Quilombos are settlements in Brazil established by fugitive slaves called Quilombolas, or Maroons. These communities began to be established during the century spanning 1570 and 1670, when the price of sugar was extremely high and slaves on Brazilian sugar plantations were forced to work in hellish conditions. Most slaves that were exported from Africa were sent to the Portuguese sugar colonies. This was because the life expectancy of the enslaved Africans in these areas was extremely low, with many not surviving one year. To this end, escapes were frequent and justified. The escaped slaves formed their own, self-sufficient, self-defending communities.
Many quilombos were established near large Portuguese and Brazilian plantations, often assisting in both the escape of slaves from these plantations and also recapture of runaway slaves, depending on the circumstances and conditions. By virtue of them being so close to the enemy, many ended up being totally destroyed. However, those that were further out into the hinterland survived, and today are large towns with the people retaining notable aspects of the West African culture of their ancestors.
The most famous of the quilombos was Palmares, renowned for fighters skilled in the martial art of capoeira. This settlement acquired the status of a semi-independent republic, with a population in the tens of thousands. The Europeans stated that it was easier to defeat another European force with modern equipment and tactics than it was to overcome a single quilombo warrior.
Anderson, Robert Nelson. “The Quilombo of Palmares: A New Overview of a Maroon State in Seventeenth-century Brazil”. Journal of Latin American Studies 28.3 (1996): 545–566. Web.
Flory, Thomas. “Fugitive Slaves and Free Society: The Case of Brazil”. The Journal of Negro History 64.2 (1979): 116–130. Web.