Was Brazil really a colony of Portugal?

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The oldest traces of human life were found in caves in the state of Piauí. The Paleo-Indians reached the southern tip of America probably around 10,000 BC. Christ's skeleton finds show that the coastal areas of today's Brazil were around 8,000 BC. Were inhabited.

Traditionally, it is argued that the ecological conditions in the Amazon basin did not allow the emergence of high-population civilizations such as those in the Andean region and that one must therefore assume a thin population of nomadic or semi-nomadic groups of hunters and fishermen who also practiced arable farming on a small scale.

Recent researchers have hypothesized that the activities of indigenous peoples prior to colonization went well beyond what has been previously assumed.

According to this, the native inhabitants created the ecosystem of the Amazon basin through systematic planting and distribution of plant species as well as soil improvement. Their settlements - for example on the huge river island Marajó - were therefore much larger than previously assumed.


After the discovery of America by Christopher Columbus (1492), the new world is divided between Spain and Portugal in the Treaty of Tordesillas (1494). Brazil, which was still unknown at the time, falls into the Portuguese half.

Brazil was officially discovered on April 22, 1500 by the Portuguese navigator Pedro Álvares Cabral. However, who really discovered Brazil is not without controversy. The Spanish navigator Vicente Yáñez Pinzón sailed as early as 1499 along the east coast of today's Brazil to the mouth of the Río de la Plata (today's Argentina). The Portuguese navigator, geographer and astronomer Duarte Pacheco Pereira is said to have sailed the coasts of today's Brazilian states Pará and Maranhão as well as the mouth of the Amazon as early as the end of 1498.

According to French records from the 15th century, the captain Jean Cousin was supposed to set out on a voyage to West Africa aboard a ship belonging to the shipowner Jehan Ango from Dieppe, but was driven off by the equatorial current at the height of the Azores and after two months to a foreign coast and another might have reached a tremendous current which he called the Maragnon. After a short stay he crossed the Atlantic again, went to West Africa and returned from there to Dieppe in 1489 healthy.

Various indications also give rise to the assumption that in Portugal the existence of a large land mass west of the Atlantic was known long before 1500, possibly even since 1325.

Cabral landed near what is now Porto Seguro and takes possession of the newly found land for the Portuguese King Emanuel I (Manuel I). The Tupi Indians encountered on landing did not offer any resistance to the Europeans. Portugal initially kept the discovery a secret in order to maintain an advantage in the race for new colonies. The newly discovered continent has been known in Europe since 1507 at the latest, when the German cartographer Martin Waldseemüller published a map of South America on which Porto Seguro is also drawn.

After finding rich deposits of Brazilian wood, the new country was named Brazil. Brazil wood is suitable for obtaining color and for producing fine furniture. This made it the first export product of the colony and formed the basis for the country's first economic use. Due to the massive deforestation, Brazil wood is now threatened with extinction and is under nature protection.

In 1503 an expedition led by Gonçalo Coelho discovered that the French were preparing to land in Brazil. The French king first sent Paulmier de Gonneville across the Atlantic on the ship l'espoir in July 1503. De Gonneville was amazed at how naturally the indigenous people approached the ship, used European tools that were unknown to them and knew the purpose of the guns on board. In 1530 a new expedition was sent to Brazil by Martim Alfonso de Souza to fight the French and found the first colonial cities. In 1625 the French were finally expelled from Brazil.


King John III divides the Brazilian coast into 15 zones, Capitanías Hereditarias, and awards these to nobles and people from the middle class. For economic development, the main focus is on the cultivation of sugar cane, since sugar was an expensive commodity at that time. In order to get workers for the plantations, Indians are captured in the closer hinterland.

Not all of the settlers who came to Brazil from Portugal were volunteers: at that time, the Portuguese code had 200 offenses that were punishable by exile. In addition, the colonial power allowed immigrants from all countries, the only requirement was that they belong to the Catholic faith.

Since many of the Indians commit suicide on the plantations or die of European diseases, the first African slaves are imported in 1538. By 1600 Brazil is the largest sugar producer in the world.

