Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Crocodile of Caxito

Monument to the Crocodile of Caxito.

When African nations were colonized by the Portuguese, British and French, a system of taxation was imposed on the native populations to support the colonial system. At that time, most African economies were largely based on agriculture and the trading of goods. The use of currency, especially foreign currency, was limited. When the colonial governments demanded the people pay taxes, essentially to support their own suppression, it profoundly altered local economies. Instead of farming to feed families and communities, people were forced to farm cash crops - often at the expense of growing their own food. Men were forced to work in mines or on plantations to earn cash to pay taxes to a government that was not providing them with anything but a system of exploitation. This work took them away from their families and away from their traditional roles within their communities.

I have heard two stories about the crocodile of Caxito, the capital of Bengo Province. One was that the local people were so angry about having to pay taxes that they placed their payment in the mouth of crocodile and brought the live animal to the house of the Portuguese tax collector. He could extract the payment if he dared. Another was that there was a saying that the Portuguese even taxed the animals of Angola and that the crocodile emerged from the river to pay his taxes , carrying the payment in his mouth. In either story, there is anger over the absurdity of paying taxes to a foreign government. The monument then, is in honor of past resistance to colonialism.

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