The most common form of slave resistance in colonial Brazil was flight, and a characteristic problem of the Brazilian slave regime was the continual and widespread existence of fugitive communities called mocambos, ladeiras, magotes, or quilombos. The three major areas of colonial Brazil where the fugitive communities stayed were: the plantation zone of Bahia, the mining district of Minas Gerais, and the inaccessible frontier of Alagoas, site of Palmares, the largest fugitive community.
Mocambos are exile communities established by fugitive Brazilian slaves between the 18th and 19th century. The purpose of these settlements was to protect the slaves from the Portuguese opposition, thanks to their hidden location, which was difficult to find for the punitive military expeditions. Mocambos were a threat to the economy and the social fabric of the slave regime, because the parasitic economy of these communities was mostly composed of theft, extortion and raiding. Though the minority of communities lived off agriculture and arms trade. Mocambos were not controlled by the government and because of the high percentage of Brazilian slaves, which incorporated one third of the total population, the number and the importance of Mocambos was continually increasing. For this reason Mocambos inhabitants were executed by punitive military expeditions and the children born in the Mocambos became property of the leaders of the exterminating expeditions.
Runaway communities flourished in almost all areas of Bahia, whose geography aided escape, and the result was a great number of fugitives and mocambos. In plantation zones, slaves often made up over 60 percent of the inhabitants. They lived in bad conditions in terms of food and housing and they had to deal with particularly cruel or sadistic masters. The region of Bahia in which appeared a great quantity of mocambos was the southern towns of Cairù, Camamù and Ilhéus. In these towns there was the most part of the production of manioc, the basic subsistence crop of Brazil. A second and still unstudied method of slave control and capture in Brazil was the calculated use of Indians as slave catchers and as a counterforce to mocambos and possible slave resorts.
Maroon Societies is a systematic study of the communities formed by escaped slaves in the Caribbean, Latin America, and the United States. These societies ranged from small bands that survived less than a year to powerful states encompassing thousands of members and surviving for generations and even centuries. The volume includes eyewitness accounts written by escaped slaves and their pursuers, as well as modern historical and anthropological studies of the maroon experience. For this edition, Richard Price has written a new preface reflecting recent changes in both maroon scholarship and in the lives of contemporary maroons throughout the Americas.