Brazil History

History of Brazil

As very little archaeological vestiges were ever discovered in Brazil it is widely disputed as to the number of native Indians inhabiting Brazil prior to its discovery in 1500. Many historians place the populace as low as one million, others as high as six million when Pedro Alvares Cabral and his cast arrived along the coast at what is today Porto Seguro. Thirty years later King Joao III of Portugal began transporting settlers to the area and by 1532 an immutable settlement was formed at Sao Vicente in the state of Sao Paulo. As word of the find grew and progress in the area stagnated, the king, seeking to protect his interest, divided large chunks of coastal land into Capitanias or Captaincies. These were then doled out to his constituents.

By this time the market demand for sugar in Europe was burgeoning and the settlers quickly discovered the fertile ground for sugar cane was right beneath them. Additionally and irrespective of their defiance, the native Indian could be effectively enslaved as a viable work force. As this fruitful combination flourished massive growth in plantable regions began to strike an imbalance between the demand for and the availability of the indigenous slave. So was born the Bandeirantes, modern day bounty hunters who stalked the interiors of the countryside seeking profit from the sale and trade of human flesh. But even their barbaric deeds couldn’t quench the thirst or fulfill the needs of the end user for human hardship, hatching the impetus for an influx of millions of slaves from Africa.

By 1650 slaves were beginning to rebel and rampant runaways became common. These runaways began forming Quilombos, colonies of runaways in remote areas, varying in size from small Macombos to the sizeable Palmares. Families would be raised, structures built, crops harvested all the while struggling to maintain their seclusion and independence. Sending in small government bands of militia rarely proved effective in eradication of the hardened tribes so eventually the trumpet was sounded for the convocation of the Banderiantes and the Paulistas to invade from the south ultimately destroying the Quilombos.

At the dawning of the eighteenth century Napoleon’s army began marching on Portugal forcing King John VI to flee to what now had become the capital of Brazil, Rio de Janeiro. This city would now serve as the seat of government for his homeland of Portugal, Brazil, and the Algarve. Despite the fact that Napoleons armies were not victorious, the king had no plans to return to Portugal until an impending uprising in Brazil forced his departure, allowing his son Pedro to take the reins. Pedro, sympathetic to the cause of independence, is acknowledged as having raised his sword in defiance of his father, thus establishing Brazil’s independence as an empire with a monarch. Pedros son, Pedro II, became the last emperor of Brazil and was successful in the dissolution of slavery in 1887 but was confronted with contention from bordering countries and dissention from his own people. Pedro II was concludingly expunged by a coup and the resultant democracy formed.

Into the 19th century coffee had replaced sugar and rubber as the principal contributing export. But when the American Stock Market crashed in 1929 world economics languished and a revolt was led by Getulia Vargas to overthrow the government. Backed by the military, Varas affected critical and radical changes towards the industrialization of Brazil for the next twenty four years, though he was removed from office in 1945 by the military, only to be democratically elected in 1950. But not all was well for the once popular leader and by 1954 the enigmatic vanguard, sensing an impending revolution, resigned and killed himself. Juscelina Kubitshek having now taken control aggressively railed for the building of a new capital, Brasilia, and for the further development of the country’s interior, but by 1964 the momentous quandary created by runaway inflation spurred the military to once again gain jurisdiction. In spite of constitutional suspensions the country did okay with many of the elitists thriving until 1985 when a civilian government was reinstated and Tancredo de Almeida Neves was chosen as head by the Electoral College. He unfortunately died before taking office and was succeeded by a politician from the north, Jose Sarney.

The late eighties brought promise to Brazilians as a new constitution was framed and people were able to cast ballots for the first time in 30 years. An ex-karate champion Fernando Collor de Mello won by a slim margin and quickly ushered in a blitzkrieg of procedures to combat inflation and down size government spending. But his political jostling turned out to be a façade for his own self-interest. Accused of bilking the country out of millions, out he went, under indictment, but was not convicted. Mellos vice president, Itamar Franco stepped into office fortifying the economy by using the introduction of the Real. He was not however, able to get himself elected. In 1994 Fernando Cardoso the former finance minister snatched away the election. Continuing programs he instituted as finance minister, the newly elected president surged the economy forward but soon found himself embroiled in controversy over the redistribution of land ownership and use. His mandate to shift large areas of real estate from private sectors of wealth to those more economically challenged and to allow citizens other than natives to appeal the Indian Affairs Bureau land allocations was met by immense and broad resistance by a multitude of Brazilian organizations. Cardosos controvertible agendas however were not enough to keep him from prodding the Congress into amending the constitution, thus-by opening the door for him to seek and easily win a second four-year term in 1998.

Racing into the 21st century the political tides were beginning to turn. Luis Inacio da Silva, a political leftist with the Workers Party swept the election with over 60% after three prior unsuccessful tries. This son of a poor farmer from Santos Sao Paulo, after having barely completed the fourth grade, began his career in a steel factory and by the time he was in his early twenties his union vivacity propelled him high into the union hierarchy. He began organizing strikes and in 1980 was instrumental in forming the Partido dos Trabalhadores (PT), the Workers Party. 1986 saw him elected to the Congress and in 1989 his first unsuccessful run at the Presidency. He currently serves as President.