The Changing Culture of Mozambique

Part II

Colonization

In 1498, Portuguese explorers arrived. Upon seeing the thriving economy he returned with arms and Mozambique became a colony of Portugal by 1505. By 1510, Portugal had taken control of the trading and by 1515 had expanded their colonization to include gold mining in their conquest. Overtaking the people, their rights, and culture was also part of the Portuguese conquest. The Swahili were forced to work the farms and mines. A class system developed placing Portuguese land owners called prazeiros in control. The Mestizos were mixed with African and Portuguese descent and were next in line in the social structure. The Swahilis were last and the poorest of the population. In the late 1700’s Portugal included enslavement of Africans as part of their trade commodities.

During this time the existing culture of the Swahili suffered. This was a time of loss; a loss of independence, a loss of freedom, a loss of economy, and a loss of family.

In 1926, Portugal’s government was overturned by a fascist coup. The ensuing military dictatorship formed harsher and more violent conditions in the colonies for the Swahili.  The new government ruled by Antonio Oliveira Salazar, had alliances with the governments that ruled the colonies in neighboring Rhodesia and South Africa. Roads and railways were built to make it convenient to Rhodesia and South Africa to benefit also from the looting of Mozambique.

In 1932 all contracts with neighboring countries ended and poor Portuguese citizens were encouraged to move to Mozambique. With the new immigrants came a flood of social problems. Salazar ruled with a system similar to apartheid. Schools and other social benefits were for whites only. An estimated 93% of native Mozambicans were illiterate.

Missions of the Catholic Church were the only source of basic education, aid, and essentials such as food that was available to native Mozambicans. This came with a price; to receive basic education and needs they were required to deny their own beliefs, language, and culture. This furthered the loss to Mozambican culture (the Swahili culture). According to the national census about 40% of the population converted to Christianity, 40% remained with traditional beliefs, and only 20% remained with Muslin beliefs.

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