Black Woman Reportedly Held As Slave By Wealthy Family In Brazil For 38 Years
A Black woman from Brazil has spoken out about how she was reportedly held as a slave by a wealthy family for 38 years.
At just eight years old, Madalena Gordiano is said to have knocked on the door of Maria das Graças Milagres Rigueira’s home, begging for food. Rigueira and her family, from the southeast Brazilian state of Minas Gerais, were well off and had the financial means to give Madalena a comfortable life.
So when Rigueira, a white schoolteacher, apparently offered to adopt Madalena as her own child, Madalena’s mother agreed, having eight other children to care for, including her twin sister, Filomena. However, it is reported the Rigueira family did not treat Madalena as one of their own.
The outwardly respectable Rigueira family allegedly never permitted Gordiano to attend school and never adopted her as a daughter, El Pais reports.
For the next 38 years, Madalena is said to have carried out unpaid housework for the family, including cooking, washing, cleaning bathrooms, dusting and tidying.
A 21st century slave, Madalena apparently never received payment for her work and was never allowed any time off. By the time she was rescued, on November 27, she was 46 years old.
Speaking with Fantástico, the Brazilian TV show that broke the story, Madalena said:
I went to ask for bread because I was hungry, but she told me she wouldn’t give me any if I didn’t come and live with her.
The Rigueira family also reportedly turned Madalena into a source of income, marrying her off to an elderly relative while she was still in her twenties.
The 78-year-old had a military pension exceeding 8,000 reais a month (€1,300) and Madalena, who never actually lived with him, inherited his pension after he died.
However, Madalena barely saw any of the money she was entitled to as almost all of it went into the Rigueira family’s pockets. According to reports, the pension was in fact used to cover the costs associated with their daughter’s medical degree.
At one point during her enslavement, Madalena was ‘gifted’ to the Rigueira’s son, veterinary professor Dalton Milagres Rigueira, as was common practice during the era of slavery.
Professor Dalton Milagres Rigueira said he blamed his mother for the conditions in which Madalena was kept. He has since been suspended from his job at the university where he teaches. The family’s lawyer, meanwhile, says the disclosure of the prosecutor’s case is ‘premature and irresponsible’ as there has not yet been a conviction, and urges ‘cautious reflection,’ El Pais reports.
Following her resuce, Madalena is keeping the monthly pension, is being assisted by social workers and psychologists, and is looking to be reunited with her biological family, MailOnline reports.
If you have been affected by any of the issues in this article and wish to speak to someone in confidence, contact Stop Hate UK by visiting their website www.stophateuk.org/talk