A few years later the triangular trade is in full swing: Manufactured products are sold in Africa for slaves, the slaves are exchanged for precious metals, sugar and spices in South and North America and these are brought to Europe.


In 1549 São Salvador da Bahía de Todos os Santos (today's Salvador da Bahia) was declared the capital of all the Capitanias of the colony of Brazil and a governor-general (who was sometimes allowed to call himself viceroy) was appointed.

The hinterland is explored by Bandeirantes expeditions from the beginning of the 17th century, which are looking for slaves and mineral resources (especially gold). In 1696 gold was found in the hinterland of Rio de Janeiro, and a little later also diamonds and other mineral resources. This is the basis for the development of rich baroque cities like Ouro Preto.

Although the Portuguese tried to seal off the country with fortresses on the coast and not allow any competition, the Dutch settled in what is now Recife (Pernambuco) in 1629. The north-east flourished briefly under the rule of the West India Company under the leadership of Johann Moritz von Nassau-Siegen, until they were defeated and driven out by the Portuguese in the Battle of Guararapes in 1654. With the help of the General Society of the Brazilian Trade (Companhia Geral do Comércio do Brasil), founded in 1649, the fight against the Dutch was to be supported and the overseas trade between Brazil and Portugal, which was becoming increasingly important for the motherland, was to be secured.

During the 17th century, escaped slaves founded settlements in northeastern Brazil, which were managed in an exemplary manner and defended by an army. It was not until 1699 - after numerous defeats by the colonial troops - that the last of these Quilombos was destroyed.

At the end of the 17th century, the economic focus shifted to the south of Brazil. This is taken into account in 1763 when the capital moves from Salvador to Rio de Janeiro.

At the end of the 18th century, uprisings against Portuguese rule increased. The most important uprising is the "Inconfidência Mineira" in Minas Gerais, whose leader Tiradentes was executed in 1792. At the same time, in the south, in the area of ​​today's Uruguay, where the Bandeirantes pushed the western border of the colonial empire beyond the line of the Treaty of Torsedillas, one clashes with Spain and the viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata.

Coffee was grown in Brazil from 1805 after the first coffee beans were smuggled into the country by Francisco de Mello Palheta in 1727.


Paradoxically, Brazil's departure for independence begins with the relocation of the entire Portuguese court from Lisbon to Rio de Janeiro. After the failure of his rocking policy between France and England, the Portuguese regent Dom João fled from Napoleon's troops in November 1807 together with the state treasury to Brazil, with the English fleet doing helpful and not entirely unselfish services. With the royal family, the entire court (all in all about 15,000 people) settled in Rio in March 1808 (after a stopover in Bahia) - a not inconsiderable increase in the population of the city and the entire country. Above all, however, its status changed from that of a dependent colony to an equal part of the mother country - a development that cannot be reversed.

The country's ports are being opened to friendly nations, which is of particular benefit to the British, who must also be granted tariff concessions. Businesses, universities and banks are founded, and the printing of newspapers and books is permitted. With the Austrian Princess Leopoldina, who married João's son Pedro, scholars and artists came to the country who made a considerable contribution to the upswing of intellectual life.


At the Congress of Vienna (1815), Brazil was formally equated with the motherland within the framework of a "United Kingdom of Portugal", Brazil and Algarve ". The royal court could have returned to Portugal after the final defeat of Napoleon. Prince Regent João, who died in 1817 his mentally ill mother Maria ascended the throne when João VI ascended the throne, but repeatedly hesitated to return. Growing unrest in the motherland finally forced him to leave in 1821. He is said to have given his father's advice to his son, who remained as regent in Brazil: " Pedro, ponha a coroa na cabeça, antes que alguns desses aventureiros o faça ”(Pedro, put the crown on your head before any adventurer does.)

During this time, the other states of South America achieved their independence under the leadership of Simón Bolívar. With the cry of Ipiranga: "Independência ou morte" (independence or death), the prince sat down on September 7, 1822 at the head of the independence movement. On October 12th, Brazil is declared an empire. Portuguese troops are still in the country, and Brazilian armed forces are only just being set up. Nevertheless, the Brazilians succeed in pushing the Portuguese out of the country step by step by the end of 1823.


