Originally from West Africa, Emília do Patrocínio arrived enslaved in Brazil in the 1820s and bought her freedom in 1839 after having prospered by selling foodstuffs. She became part of an African elite that thrived in cities like Rio de Janeiro, Salvador, Recife and São Luís. In the early 1850s, already the widow of Bernardo José Soares, an African man who owned poultry and vegetable stalls in the Candelária market, Emília became a well-known member of the Fraternity of Saint Elesbaan and Saint Ephigenia and a “judge of devotion” of Nossa Senhora dos Remédios (Our Lady of Los Remedios). Her retail business continued to grow up to the 1880s as she accumulated grocery stores, real estate, jewelry and captives. Between 1850 and 1870, Emília freed at least ten enslaved people.