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About & History

About

Owning a coastline stretching almost 7,500 kilometres, the Federative Republic of Brazil is the fifth largest country in the world and contains over 201 million people within its boundaries, split into 26 states and over 5,500 municipalities.

The country has the seventh largest economy in the world and shares borders with French Guiana, Guyana, Peru, Columbia, Bolivia, Venezuela, Suriname, Paraguay, Argentina and Uruguay. As a result of its large size, it makes up over 47% of South America and shares borders with all South American countries except Chile and Ecuador.


Stone Age History

Due to the movement of various groups at the time, likely from Asia or Australia, it’s believed that humans have occupied the region since at least 11,000 BC. The oldest evidence of human life in the region is in the form of cave paintings dated to 11,000 BC as well as pottery which has been radiocarbon dated to around 6000 BC.

Bronze Age History

It’s believed that at this time the groups occupying the region divided into sub-groups.

Iron Age History

It’s believed that between this date and the 15th century, the sub-groups divided down further into over 2000 tribes.

1st Century – 15th Century History

Little is known about Brazil’s pre-colonial history. The Portuguese supposedly first set foot in the region either in 1498 by Portuguese Captain Duarte Pacheco Pereira or in January 1500 by Spanish Navigator Vincente Yanez Pinzon.

16th Century – 19th Century History

In April 1500, Brazil was first claimed by the Portuguese Fleet Commander Pedro Alvares Cabral in the name of Portugal and shortly after landing the Portuguese discovered stone-using natives in various warring tribes but all using the same Tupi-Guarani language. The country was given its name for the trees that once grew bountifully along the coastline, the Caesalpinia Echinata, which produces a red wood the traders called ‘Pau-Brasil’.

In 1529, in efforts to stop pirates from poaching the valuable Brazilwood the Portuguese Crown divided Brazil into strips of land and gave the land to nobles responsible for managing each part, However, the system failed horribly securing only four plots of land, the failed Captaincies, as they were called, reverted to the crown and eventually became province before states of Brazil.

In the 16th Century the Portuguese began to grow sugarcane on plantations and in order to keep the plantations managed they sent Bandeirantes into the jungle to find slaves. However, the indigenous peoples were deemed unfit for slavery and thus the country began importing slaves from Africa instead. However, due to the poor conditions causing a high mortality rate and the lack of females in the slave population causing an inability to replenish it, the project failed, the slave population shrank dramatically, and finally they merged with the general Brazilian population. At the same time, the Bandeirantes had accidentally spread diseases to the tribal nations which had no immunity to the European-borne diseases and thus vast quantities of the tribes were viciously wiped out. 

Following this, many other European nations attempted to settle in the region, this included the French in 1555 in Rio de Janeiro and in 1612 in Sao Luis. However, the native allies of the Portuguese assisted them in driving out the French in the latter episode. Following this, in the 17th Century Dutch pirates began plundering the coastline and in 1630 they set up a base in Nordeste and controlled a long stretch of the coastline, however, they too were driven out in 1654 due to an extended period of siege warfare.

In the early 19th Century, the Portuguese court fled Napoleon’s invasion of Portugal and set up a permanent base, including moving the entire government body, in Brazil. The Portuguese king ruled from Brazil until 1821 when he attempted to move back to Portugal in 1821. His son, Pedro, stayed in power as the regent of Brazil but a year later, Pedro began the Independence War and declared Brazil a constitutional monarchy, assuming the head of state as Emperor Pedro I of Brazil.

However, it was less than ten years later that he abdicated the throne and left to return to Portugal, leaving his five-year-old son, Pedro II, as Emperor. During the time leading to his coming-of-age, a bout of rebellion swept across the region and it was only silenced when Emperor Pedro II came of age and began a parliamentary reign lasting until 1889, when he was forced out of power in a coup d’état by Republican Military General Deodoro da Fonseca.

20th Century History

Deodoro became the country’s first President and the country’s name was declared as the Republic of the United States of Brazil with elections every four years. Despite this apparent change of the country’s government, the illiterate and women were forbidden to vote and politicians used deals with landowners to control the votes and therefore stage a crypto-dictatorship.

Leading up until 1926, various rebellions, revolts and uprisings occurred, resulting in frequent bloodshed. Despite this though, the government had managed to develop Brazil’s various industries and agriculture dramatically.

In 1930, Getulio Vargas took control of the country with a military regime which rapidly degenerated into a dictatorship. Vargas successfully prevented two coup d’états by the Communists in 1935 and by Fascists in 1938.

However, in 1945 democracy prevailed and an elected government began to run the country. In the 1940’s, Brazil joined the side of the allied forces in World War II, fighting in the Battle of the Atlantic and in the Italian Campaign.

Vargas was re-elected for office in the 1950’s temporarily. In 1956, Juscelino Kubitschek was made President and through his policies Brazil flourished brilliantly. Due to the rapidly improving economy at the time, Kubitschek is considered the father of modern Brazil and one of the few politicians with a good reputation and practices. 

In 1964, the military, unsatisfied with the slow process of the democratic system, staged a coup d’état and overthrew the then-president Joao Goulart, taking control of the country. Although at first there was rapid economic growth through their regime, this soon degenerated into a terrible rift of inequality and national debt. Through the dictatorship, thousands of Brazilians were deported, imprisoned, tortured or murdered through relation to the guerrilla warfare up until 1973.

Eventually the regime collapsed in and through an indirect election, Diretas Ja Leader Tencredo Neves was elected president but before being sworn into office he died and was replaced by Jose Sarney. In 1989, Fernando Collor de Mello was the first elected president by popular vote and successfully dropped the 25% inflation rate severely in only the first few months of his presidency. His party privatized many government companies responsible for telecommunications, aviation, mining and the processing of ore into metal. The aim was to boost free trade and privatized industry and the programs succeeded amazingly.

In 1994, Fernando Henrique Cardoso was voted into power and continued these programs to great success and due to his much-loved policies he was voted into power for a second term in 1998, guiding Brazil through terrible financial crisis almost completely unscathed.

21st Century History

In 2000, Cardoso ordered the declassification of military files containing information about the prior ruling military regimes that had kidnapped and assassinated political opponents and revolutionaries. Following this in 2002, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva of the Partido dos Trabalhadores was elected into power. Upon coming into office, Lula upheld Cardoso’s policies, additionally raising the minimum wage from R$200 to R$350 and starting the Fome Zero (Zero Hunger) program, designed to give each Brazilian three meals a day.

However, despite these changes, his cabinet underwent criticism and serious accusations of corruption and misuse of authority. Through this scrutiny he lost many members of his cabinet but was able to pull through and become re-elected in 2006. Following this in 2010, due to being forbidden to run a third term by the Brazilian Constitution, Dilma Rousseff won and assumed office in 2011.