Brazil Travel


History of Brazil

The first emperor of Brazil In 1500 Portuguese sailor Pedro Alvares Cabrel set sail with a crew of 1200 men for India, and in turn ended up in Brazil. The settlers soon saw the great opportunity the land and climate had to offer, and for over three centuries Brazil was the center of the great Atlantic sugarcane and slave trade. The estimated 2 to 6 million indigenous peoples (Indians) at first filled the gap of labor shortages, and the lucrative business of selling of humans was dominated by the bandeirantes, men from Sao Paulo who usually had an Indian mother yet a Portuguese father. From the mid 16th and early 17th century, African slaves came to replace the Indian workers, and many offspring of African/Portuguese descent resulted, infusing the culture with African flavor and taste.

Independence
When in 1807 Napoleon's Army marched on Lisbon, the Portuguese Prince regent set sail for Brazil. He crowned Rio de Janeiro the new capital city, replacing Bahia. In 1822 the Prince Regent's son Pedro, who was left behind to rule the colony after his father went back to Portugal, rang the war bells declaring "Independencia ou morte!" (independence or death!) Luckily, Portugal was too weak to protest, and Brazil became an independent nation without any pools of blood to account for its victory. Pedro II was a reformist who is best remembered for overseeing the abolishment of slavery in 1887 (read more about him here..Yet there was unrest in the country amongst planters, the military and the republicans. He was overthrown by a military coup in 1889 and the country became a Republic. As coffee was now the main exported product, the next 40 years of military rule was supported heavily by the powerful coffee aristocracy.

Brazil as a Republic
With the Independent Republic, church and state were seperated. A constitution was drawn up and the republicans turned to a philosophy of positivism, preferring scientific rationalism to religious belief. The country's new flag carried the motto of "Order and Progress." The new Republic gave rise to the Rubber boom in the Amazon rainforest, with the town of Manaus flourishing. Rubber wheels for the newly invented motorcars was needed for English and American companies, who set up trading posts along the river. The extravagantly beautiful opera house The Teatro Amazonas dates back to this time, where many famous opera singers would cross the Atlantic just to sing here. The boom lasted until 1912, for rubber became much cheaper when an Englishman named Wickham Steed smuggled out thousands of saplings from the Amazon to Kew Gardens. The other technological advancements that came from this time was the first-ever flight taken by the man Alberto Santos Dumont, who also invented the first wrist-watch to keep his hands free for flying.

In 1929 the global economic crisis weakened the coffee planter's power over the government, and an opposition Liberal Alliance was formed. Yet they lost the election of 1930, and the military came to power instilling Getulio Vargas as the president. This was a new chapter in Brazilian history. Vargas was a complicated man, and his rule and influence is still highly disputed. Working conditions were improved and labor rights were introduced, the economy expanded and foreign relations were improved, but the trade unions were reorganized along corporate lines.
Major Historical Figures

Post World War II
Vargas was replaced by Juscelino Kubitschek who moved the capital once again from Rio de Janeiro to Brasilia, with hopes to strengthen the country's infrastructure. His slogan ran "fifty years in five" and the city of Brasilia was built in three years. Yet by the early 1960's the economy was battered by inflation, partially due to the high spending costs of building the new capital city.

The fragile democracy was again overthrown by a military coup in 1964. Brazilian industry was promoted, and helped bring about Brazil's "economic miracle." Brazil's economy was an envied- miracle around the world, with an averaging 10 percent growth rate every year between 1968 and 1973. This was aided mainly by loans from international banks. In 1985 the military handed back power to a civilian government with an economy that ranked 10th in the world. Yet this was at the expense of unions and workers; corruption was abundant and human rights were violated.

1990's
In 1989 Brazilian voters elected Fernando Collor who was an ex-karate champion, incredibly charming, and not the disillusioned grey politican they were used to. He knew how to manipulate the soundbite, using lines such as "I'll kill inflation with one karate chop", and won a victory over Luis Inacio Lula da Silva. However, by 1992 he was being indicted for charges of corruption, and inflation was on the rise. When Collor resigned, he was succeeded by Itamar Franco, his vice-president. He introduced the new currency, the real, and this stabilised the economy; Brazil won the 1994 World Cup as well. In Novemeber 1994, Fernando Cardoso was elected as president. Under him there was a flourishing economy, a stable currency and record foreign investment; yet a 1996 UN report showed Brazil had the worlds most unequal wealth distribution amongst its' peoples.

The high foreign debt of the late 80's forced government spending to go into paying off loans, and thus left no money for infrastructure. Yet in the 90's once the economy had stabilized, massive efforts were put into social reforms, such as education, police officers and street lighting. Though the discrepency between the rich and poor is still very evident, most of the crime takes place in the shanty town favelas. Brazil is currently booming, pulsating to the heat of the streets, music, the people's hearts, and enjoying its status as one of the world's largest economic powers.

Further Brazil Culture Information:
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