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Commonwealth of Natal
Nação de Natal
Volksrepubliek van Natal
Flag of Natal

[[ ]]

Flag Emblem
Motto: Regito Deus (Let God Reign)
National anthem: O Land of our Birth
Royal anthem: God Save the Queen
Location of Natal
Capital. Carlisle
Official languages Dutch, English, Portuguese
 - Head of State
 - President
 - Deputy Prime Minister
Constitutional Monarchy
Queen Elizabeth II
George Stratton
Arvicio da Cunha
Independence ?
 - Total

109,412 km²
 - 2001 census
 - Density

Natal dollar

Natal, officially The Commonwealth of Natal (Portuguese: Nação de Natal, Dutch: Volksrepubliek van Natal) Also formerly referred to as "British Brazil" and "Insular Brazil." Not to be confused with the South African province KwaZulu-Natal, is a large bell shaped island located off the south coast of Brazil. Originally discovered by Portuguese sailor Joao Maria Cavalho de Algarve on Christmas day 1513 (thus the name Ilha do Natal) The Dutch conquered the island along with much of Northern Brazil in 1630. The island remained Dutch after the 1661 Treaty of the Hague which ended the Dutch-Portuguese War. The island was purchased by the Dutch East India company in 1658 as a weigh station for ships traveling to Cape Town on the route to the East Indies. Natal was annexed by the British Empire along with Cape Colony in 1806 when the East India Company went bankrupt. Natal was was already home to several indigenous Amerindian tribes when the Portuguese arrived, and was subsequently settled by the Dutch (the Burghers), the British, and large numbers of West Africans imported by the early settlers as slaves. The island became a Crown Colony in 1921 and was granted full independence on January 3, 1955. Natal today is a diverse country and one of South America's most dynamic economies.

Geography and Climate[]

The Island of Natal (which is typically pronounced "Natow" in the Portuguese fashion by its inhabitants) located southeast of Brazil in the South Atlantic ocean and is south of the equator. The island has an area of 109,412 square kilometers, making it roughly the size of Newfoundland. The terrain is rugged and mountainous in the interior and slopes to gentle lowlands near the southern coast. The island is somewhat cone or bell shaped, the southern lowlands are broad and rolling, narrowing profoundly to the craggy northern tip. Residents of the city of Joao Pessoa in Brazil claim that on clear days Natal, as well as Africa, can be seen from their city. The highest point of elevation is Vitoria Peak in the parish of Costa Natal located on the north of the island and reaches 1092 meters (3,584 ft).

The climate is wet and tropical in the northern highlands but cools to subtropical and temperate in the southern lowlands. The majority of species of flora and fauna are identical to those of neighboring Brazil. Much of the interior remains poorly explored to this day, largely as a result of government protection and aggressive defense of land grants made by the Portuguese captaincy and later the Dutch East India Company, which many in the urban centers in the south wish to have overturned to exploit the area through development and tourism.

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The Turunga Forest Reserve, Costa Natal, Natal.


Early History

Joao Maria Cavalho de Algarve sighted a previously unreported landmass while mapping the coastline of South America in 1513. The island was sighted on Christmas day and Algarve named the island in honor of the Virgin Birth of Christ, Ilha do Natal. The fist Portuguese explorer arrived in the spring of 1568 and found the island suitable for colonization. The settelment of Santa Maria was founded in 1572. The settlers profited from the lucrative trade in brazilwood and also established sugar plantations. The native inhabitants were brutally decimated and forced into slavery, only a few bands survived the conquest by fleeing into isolated mountain valleys. When the supply of labor from Native tribes became exhausted the colonists turned to the already booming slave trade to maintain sugarcane production. The Dutch captured the island in 1630 as part of their war to conquer portions of the Portuguese Empire. The island was of little interest to the then vast Portuguese Empire, so when the Dutch ceded conquered portions of Brazil back to Portugal in 1661 they retained the Ilha do Natal, the last remnant of "Dutch Brazil."

