Valentim Gomes Tolentino: The Economic and Social Mobility Experienced by a Mulatto in the 19th Century (Zona da Mata Mineira, 1817-1855)

ABSTRACT The text discusses the possibilities of economic and social mobility experienced by the population of freed mulattos in Minas Gerais in the first half of the 19th century, when the province had the second largest populations of mixed-race individuals in Brazil. The question was approached through the trajectory of Valentim Gomes Tolentino, a mulatto who settled in the village of Santo Antônio do Paraibuna, the future municipality of Juiz de Fora, in the region called Zona da Mata Mineira, on the edge of what was then called Caminho Novo (New Way), one of the so-called royal roads that led to Minas Gerais. In the period analyzed, the locality was known for the production of food and by an incipient coffee trade. Working as a drover, farmhand, money lender, farmer and trader, Tolentino conquered prestige and wealth, being one of the largest slave-owners of his village in 1831, possessing more than one many leagues of land. He was a second lieutenant in the Army, and owner of a considerable fortune when he died in 1848.