Pedro I soon disappointed the high expectations that the Brazilians had placed on him. Independence begins splendidly with the first coronation of the emperor on South American soil, Brazil gets a liberal constitution and becomes a constitutional monarchy, but the quarrels over the Constituent Assembly and the increasingly autocratic demeanor of the young emperor do not bode well for the future.

In the years to come, Brazil was recognized by many states (USA 1823, Great Britain 1825, Portugal 1825). The United States' Monroe Doctrine makes it clear that forcible restoration of colonial order in Latin America is unacceptable to the United States.

At the same time, more and more organized immigration began, not least from Germany.


The emperor was finally isolated in his own country and abdicated on April 7, 1831 in favor of his underage son. As Pedro IV he becomes King of Portugal.

On the day of Pedro I's abdication, parliament met and set up a three-member provisional Regency Council. An additional provision to the constitution (Ato Adicional of August 6, 1834) introduces some reforms: more autonomy for the provinces in legislation and tax collection, and finally the establishment of a single ruler who takes the place of the Regency Council and is elected by universal suffrage should.


Uruguay splits from Brazil in 1825 and declares its independence after being part of Brazil as Provincia Cisplatina for only four years. The uprising of the “Cabanagem” in the north is the most violent rebellion of the reign. It is mainly worn by the lower social classes of the province of Grão-Pará (which includes the present-day states of Pará, Amazonas, Roraima, Rondônia and Amapá) and gets its name from the poor huts (cabanas) in which most of the population lived. After three years, the rebels are finally completely wiped out in changeable battles: Experts estimate that around 40% of the province's population are killed in the course of the fighting.

Even better known was the Farrapen Revolution (Revolução Farroupilha), the longest and most dangerous uprising movement in Brazil for territorial cohesion. Above all, it has economic reasons. The cattle breeders in the province of Rio Grande do Sul are demanding protective tariffs from the government against imports of meat from Uruguay and Argentina.

In fact, the Argentinians and Uruguayans can produce cheaper because they work with free wage laborers instead of slaves. The rebellion broke out on September 20, 1835, when the gauchos, led by Bento Gonçalves, drove out the provincial governor. Soon after, the Republic of Rio Grande do Sul is proclaimed. The rebels achieved great success, especially after the Italian revolutionary Giuseppe Garibaldi joined them: in 1839 they penetrated into the neighboring province of Santa Catarina and proclaimed a daughter republic there.

In contrast to the Cabanos uprising, this time the leading layers of the province are more involved, although the name Guerra dos Farrapos ("war of the ragged") suggests the opposite. This explains the reluctance of the central government to suppress the uprising. In 1842 Luís Alves de Lima e Silva, who later became Duke of Caxias, was appointed military governor of the province with the task of "pacifying" them. In 1845 an agreement was finally reached with the rebels. They lay down their arms in exchange for substantial concessions from the imperial government: integration of the Farrapen troops into the army, general amnesty and the release of the slaves involved in the uprising.

Smaller uprisings in Maranhão and Bahia towards the end of the reign are suppressed fairly quickly.


In 1840 Pedro II was declared of age prematurely and crowned Emperor of Brazil.

In the 1860s, Brazil became the leading export nation of rubber. The export of beef, precious woods, coffee and sugar is also flourishing. There is hesitant industrialization (mainly due to immigrants from Europe); the north-east, economically lapped by the south, is slowly becoming impoverished.

Brazil supports the successful revolutionary struggle against the dictator of Argentina Juan Manuel de Rosas and from 1865 to 1870, allied with Argentina and Uruguay, wages a victorious war against Paraguay.



The most important domestic challenge arises from an extensive movement for the abolition of slavery. The "importation" of African slaves was outlawed as early as 1853. An organized campaign for the emancipation of the 2.5 million slaves in Brazil begins a few years later. The abolitionists won their first victory in 1871, when parliament declared all children born to slaves to be free (“Lei do Ventre Livre”). Around the same time a republican movement emerged, which in the following years became more and more popular. In 1885 all slaves over the age of 60 are declared free. In 1888 the regent Princess Isabel finally signed the Lei Aurea, the Golden Law, which abolished slavery. Brazil is the last country in the western hemisphere where slavery is banned.

