Brasil

BRASIL HISTORY

The arrival of the Portuguese in the 1500’s click on the image to enlarge
There is very little recorded history of Brazil before the arrival of the Portuguese in the 1500’s.  What has been determined from the first chroniclers who arrived with the Portuguese is that Brazil had been inhabitant by the Indians for many centuries; but nothing could be found that resembled anything like the large cities of the Incas or Aztecs.  There has been a few material traces of the early inhabitants found, such as some glazed ceramic jars that were discovered on the Amazon island of Marajo.  However, other than these few remnants, the early Brazilian cultures have vanished from existence, not even leaving a name to remember their passing.

pedro alavares click on the image to enlarge
Portugal’s first discovery of Brazil was April 23rd 1500 by one: Pedro Alvares Cabral.  And as chance had it, it was quite an accidental discovery.  The discovery was made during Portugal’s vision of founding a seaborne empire in the East Indies; avidly avoiding the African doldrums, Cabral was blown off course on his way to Calcutta.  Cabral explored the Brazilian coast for about a week before continuing onto India where he met his untimely death drowning in a shipwreck.  In 1501, King Manuel 1 of Portugal sent Amerigo Vespucci to continue the exploration of Cabral’s discovery.  The land was called “TERRA DO BRASIL”, named after its first export of a tropical redwood that produced a scarlet dye called brasa (glowing coal).

For the first few decades, Portugal’s new addition to its empire was neglected as they concentrated more on Africa and the booming Spice Trade of the Fareast.  With no move on attempting settlement, French and English privateers set up base along the Brazilian coast and raided the passing by spice ships.

Conquistadores click on the image to enlarge
Pressed into action in 1548, King Jao brought Brazil under the direct royal control by sending the first Governor General to the newly designated capital of Salvador.  The campaign was successful in rooting out all the privateers and as the century came to a close, Portuguese settlers arrived in a steady stream.

With sugar plantations popping up all around Salvador and Olinda, African slaves from the Portuguese outposts of Africa were imported into Brazil to help man the plantations.  Come early 17th century, Europe had developed quite a taste for sugar; so once seen as just a mere staging point on the way to the Fareast, Brazil (particularly the North East) was rapidly developing into valuable real estate and a very tempting goal for the growing powers of Northern Europe.  Particular rivals were both the French and the Dutch.

During the Napoleonic wars, around 1807, where the French invaded Portugal, the life of modern Brazil boomed with the Portuguese government and Royal Family taking refuge in Brazil.  Their arrival instigated modern government and a new change in the development of Brazil.

dom pedro click on the image to enlarge
In 1821, King Joao decided to return to Portugal, however, in his wake, he left behind his son: Dom Pedro to act as regent.  Within a year of his regency Dom Pedro sort for independence both from Portugal and his father.  His campaign for independence, which had the added support of the British, was successful, and so was born the constitutional monarchy “EMPIRE OF BRAZIL”.

Dom Pedro’s imperial system only lasted to see 1889 before it was overthrown and replaced by a Republican government.

From the founding of the Republic there have been continuous power struggles between the central government and the most powerful regions like Sao Paulo, Minas Gerais and Rio Grande do Sul- and of times this conflict has led to an intervention from the army which, excepting the Catholic Church, is the only truly national institution.

Getulio Vargas click on the image to enlarge
The early 20th century brought with it a developing sense of national identity; a Brazilian politician, Getulio Vargas, dominated the political scene (between 1930 & 1954) and governed the republic twice as president and twice as dictator.  An economic growth during the 1950’s to early 60’s had Brazilian society evolving until the left winger accession of Joao Goulart.  With the conniving assistance of the US, the Brazilian Army in 1964 overthrew Goulart taking full control and throwing Brazil into 2 decades of military rule.

By the early 1980’s, due to high pressure, the military conceded into an election, bringing civilian rule back into play and in 1985, Tancredo Neves, a highly respected politician was elected to become Brazil’s first civilian president in 21 years.

Dilma Rousseff - President of Brazil click on the image to enlarge
However, as luck would have it, Neves died before he was able to take office, replacing him was Jose Sarney.

Up till today, Brazil has had a long line of Presidents, each in turn adding to the instability of the Brazilian government.



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