Natal CWF

Map of the Commonwealth of Natal

British Acquistion

The British took possesion of the island in 1803 to prevent it from falling into the hands of the French during the Napoleonic Wars, as was the case with the Dutch Cape Colony. The British Empire, which had little presence in South America, felt compelled to retain the island as a means to maintain a more substantial influence with the newly emerging independent states of South America. The island was officially annexed with Cape Colony in 1806 and initially named "British Insular Brazil." George Carlisle brought the fist company of around 200 British settlers to the island in 1820, the Dutch town of New Batavia was renamed Carlisle in his honor and was made seat of the British Colonial Governor. Carlisle remains the nations capital and largest city. The Dutch settlers, called Burghers, as well as the remaining Portuguese, were very resentful of the new British administration and also of the influx of English speaking colonists. This prompted the unsuccessful revolt of 1830, in which more than 300 Burghers were killed. The revolt was led by Piet Olthuis, a Dutch born plantation owner from the vicinity of modern Francistown in Centralia parish. The principal issue behind the revolt was the abolition of slavery, which the Portuguese and the Burghers saw as a mainstay of the economy and important part of local culture (much like those in the Southern United States and Brazil in the same period). The Uprising began in Francistown (at that time called Boa Vista) on July 8, 1830 when Olthuis entered the municipal hall with ten armed men and lowered the British flag. He threw it to the ground and called for Burghers and Brasileros to unite and demand that the British respect their "rights" (ie land and slave ownership) or allow the island to become independent. within a week a dozen Burgher towns had joined him and even turned violent as angry Burghers drove English speaking settlers out of their towns. When hundreds of refugees from the plantations began entering the capital, Governor Carlisle ordered troops from the Santa Maria and Carlisle garrisons to put the revolt down and bring the rebels to justice. The Burghers were not prepared to face professional British soldiers and crumbled. A settlement was negotiated between Olthius and Carlisle at Olthius' plantation on August 1, 1830. The Burghers agreed to accept the emancipation of slaves if they were allowed to keep their land and if the slaves were eventually returned to Africa (not an usual request for the time).

The population grew to around 120,000 (of whom some 30,000 were the descendants of former slaves) by the 1890's and many began calling for a greater degree of self-government, particularly the Burghers. The British were ready to grant limited self-government by 1900, but the onset of the Anglo-Boer War and the Burgher sympathy with their Dutch speaking kin in Southern Africa prevented the implementation of any form of self determination. The Island of Natal became a Crown Colony in 1921 after a petition was presented which included the overwhelming support of all three major groups, the British Natalans, the Burghers, and the Brasileros, the Portuguese speaking descendants of the first colonists. The large number of Black Natalans were not included in the petition nor granted any status by the subsequent government. The name "British Brazil" was abandoned and use of the term "Brazil" in any form with Natal has been discouraged since that time.

Civil Rights struggle and the Road to Independence

After attaining status as a Crown Colony the new Premier, Elliot Martin, set out to develop the infrastructure and economy of the country through various social welfare programs that were seen as radical at the time. These included public works projects, universal health care, and womens suffrage. He also financed explorations into the mountainous interior in the hopes of discovering mineral wealth, while no precious metals were found, the expedition did contact the remnants of the once thought extinct Natal Indians. 1,200 individuals were found in villages along the Rio Verde river in the parish of Centralia. The region was declared a reserve and great care has since been taken to avoid any contamination of some of the last uncontacted Indian tribes in the world.


Native Indians of Natal in the Rio Verde Tribal Area

Nonetheless, while the Natal Colonial government was taking measures to protect its last surviving indigenous peoples it began a controversial program to attempt to locate its black population back to Africa. Called the "African Liberation and Repatriation Program" thousands of blacks were stripped of their land and moved into townships near urban centers to await eventual relocation to Africa. The Natal government struggled to find a willing partner for its relocation program, but was eventually successful in moving 5,300 people to Liberia starting in 1933. In actual fact, the blacks soon became a source of cheap labor in the rising manufacturing and industrial enterprises in Santa Maria and Carlisle.