In purely numerical terms, slavery is now irrelevant: there are still 500,000 slaves out of a total population of 13.5 million. However, the liberation of slaves robs the imperial government of its last hold on the landlords and prepares the ground for the proclamation of the republic in November of the following year.

As a result of the war with Paraguay, the army is modernizing not only technically but also socially. As a result of the increased need for personnel, members of the middle class are increasingly finding officer positions that were previously reserved for members of the rural upper class; Slaves can gain freedom through military service. This promotes abolitionist tendencies within the officer corps and brings it into opposition to the rural aristocracy. The naval leadership, on the other hand, remains conservative and a pillar of the monarchy.

After the war, most officers are trained at the capital's military academies, where they come into contact with modern European and North American administrative methods and the ideas of positivism. Benjamin Constant Botelho de Magalhães (1836-1881), a follower of Auguste Comte, taught at the Escola Militar during this time and prepared the military coup of November 15, 1889 through his students, including Marshal Deodoro da Fonseca. Fonseca - although personally loyal to the emperor - becomes a symbol and figurehead of the uprising. Paradoxically, he initially believes that the coup is only directed against the ministry of the liberal Prime Minister Ouro Preto, not against the monarchy itself. Only on the evening of November 15 he was won over to the goal of establishing a republic.


On November 15, 1889, Emperor Pedro II was overthrown by the military and had to leave the country with his family.Manuel Deodoro da Fonseca proclaims the Republic of the United States of Brazil (República dos Estados Unidos do Brasil).

Several factors contribute to the overthrow of the monarchy: the growing republican movement, which a Brazilian empire increasingly perceives as anachronistic and un-American; the conflict with parts of the clergy and, finally, the liberation of slaves, which alienated the large landowners from the crown.

The new Brazilian constitution of October 5, 1988 remedied the “birth defect” of the republic by making the form of government the subject of a referendum.


The years after 1889 were marked by political stability. Floriano Peixoto became President in 1891 and Prudente de Moraes Barros in 1894. The elections of 1898 were won by Manuel Ferraz de Campos Salles, those of 1902 by Francisco de Paula Rodrigues and those of 1906 by Alfonso Moreira Penna. After his death, Vice President Nilo Pecanha took office in 1909. The 1910 elections were won by Hermes Rodrigo da Fonseca.

Prosperity was assured by the great demand for coffee and the economy was concentrated in this branch. In 1914, Wenceslao Braz Pereira won the presidential election. In the First World War, Brazil officially entered on the side of the Allies against Germany, but did not take an active part. During the war years, the demand for coffee fell sharply. In 1918 Rodrigues won the presidential election a second time, but did not take office due to illness.

Instead, Delphim Moreira became president, who resigned in 1919. He was followed by Vice President Epitacio da Silva Pessoa. In the 1920s, large parts of the population called for an end to the oligarchy. Arturo da Silva Bernardes won the 1922 elections, Washington Pereira de Souza that of 1926 and Julio Prestes that of 1930.


When coffee prices collapsed again in 1930, Getúlio Vargas, the "father of the poor", led an uprising and thus became president. Brazil's economy grew noticeably in the first few months of his reign. In 1937 the rule of Vargas was established as a "benevolent dictator". In 1942, under pressure from the USA, he declared war on the Axis powers. He sent a 25,000-strong division to Italy, which was used, among other things, in the Battle of Monte Cassino. In 1945 Vargas was deposed by the army. At first she installed José Linhares as president, who was replaced by Eurico Gaspar Dutra in 1946 in the course of elections. In 1951 the people of Vargas re-elected President. Because the United States opposed the socialist policies of Brazil and then demanded the rights and the army Vargas' resignation, he committed suicide in 1954.


