When the American Confederacy lost the Civil War in May 1865, 10,000 Southerners fled the US for a small city in Brazil, where they could rebuild their lives and carry on their traditions.
Now, 150 years later, their story has been seemingly erased from the history books.
But deep in the heart of Brazil, ancestors of these confederate expats gather annually to celebrate their controversial history and maintain their traditions and culture.
Thanks to VICE reporter Mimi Dwyer, whose exposé on Americana peeled back the curtain on Brazil’s reported tradition of slavery.
Each year, the small Brazilian city of Americana throws a huge celebration to commemorate the 10,000 Confederates who fled the American South after their side lost the Civil War.
They settled in Americana in the Brazilian state of São Paulo, which remains a sort of enclave for the long-dead expats' descendants.
Photos of the annual gathering induce some pretty serious cringe. But for the 2,000 Brazilians in attendance, the American South is part of their heritage.
The 'Confederados' have been seemingly erased from the history books. But 150 years ago, residents of Texas, Alabama, and Georgia sailed to Brazil in hopes of preserving the ways of the unreconstructed South.
Brazil welcomed the defectors. For years, it had tried and failed to catch up with agricultural development in the States. Emperor Dom Pedro II of Brazil hoped to plant the seeds of prosperity by importing these self-exiling Southerners.
The Brazilian government set up informational agencies across the Bible Belt and offered to pay relocation costs for all Americans willing to make the move.
Confederates saw emigration as an opportunity to rebuild their lives. In Brazil, they could buy land on the cheap and rebuild their plantations with the help of then legal slaves.
More than 10,000 Americans fled for this promising new world, and many failed to adjust. They planted crops that wouldn't grow in Brazil's tropical climate, and circumstances forced them to move to cities.
One group of settlers, led by a colonel from Alabama, introduced cotton to the countryside of São Paulo, Brazil, and flourished.
In their little community of Americana, the children spoke English with a Southern accent for generations. They married into the local population.
The population ballooned to 200,000, but their Brazilian identity took over, reducing their American heritage to Western movies and country music. But their love for the US persisted.
For the last 25 years, the descendants of the Confederados gather for the annual 'festa' of the Fraternidade Descendência Americana, a sort of brotherhood.
Brazilians account for most attendees, although the party will draw Confederate enthusiasts from as far as Georgia, Tennessee, and Virginia.
Couples dance across a Confederate flag-painted stage to the sounds of battle hymns, country music, fiddles, and banjos.
Attendees have the chance to buy Southern paraphernalia, such as aprons, quilts, and commemorative glasses, from a booth using fake Confederate dollar bills.
It's customary to visit the graveyard, in the middle of a sugarcane field, where Confederate flags mark the graves of the early immigrants.
Artifacts from the early settlers are on display at the nearby Immigrant Museum in Santa Bárbara d'Oeste.
Today, their descendants look upon the Confederate flag not as an emblem of racism and slavery but as a symbol of something their ancestors held dear to their hearts.
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