La Ultima Cena

The article by John Mraz offers a straightforward view of what La Ultima Cena represented and tried to show in regards to South American slavery.  The film showed slavery from an 18th and 19th century perspective which was that white people of European anscestry were helping Africans by keeping them enslaved.  This “help” stemmed from “civilizing” them and, in some cases, such as with La Ultima cena, trying to keep them happy in their enslavement by teaching them Christian values.  The first aspect of christianity being used as a force to keep slaves happy deals with the priest who works for the master telling the slaves that their role as slaves is “tolerable and just” under christian principles.  The fact that the events in La Ultima Cena actualy happened in 1790 is interesting and possibly unique to documented history.  A master washing 12 slaves feet in imitation of Jesus Christ is not a common occurence.  This very humbling act is followed by an even more strange act which is a master dining with his slaves.  The film also gives some more historical perspective by  the way the slaves and the master interact at dinner.  The slaves all have personalities and history of their own which the master takes a mild interest in.  This is interesting because slaves are often treated as one group with no individual characteristics or personality and labeled as just “Africans” by their oppressors.  In contrast to the desired results of showing slaves that they should be more christ like and accept their station in life, this treatment as equals causes them to revolt.   This story takes an awkward turn and instead of the master being a benevolent Christian master he instead suppresses a revolt and kills the men he had been trying to teach humility.  This is rather ironic and if the story is known among other slaveholders, it could be why the act of treating slaves well was not often repeated. 

The Schultz article discusses political change within Brazil, specifically the forming of a independent government and what to do with slaves in particular.  The article specifically discusses what makes someone “Brazilian” and qualifies them for citizenship.  Slaves are mentioned in this article and it is proposed that they can become citizens in the early part of the 19th century if they are male and manumitted by their master.  There is opposition to this such in the suggestion that freed slaves have a trade skill and can contribute to society instead of just being a burden.  Race is not so much the issue in parts of the Schultz article as is the economy and political security for the newly independent country.  This ties in with La Ultima Cena in a couple ways.  The master in the film appears like he does want to be somewhat good to his slaves, such as when he tells them that they may have the next day off work.  However, the master also wants the economic benefits from working them every day no matter if it is a religious holiday or not.  This is another ironic point in the film because he wants his slaves to embrace Christianity but he will not allow them to worship on a Christian holiday.  The master also frees one of his slaves when he is drunk but will not actually let the slave go the next day because the slave has nowhere to go.  The master is also not especially harsh to his slaves, until the end of the movie, he does not strike one throughout the film even though one spits on him and one escapes but is captured.  The master is by no means benevolent and good but he is also not completely bad or mean. 

The film La Ultima Cena had some historical evidence of slavery in it and how they were treated overall. The film was about race, religion and the question of freedom for slaves.  During this period from what we see in the film and what is found in the articles it would be accurate to say that slaves did not have many real options for improving their life without the help of their masters.  There were attempts seen in the documents and articles of the Schultz reading but there were boundaries drawn on rights such as voting and holding office that clearly held slaves and freedman as the lowest people in the country.  These laws, just like the ones in America held slaves as property and property could not vote, hold office or even obtain freedom on their own.