After the Second World War, the now largely urban black population began to protest the discriminatory laws that had been in place since the establishment of responsible government. Thomas Costa Souza became a major leader in Black Natalans quest for civil rights. Costa Souza lead large numbers of blacks in strikes and boycotts in order to repeal segregation, receive the right to vote, and end the dread of forced relocation. The British government demanded an end to compulsory repatriation for blacks in 1949 and began to pressure the government to reform its racist segregation policies. By 1952 Premier Harold Van Reibeck began talks with the British government in regards to full political independence, the British made civil rights for blacks a condition to be met before any form of independence be granted. In 1954 the House of Assembly passed the Equal Citizenship Act, which granted the right to vote to any citizen 21 years of age regardless of race or religion, as well as banning any form of discrimination in access to social services, public amenities, and education. The Assembly also passed the Representation Act which reserved 10 seats in the House of Assembly for blacks which met minimum education requirements. In light of these reforms, the Commonwealth of Natal was granted independence from the United Kingdom in January of 1955.

Since Independence

The recent history of Natal has been marked be social conservatism and a high degree of economic prosperity. In the 1960's Natal initiated broad based economic reforms to end the quasi-socialist policies that had marked Natalan politics since Elliot Martin's social reforms starting in 1922. Harold Van Reibeck worked to privatize many state owned companies and also to court foreign investment through low corporate taxes. He also abandoned government works projects in favor of funding new enterprises and granting government contracts to private companies. As result of these reforms by the end of his service as Prime Minister in 1966 Natal was ranked at the fastest growing economy in South America. Van Reibeck was also known for attracting thousands of skilled immigrants to Natal through a generous immigration program similar to that used by Australia in the 1950's. In foreign policy Natal was marred by its refusal to denounce white minority regimes in Southern Africa, namely Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and South Africa, though there was sympathy for Portugal's Estado Novo regime's effort to retain its African colonies. When Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands in 1982 Natal denounced the invasion and offered complete assistance to the United Kingdom. While not directly intervening on Britain's behalf, the Natal National Air Force did allow the use of its facilities to the British and also provided intelligence on Argentine military operations.

In the 1990's Natal sought to end its status of isolation from Latin South America by entering into trade agreements with Brazil and Argentina. With the growth in population and increased industrialization and agricultural expansion into the formerly isolated highlands, many began to fear incursion into the tribal reserves created for the Native Natalans and the pre-British land grants. Senator George Stratton was famed for his poignant defence of tribal land rights, and of Brasilero and Burgher land grants that were deemed protected by the Constitution of 1921, in which he made international headlines by brandishing a bush knife or machete in a senate session on August 3, 1998. Stratton reportedly remarked, "This country has got to retain a degree of its savagery... I have no desire to live in a place where civilization has diluted my natural rights... Any person who sets foot in the Turunga or Rio Verde Tribal lands will answer to this!" The act so endeared him to the largely rural white Burgher population that he became the first non-Burgher Prime Minister since independence in 2002.

But, the issue of Land Distribution remains heated. Over 60% of the countries land is in the hands of less than 3% of the population. This due to the fact that under the Portuguese and Dutch rule periods the island was broken up into tracts or prazos and after the Uprising of 1830 the British bound themselves by treaty to honor them all under a willing buyer willing seller agreement. The responsible government expressly guaranteed the land grants in the 1921 Constitution and the 1954 revision did not alter that clause. The Superior Court upheld the validity of these grants even in the case of land upon which the owner has not seen or set foot if he/she is the inheritor of the Tract. The point of contest by many groups is that the Lands Grants were diminished in 1929 in order to create the Native Reserves. The Superior Court in Ten Boom vs the Crown upheld the right of the Commonwealth government to seize land via the constitutional clause known as the Right of Sovereign Dominion (comparable to the US concept of eminent domain). Thus it is claimed that archaic pre-modern land grants can be overturned by the State and thus be controlled by the majority of the population via the National government.

