Garretson1Christiana GarretsonDr. Arguello150 History Latin America to 182413 December 2011 Life in Colonial Brazil On April 22, 1500, Pedro Álvares Cabral arrived in Brazil as the first person toexplore the land. Brazil was one of Portugal’s colonies from the 16th century until the19th century. Brazil declared its independence from Portugal on September 7, 1822 andbecame a constitutional monarchy known as the Empire of Brazil. Portugal gained a lot of profit off of trading with China, India, and Indonesia,which is why it did not have interest in Brazil. This changed in 1530 when thePortuguese Crown figured out how to take control over Brazil without having to losemoney over it. A system called the Hereditary Captaincies was used, wherein Brazil wasdivided into strips of land that were donated to noblemen of Portugal to occupy thesestrips of land and report to the Portuguese king about the condition of the land. Thissystem, however, failed when only two of the strips of land were successfully occupiedby these noblemen. Since this plan failed, the Portuguese Crown decided to just takeover all of the land and gave it the name Brazil based on the land’s major export, brazilwood. Competition over the newly-claimed land was presented to Portugal during thefirst two centuries of the colonial period when other European countries made attempts toset up colonies in multiple parts of the territory claimed by Portugal. French colonistsattempted to settle in what is today Rio de Janeiro, but were driven out by the Portuguese
Garretson2with the help of Jesuits and some of the natives who were evangelized by the Jesuits.The Dutch also made an attempt to take over some land, but their attempt was moresuccessful and lasted longer than the attempt of the French. Instead of going for theinterior, the Dutch had a strategy - they would begin at the coast. They took Bahia andthe capital, Salvador, and controlled a good part of the coast from 1630 to 1654, untilthey were finally worn down by several years of constant attack and siege. In the year1661, the Dutch withdrew from Brazil, with little ethnic or cultural influences left behind. The relationship between Portugal and the native Indians of Brazil started out assomewhat of a civil business relationship, wherein Portugal traded with the Indians foritems such as brazil wood, which Portugal wanted the Indians to bring to the coast ofBrazil. In return for these forest items, Portugal gave the Indians household items such aspots an tools. When the Indians gained all of the tools and other items that they needed,they no further showed interest in the trade arrangement with Portugal. Thisdiscontinuation of the agreement led Portugal to switch from civil to violent. Because theIndians would no longer participate in the agreement that they had, the Portuguese thendecided to enslave the Indians. This resulted in the Indians being viewed by the Crownas slave labor. Portugal’s economy in Brazil was indeed based on the slavery of theIndians. Much of the occurrences after this event were indeed shaped by the enslavementof the Indians. At one point, cane sugar was Brazil’s main product that they focused on.However, this changed in the mid to late 1690s. In São Paulo and to the south of it,newly-discovered gold fields were present. Most likely, the Paulistas found more thanthey claimed they found, out of fear that the Portuguese would become greedy and the
Garretson3Portuguese authorities would take over São Paulo and rid them of what littleindependence they had. Although this discovery of gold occurred between 1693 and1695, the news of the mines was spread rather slowly. The largest deposit of gold wasalong the Serra do Espinhaço, Brazil’s oldest geological formation. Throughout the Serrado Espinhaço, it “seemed that every river, stream, and brook glittered with gold.” Whenthe news of the gold discoveries finally did get out, it sparked a gold rush that would notbe replicated or anything close to such, until the California gold rush of 1849. Most ofthe miners of the gold were slaves owned by whites. Many of the African slaves ranaway from the hard lifestyle of mining gold, though the first few decades of life in Brazilwere inevitably difficult for everyone, slaves and non-slaves alike. Seemingly simpleitems such as corn, meat, and flour were rare and also expensive. For example, a smallflask of salt would cost as much as a half pound of gold. Although gold mining replacedsugar as the leading economic product of the colony, the value of Brazil’s gold exportsnever managed to exceed the value of sugar-led agricultural exports. Due to the onset of the Napoleonic Wars in November of 1807, Portugueseofficials declared that it would be wise to move the crown to Brazil for safety. They werefaced with a dilemma - lose Portugal to the French and have the British take over Brazil,or move the crown to Brazil and continue to fight for Portugal. No movement was made until Portugal was invaded in late 1807. The Portuguese crown then had to essentiallyduplicated from scratch the government it had left behind in Lisbon. A Supreme Military Council was set up along with boards of treasury, trade, agriculture and so on, among with other necessities for a successful government. The British liberated Portugal fromthe French in 1811, stayed in Brazil, and somehow managed to keep British influence to
Garretson4a minimum. In 1815, the Portuguese crown raised Brazil to a kingdom that was equalwith Portugal. The crown then arranged marriages between the two princesses and theSpanish king and his brother, and also between Crown Prince Pedro and the daughter of Franz of Austria, who was the Archduchess of Leopoldina.