandes de Oliveira moved back to Portugal taking away all the sons of the house and leaving everything for Chika Da Silva. Chika was left in charge of Jose’s mines and as agreed, raised their daughters. The once enslaved Brazilian soon became the owner of slaves known to treat them with kindness, allowing them freedom when they were old enough to settle down.
At a time when racial tensions and class separation were high in Brazil, Chika was highly respected and given membership in the topmost societies of the black, mixed-race and white classes. The Da Silva name soon became one of the wealthiest free black families with privileges. Many of whom relocated to various parts of West Africa including Nigeria and Ghana.
In 1797, Chika da Silva died and was buried at the Church of Sao Francisco de Assis where only wealthy whites of the aristocratic society were buried.
Her life served as an inspiration to many slaves who worked hard to gain their freedom and live a comfortable life in their rights.