This is unthinkable to many who see the Land Grants as the only thing protecting Natals vast rain forest. To date the National Government has maintained the Land Grants. Nevertheless, this has not prevented a movement among the rural land owning Burghers in order to defend the plantations. In 1978 Abraham Van Ecke formed "Burghermag" (Dutch "burgher force") for the supposed purpose of armed opposition to unlawful entry or occupation of the prazos or the Tribal Areas. Locally organized groups of men between the ages of 18 and 50 were frequently seen patrolling back roads and were known to harass tourists and researchers. In 1982 a photojounalist was beaten severely after ignoring warnings not to enter the Turunga Wilderness Area, despite the fact he had a government permit. The crisis came to a head in 1986 when Burghermag ignored new gun control laws. In June of that year units of the Centralia Parish Constabulary clashed with Burghermag commandos in an effort to enforce the gun laws. Finally, after Prime Minister Jan Strijolm mobilized the Home Guard, Burghermag relented and gave up their illegal firearms. Burghermag still exists as a right wing republican party.

Illegal Immigration

Another important issue in Natal is illegal immigration. As Natal is the only western style industrial nation in South America it has become a popular destination for immigrants, unfortunately as Natal's immigration policies have become more restrictive, more and more immigrants are entering Natal illegally. Most of the illegals come from Brazil crossing the Algarve channel on crudely made rafts. As of 2007 the Ministry of Interior declared that there were at least 70,000 illegal immigrants living and working in the country and unless action was taken the number stands to increase phenomenally in the next 5 years.


National Government

The Commonwealth or National government is divided into four branches: Executive, Administrative, Legislative and Judicial. The executive branch represented by the Head of State and is embodied in the person of Queen Elizabeth II, represented by a Governor-general called "the Officer of the Crown," as Natal is considered to be a Commonwealth Realm. The administrative branch is represented by the Prime Minister and the cabinet chosen by the party or coalition holding a majority of seats in both Legislative houses. The Legislative branch is composed of a bicameral Legislature, the Senate and the House of Assembly (also called the House of Commons). The Assembly is made up of 85 directly elected delegates according to geographic electoral districts, and 10 special delegates chosen uniquely by the black minority (the black or Afro-Natalans are allowed full participation in the district elections in addition to the special delegates). The Senate is made of 48 senators, 40 senators directly elected from the five parishes serving one six year term, and the remaining 8 elected by the House of Assembly serving until the age of 70. The Judicial branch is represented by the Superior Court of Natal, an independent council of eleven Justices that are appointed for life to the Superior Court by the Chief Justice and approved by the Monarch via the Officer of the Crown. The Chief Justice is appointed based on seniority; the longest serving Justice assumes the leadership of the council upon the death or resignation of the previous Chief Justice. Regional High Court Justices are appointed by the Prime Minister and approved by House of Assembly.


Government House in Carlisle, New Kent

The current government is headed by PM George Stratton of the New Liberal Party. Stratton has been in office since May of 2002 when he formed a coalition between moderate and left of center political factions based largely on his personal charisma alone. Stratton's new coalition won a sweeping majority in the House of Assembly and deadlocked the Senate, wresting power from the dominant Conservative Party for the first time since independence. He is assisted by Deputy Prime Minister Arvicio da Cunha, a former Member of Assembly representing Santa Maria South and the first Afro-Natalan to be named to that office.

Parish Government

Parishes are the subnational administrative units of Natal analogous to American States, or Canadian Provinces. The country is divided into five parishes: Salvador, capital Santa Maria; New Kent, capital Carlisle; Centralia, capital Balboa; Algarve, capital Forte; and Costa Natal, capital Windsor. Each parish has a 30 person unicameral legislature headed by a Governor appointed by the Prime Minister.

