Brazil Travel

Major Historical Figures of Brazil

Don Pedro II
While Brazil was still under Portuguese rule, this monarch ruled for nearly 50 years, and under him the economy expanded greatly, with national production increasing 900%. A system of railroads was built which greatly helped Brazil's trading, communication and unification. In terms of foreign affairs Don Pedro was very hostile to neighboring Dictatorships, allying with Argentina and Uruguay against Paraguay in 1865, and supporting the revolutionary war that was taking place in Argentina against the dictator Juan Manual de Rosas in 1851, though internally these actions caused opposition. He oversaw the abolition of Slavery in 1887 and brought millions of Italian, Polish and German immigrants into Southern Brazil.

Joaquim Jose da Silva Xavier
Influenced by the American Revolution and the French Philosophers of the time (John Locke, Rousseau, Voltaire) he was the leader of the first organized movement against the Portuguese in 1789. He was born in Minas Gerais, and organized the Inconfidencia Mineira in response to the Portuguese attempts at collecting back taxes from the Brazilians. The rebellion was quickly crushed, and Tiradentes (as he was commonly referred to, which meant Tooth Puller) was brutally executed two years later, April 21, 1792, for going against the Portuguese Crown. His execution was used as a means of frightening others, who may have had revolutionary tendencies, but Tiradentes' martyrdom made him a national hero and April 21 is now a national holiday.

Virgulino Ferreira da Silva
Born in 1897 in Pernambuco, an area that was infamous for its backwardness, with most people receiving nothing more then the most basic rudimentary education with land being ruled by large landholders. These feudal ways of rule usually erupted into feuds about honor and property, and the da Silva family became intertwined in these battles, ending up on the bad side of the police. His father was killed when the police invaded their house one night. In turn, when Virgulino grew up, he became notorious for the killing of police and soldiers, whom he so graciously labeled as "macacos" (monkeys) He took on the title of Lampiao, with his band of no more then 40 men, titled cangaceiros, facing as many as 200 soldiers. He and his men operated for 15 years without getting caught, enabled to do so due to the poor roads, the corruption of Northeast Brazil in the 1920's and 30's, and the fact that he knew the country well, and had spies and friends all over the country side. He was a highly disputed and violent figure, and is known for such brutalities as cutting out women's tongues and cutting a man's eyeballs with his knife. He had a life long partner-in-crime, Maria Bonita, and when he was finally caught and shot she was by his side. Under threat of torture one of his supporters revealed his location; 50 soldiers stormed the hideout, and all the leaders of the opposition were executed within the 20-minute battle. The government decided to behead all the victims and place the heads of the dead, including Maria Bonita and Lampiao, in a display in Salvador, where they were kept for more then 30 years. The cangaceiros are still active, and the daughter of this infamous couple is still alive. The story of Lampiao and his cangaceiros still permeates comics, folklore, T.V. and movies of modern day Brazil.

Getulio Vargas
Titled "Father of the Poor" this was Brazil's most prominent president of the 20th century, and carried many titles, with congressmen, revolutionary, president, dictator, chief of state, and popularly elected president (Father of the Poor) being only a few. He ruled with breaks from 1930-1954, all together ruling the country for 18 years. He was overthrown in a coup in 1945, only to come back in 1951 as the elected president of the Brazilian Labour party. He greatly helped to modernize the country, with a shift of the majority of the population from a rural to an urban base. He obtained the nickname "Father of the Poor" for his battle against corporations and big businesses, though to the rich he represented someone who maintained the status quo. Under him Rio de Janeiro became a tourist attraction, and Brazil gained a democratic voice. Vargas instituted the minimum wage during his dictatorship period and passed a labor legislation that is still in act today. He felt that the greatest weakness of Brazil is its lack of unity, and so he set on unifying Brazil, and wrote it a constitution, which established a bicameral legislature and a popular elected president. With the war raging and him being aware that the U.S. wants Brazil as an ally, he successfully negotiated funds to build and establish heavy industries in Brazil. Yet in 1945, when he was supposed to resign from power 2 years earlier, rebellion was brewing and Democratic feelings were taking a hold in Brazil. He resigned peacefully to avoid conflict, but was re-elected in 1950. He built foreign relationships, helped the economy, sought international trade and rebuilt the military. He ended his own life with a shot to the heart in 1954, after giving up power to Vice President Joao Cafe Fiho, with a suicide note that ended with "...I leave life to enter History."

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