may 12. escrava Anastácia, whose eyes pierced from behind a face mask
Patroness of slaves everywhere
Anastácia often said eu não sou escrava which means I am not a slave.
It is said that Anastácia’s eyes were piercing blue. As one scholar notes: “All agree that she was beautiful, and that beauty is a very important part of who she is.”
I came across two main accounts of how Anastácia came to have blue eyes:
Anastácia’s mother was a slave brought from the west coast of Africa to Brazil. Anastácia was conceived when her mother was raped by a white sugar plantation owner. When Anastácia was born with dark skin and blue eyes, the plantation owner feared his wife would discover his violence. He decided to send Anastácia far away. By some accounts, she was the first blue-eyed mixed race baby in all of Brazil.
Anastácia was born in Angola and came to Brazil on a ship. Her eyes turned blue when she looked into the sea.
MUZZLE-LIKE FACE MASK
All accounts consent that Anastácia wore a muzzle-like face mask inlaid with prongs that prevented her from speaking, but the reason for her cruel punishment varied. According to one chronicler, this was a common torture practice inflicted on slaves, in part to prevent them from committing suicide by ingesting poisonous dirt.
Here are three different accounts of how she came to be muzzled:
As Anastácia grew up, the plantation’s overseer and many other white men accosted her; she also became the obsession of the plantation owner’s son. She did her best to loudly and violently resist these men’s many attacks, along with other defiant acts (which may have included helping others to escape slavery).
Egged on by white women who envied Anastácia’s unparalleled beauty, the son forced her to wear a muzzle-like face mask. Once a day, the son removed the mask so that Anastácia could eat, but otherwise she was condemned to wear it for her entire lifetime.
Anastácia and the overseer fall in love. When his wife discovers their deep connection, she imposes the face mask as punishment. By one account, the overseer’s envious wife snips off Anastácia’s nipples to disfigure her.
The mask was a punishment for Anastácia’s political disobedience as she joined a Quilombola, a resistance movement of runaway enslaved Africans.
Upon donning the vile muzzle, Anastácia developed heaven-sent healing powers. Her fellow slaves would come to her to repair their wounds, and she would lay her hands upon them. Over time, the collar caused Anastácia to develop tetanus or gangrene. While she lay suffering, the overseer’s child fell ill and he came to her deathbed begging her to help. Her last act of healing was to make the child well again, and shortly thereafter she passed away and her soul ascended to heaven.
In the late 1960s, Anastácia’s remains were tragically destroyed in a church fire. Due to a “lack of evidence,” the Catholic Church declared her to be nonexistent in 1987.