Initially, Joao Café Filho became president. He was followed in 1955 by Carlos Coimbra da Luz, who was replaced by Nereu Ramos that same year. Only the elections of 1956 brought temporary stability with the victory of Juscelino Kubitschek. With the help of the Partido Trabalhista Brasileiro (PTB), he attracted new, foreign investors who boosted the Brazilian economy in the late 1950s. In 1960 Jânio da Silva Quadros was elected President. After taking office in 1961, he tried to break the dependency on the USA and to rehabilitate the disastrous national budget. After only a few months in office, he resigned and was succeeded by the previous Vice President João Goulart shortly after the new capital Brasília was inaugurated after three years of construction. Goulart was also controversial among the population, which is why his powers in the first three presidential elections were only limited.


In 1964 the military staged a coup and forced Goulart into exile. The new regime under General Humberto Castelo Branco suppressed the left opposition and deprived around 300 people of their political rights. A law passed in 1965 restricted civil liberties, gave the national government additional powers and determined the election of the president and vice-president by Congress.

The former Minister of War Marshal Artur da Costa e Silva, candidate of the ruling party ARENA (Aliança Renovadova National; German: Alliance for National Renewal) was elected president in 1966. The Brazilian Democratic Movement (MDB, Movimento Democrático Brasileiro), the only legal opposition party, refused to run a candidate in protest because the government had refused to accept any serious opponent. In 1966 the ARENA also won the national and parliamentary elections.

The year 1968 was marked by student unrest and strikes. The military regime responded with political purges and censorship. In August 1969, Costa was ousted. The military appointed General Emílio Garrastazu Médici as his successor, and Congress elected him President. Under Médici, the repression was intensified and as a result revolutionary activities increased. The Roman Catholic clergy raised their critical voice more and more often and denounced the conditions of the poor population.

In 1974 General Ernesto Geisel, after his military career President of Petrobras, the state oil monopoly, was elected President of Brazil. Due to the relative political stability and targeted promotion of industry, the time of the military rulers was at the same time a time of economic boom; many investors - including from Germany - invested in Brazil in the 1970s. So Sao Paulo advanced to the "largest German industrial city outside Germany", which is certainly still true today.

In 1979 General Joao Baptista de Oliveira Figueiredo became the new president. At the beginning of the 1980s, the military government significantly weakened the repression until finally, in 1985, due to a lack of options from the military cadre and already in the midst of an economic crisis with galloping inflation, free elections were allowed.


The electoral winner Tancredo Neves died in 1985 under circumstances that have not yet been clarified before he took office. In the same year the right to vote for illiterate people was introduced. In 1987 gold was found on Yanomami land in the state of Roraima, resulting in many illegal gold diggers. In 1988 a new constitution was passed, which provided for an increase in social spending, but contained neither land reform nor protection of the Indians. Also in 1988 the trade unionist and environmentalist Chico Mendes was murdered. In 1989 a first environmental protection plan was adopted. Inflation in those years was up to 1000%. Mercosur (Mercosul in Portuguese) was founded on April 26, 1991. This common market of the south, which the states Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay founded together with Brazil, is a single market with more than 230 million inhabitants, which should strengthen the economy of the member countries and thereby the position of Latin America in the world.

In 1992 the UN Environment Summit took place in Rio de Janeiro. In addition, President Fernando Collor de Mello resigned from office following allegations of corruption. In 1993 the people of Brazil were able to decide on the form of government in a referendum. The choice fell clearly on the republic. In 1994 a comprehensive currency reform was decided. The new currency ("Plano Real" introduced by Fernando Henrique Cardoso) ended the hyperinflation for the time being. In order to improve the budget further, parliament decides to privatize state monopolies, but rejects an amendment to the constitution. In 1999 Fernando Henrique Cardoso was re-elected president, although the country was in an economic crisis, and the real was devalued again. The economy recovered over the next two years. From 2002 to 2006 the real rose against the euro, which did not damage Brazil's capital export during this period.

Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of the PT Workers' Party has been President of Brazil since 2003. He has propagated social programs such as “Zero Hunger” (Fome Zero) or land reform as goals. However, many supporters accuse him of neglecting them in favor of a liberal economic policy (which is successful according to macroeconomic data). In 2004, Brazil led UN peacekeeping forces for the first time in its history, with the military sending 1,470 soldiers to Haiti. Silva cooperates with other left-wing Latin American heads of state such as Hugo Chavez and Nestor Kirchner.