Political Parties

Natal is sometimes seen as an aberration politically. In Natal many ideological characteristics that in most countries are associated with the political right in Natal occur in the political left and vice versa. One particularly debated issue is the retention of the monarchy. Unlike most Commonwealth realms it is the left, dominated by Anglo-Natalans, which defends the monarchy and the right, dominated by the Burghers, which is associated with republicanism (in fact the official Dutch name for the polity of Natal is "People's Republic"). The principal right wing parties are the Republican Front (an almost exclusively Burgher party) and the Conservative Party (aka "Whigs" or "Tories," which is both Burgher and Anglo). The largest left party is the United Democratic Party and the New Liberal Party (to distinguish itself from the now defunct Liberal Party of Elliot Martins day). Other Parties include the Labor Party, the Reformed Republican Front, Forca do Povo, the radical Burghermag, and the Green Party.

Economy and Demographics[]


Natal is noted as having the most developed economy in the western hemisphere south of the equator. This largely comes as a result of the areas progression in the early twentieth century and some have argued that Natal's prosperity is due to its long history as a British Colony.

Holstein cows large

Dairy farming is a major Natal industry.

The three dominant industries in Natal are agriculture, tourism, and manufacturing in that order. Other industries include mining, logging, horticulture, the exotic pet trade, and finance (Natal's low corporate taxes have made it a sort of tax haven particularly for South American companies).

Demographics of Natal

As of the year 2001 census, Natal has a population of approximately 1,790,502. Of these roughly 2 million people, 67.2% declared themselves as white non-Latino European descent, 21.6% as being persons of African descent, 8.1% as being white of Latino descent, and the remaining 4.1% as being Asian, Indigenous, or of mixed origins. The majority European descended demographic is divided into two major groups: the Anglo-Natalans, who descend from the British settlers of the nineteenth century and the Dutch speaking Burghers who descend from the Dutch colonists that preceded them. The Burghers are the islands largest demographic making up roughly 38% of the population, however this is somewhat skewed as many in this classification are of both Burgher and Anglo-Natalans descent (such as former Prime Minister Jan Strijolm) and when allowed to chose only one category in the census many chose "Burgher-English Speaking" as their declaration despite their more diverse heritage as they live in predominantly Burgher communities.

The distribution of these groups was historically geographically consistent, but has become more indistinct since the 1960's. The Burghers/Brasileros and Afro-Natalans once were mainly found in the urban area of Santa Maria on the Southwest coast and in the plantations (Port. prazos Dutch plaas) of the interior. The British and a small number of Burghers were concentrated in the Southeast in the Parish of New Kent largely in the city of Carlisle and the surrounding agricultural land.

The fastest growing demographic on the island are those classified as white of Latino descent. These persons are overwhelmingly not of Portuguese colonial origin (or Brasileros as they are called in Natal), but rather mostly newly arrived immigrants from South America. Most are Brazilians or Uruguayans. The Brasileros are no longer counted as a distinct group since the first post-independence census in 1961 when they numbered only 2,455 persons. Since that time they have identified with the Burgher community, declaring themselves as "Burgher-Portuguese Speaking." This is largely believed to be due to the fact that they do not wish to find themselves associated with newly arrived immigrants from Brazil. Particularly as the Brasileros dialect of Portuguese is much closer to that spoken in Portugal than to that spoken by most Brazilians and because the majority of Brasileros converted from Catholicism to the Dutch Reformed Church in the nineteenth century.


The Commonwealth has three official languages: Dutch, English, and Portuguese. By far the most widely spoken language in the country is English. In the 2001 census 88% of the population spoke English, but only 34% as the primary language in the home. Thus, English is behind Dutch in First language speakers, but overall the most spoken language. Dutch is spoken by 66.4% of the population, and spoken in the homes of some 44% of the population. The remainder speak either Portuguese, Spanish, or Indigenous languages. The majority of Burghers are bilingual, speaking both English and Dutch. Only those living in remote villages on the prazos are monoglot Dutch speakers. English is the only language taught universally in Natal schools. Dutch is mandatory only in the Parishes of Centralia, New Kent, and Algarve. Portuguese is the most popular second language taught in Natal. Portuguese is retained as official more as a gesture of respect to the original Portuguese settlers than as a representation of use of the language. Until large numbers of Brazilian immigrants arrived in the 1980's Portuguese was all but extinct in Natal. In 2001 there were 4,660 Portuguese speaking Burghers (that is, descendants of the Brasileros) and none of them monoglot speakers.

