terça-feira, maio 22, 2007

Brazil – much more than a colony... para Azzim

The final years of the XV century brought two major Portuguese contributions to world history: the sea route to India by Vasco da Gama, in 1498, and the Brazil discovery two years later. Brazil was discovered by Pedro Álvares Cabral on the 22nd of April 1500, and named Terras de Santa Cruz, and Vera Cruz.
A beautiful and fertile land was a guarantee of a great economic achievement, unlike the African colonies. But just as Africa, Azores or Madeira, Portugal had a great handicap, an evident lack of people for the required colonization.
Impossible to provide both Brazil and India the same amount of human and financial resources, D. Manuel I chose to invest primarily in Asia, and gave the privates the possibility to colonize South America, as the Gonçalo Coelhos’s commerce company in 1503 proves.[1]
The French attacks during the second decade in the Brazilian territories forced D. João III to find a plan to solve this situation. Martim Afonso de Sousa went to Brazil (1530) in order to exploit the coast, stop the French, and essentially colonize S.Vicente and S. Paulo. As well as in Africa and in the Atlantic islands the capitania system was applied to solve the demographic needs. Brazil was divided in 15 zones, but only Pernambuco and S.Vicente achieved the planned.
Therefore, in 1548, the king decided to take in hands Baia capitania and give it to Tomé de Sousa as governador-geral, who founded S.Salvador, and invested in brazil-wood and sugar. The change of paradigm in Brazil with the division in two governos-geral experience in 1574, attest the complexity in defining an ideal administration to such a vast region.
This was a period of important economic achievement, but the exact cause is correlated with the success of sugar cane engenho more than the weight of the political choice of governos-geral. Brazil provided several water resources, as rivers, lakes, or lagoons, subsequently the engenho became the most important area in Brazil’s economy and nobility activity.
The Brazilian administration was truly centralized, with the Ultramarine Council as head-quarter and primarily colonies consultant, and several other organizations as Orders and Conscience Table for religious matters and autos; Baia’s governo-geral for collecting taxes (dizimo); Ouvidor-Geral and Brazil’s Casa da Suplicação for judiciary issues; and a company for military recruitment in middle XVIII.
After the engenho’s economic success the Brazilian economy had been reinforced by an unparallel gold mining. According to Godinho[2] in the mid XVIII had been extracted more gold in Brazil than in the 150 years before in all the Spanish empire. However the Portuguese outcome was bare minimum, with the Lisbon Aqueduct as the only visible consequence to people’s life.
By 1762, with king D.José I and Marquis de Pombay Brazil felt the first gold mining crises and therefore several reforms were taken, such as abolishing donatarias, ending Society of Jesus, and mainly raising taxes all over the country. Some protests rose in Brazil as consequence of higher taxation, the key one was Minas Conspiracy in 1789, which might be seen as one of the most significant independence movements. The Brazilian gold exports tend to decrease during the second half of XVIII century, but the sugar, wood, tobacco and others suffer an important increase.
As consequence of Peninsular War (1808-14) and Napoleon invasion of Iberian Peninsula the Portuguese Queen and Prince Regent as well as the king João VI escape on the 29th of November 1807 from Lisbon to continue ruling over his empire from Brazil. The Portuguese presence in Rio de Janeiro modernized the whole country, as the bourgeoisie became competitive and raised the investment in industries and commerce. Politically was clear that the democratic choice of the public output, encouraged literacy by creating military, commerce, arts schools, as well as medic facilities.
It’s quite simple to comprehend the growing aspiration to independency, and the Ipiranga Scream as noted before was just the natural corollary of the several modernizations felt in Brazil during the D.João VI presence.
Nevertheless, the consequences for Portuguese imaginary of this loss were devastating, and lasted for so long that even Fernando Pessoa one century later claimed the rebirth of the 5th Empire.
[1] AAVV, Da visão do paraíso à construção do Brasil, Lisboa, Editora Mar de Letras,
[2] GODINHO, Vitorino M., Portugal, as frotas de açúcar e as frotas de Ouro (1670-1770), Revista de História, nº15, 1953

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