1 Scholars differ with respect to their dating of these movements. Many assig
beginning date to theyear when the religious figure first settled in a ‘‘holycity
attracted followers to his side, and they set the ending date to coincide wi
death of the leader and/or the violent destruction of his community. For re
that will become clear shortly, I prefer the move by Gunter Paolo Süss to e
a starting date that reflects the early careers of the messianic figures prior to
creation of holy cities. Süss does, however, use the conventional approach
ing an end date. Accordingly, he presents the following chronologies: Conte
contrast, I argue that one must be more flexible in establishing end dates as w
order to capture the important fact that these movements continue to live o
the present in popular and elite memory and practice.
There is also disagreement among scholars with respect to the number
lowers belonging to each movement. For example, Todd Diacon (1991, 3) c
figure of some 20,000 Contestado followers, while Süss (1979, 68) claim
at a far more modest 6,000 (1979, 68). Joaseiro attracted approximately 30,00
lowers according to Süss (ibid).
2 The Brazilian Northeast,which is the setting for most of this study, consists o
distinct zones.The first is the humid coastal region of cacao and sugar produ
It is where Brazil’s colonization began and home of the important colonial
Salvador. To the west of the lush and wealthy coast lies the broad sertão, or
lands, a semi-arid region covered with scrub brush (caatinga) and cactus.The
is subject to periodic droughts which result in famine and mass migration.
At the time of Pedro Batista’s journeyacross the sertão, the majorityof th
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