Religion and Culture[]


The largest single religious denomination in Natal is the Roman Catholic Church, closely followed by the Dutch Reformed Church and the Anglican Church. As of 2001 the nation was 49% Protestant, 33% Catholic, 11% Atheist or Agnostic, and the remainder of various denominations, including most major religions (ie Hindu, Buddhist).

Officially the nation is secular, but there is a strong tradition which identifies Natal as a "Protestant Country."


Culturally Natal has always has had strong links to the former British Colonies of the Southern hemisphere, namely Australia, New Zealand, and particularly South Africa as both nations have large Dutch descended populations that fell under British domination. These ties include similar accents (for example a popular advertisement shows a Natalan in the United States trying to tell American customs agents at the airport that he's not Australian), foods, and sport. Rugby is by far the most popular team sport played in Natal as it is a very popular sport in the aforementioned nations.

Rugby Tackle cropped

Rugby Union is Natals National Sport.

This cultural affinity for English speaking, European nations has often put Natal in a difficult position with its neighbors. For most of its history, Natal has had a policy of isolationism from the rest of South America. However, in the past two decades Natal has improved both its foreign relations and cultural ties with Latin South America. One profound example of this are the springtime festivals held in most Natal cities which have borrowed heavily from Brazilian Carnival and Boi Bumba festivals, it isn't uncommon for dance groups and music bands from Brazil to travel to perform in Natal following Carnival in Brazil.

A unique feature of Natalan culture is the iconic figure of the "Bushman." In Natal the adventurous jungle dwelling Bushman is typically portrayed as a white European come to Natal in search of treasure, mineral wealth, ancient artifacts, or merely to escape civilization. He is often shown in khaki clothing with a traditional slouch hat and always with a large bush knife or machete. The Natalan Bushman could be compared to America's cowboy, Scotland's kilted highlander, or Japan's sword wielding samurai. The Bushman is a symbol of both rugged individualism and adventure, but many modern interpreters claim of colonialism and European supremacy.

Natal in World Popular Culture[]

The film "Scenic Detour" (a 2004 thriller about a group of young American spring breakers who decide to leave the festivities in Balboa to see the "real jungle" offend the locals and are one by one brutally murdered) is set in Natal and was filmed in Salvador and Centralia parishes. The Burghers of Francistown were appalled that after receiving the film crews and cast so well and many volunteering as extras that the Burghers were portrayed in the film as inbred backwater lunatics, and Natal as if it were an uncivilized third world nation.

The novel The Sweet Tears of Paradise by Gordon Stirling is set in Natal during the days of the African Liberation Program and is based on his real world experiences as an official working to round up rural blacks and move them to townships south of Santa Maria, and later in those townships selecting families for repatriation to Liberia. The climax comes when Stirling discovers that his own childhood nanny and her son (his childhood playmate) have been placed on the deportation list. The novel is required reading in most Natal secondary schools. The novel is a criticism of racism, bureaucracy, and popular indifference.

It has been rumored that Natal was on the short list of locations for the filming of the second season of the television series Survivor.

Countries and dependencies of South America
Sovereign states ArgentinaBoliviaBrazilChileColombiaEcuadorGuyanaPanamaParaguayPeruSurinameUruguayVenezuela
Dependencies United Kingdom Falkland IslandsSouth Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands
France French Guiana
Netherlands ArubaNetherlands Antilles
Holy Cross Holy Empire of Latia Cross