Brazil History

Some Highlights of the History of Brazil

Brazil history is quite unique, and begins nearly 8,000 years ago. In modern times the history of Brazil includes several different types of government. Brazil has been a constitutional monarchy, known as the Empire of Brazil, as well as a military dictatorship and a federal republic.

Documentation of very early Brazil history begins with the entrance of the first indigenous people into Brazil. According to historians, these people entered the land we now know as Brazil via the Bering land bridge to cross Alaska and then continuing on into Central and North America.

Unfortunately, we know very little about the first indigenous inhabitants and tribes of Brazil, as they lived so long ago, and they didn't leave much behind for historians to see. There were no writings or permanent structures left behind to study.

It's a widely accepted notion that Brazil received its name from the brazilwood tree that was harvested there and traded in Europe by sailors.

Brazil History - a Basic Timeline

Most historical accounts about Brazil history name Pedro Alvares Cabral, a Portuguese man, as the first person to discover the land of Brazil in 1500. It wasn't until 1531 however that actual settlers were sent to the country of Brazil.

Over the next several decades, the indigenous Indian tribes of Brazil were cut in half by colonizers and roaming opportunists entering the country and killing them as they went.

This is a very sad chapter in the history of Brazil. Those who were not murdered died from the diseases the outsiders brought into the country.

Settling Brazil's Coastline

In 1531, King Joao III sent 400 settlers to the land of Brazil. The king decreed that Brazil's coastline be divided into 250km plots and ruled by captains appointed by the king.

A mere two of those groups survived the Indians, Dutch, and French and proved successful. The country of Brazil was a Portuguese colony throughout the 16th, 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries.

Slavery in Brazil

Beginning in 1550, slaves were brought from Africa to work Brazil's sugar cane fields. They were also used to work the gold mine fields for a time until the gold ran out. Thankfully, slavery in Brazil was abolished in 1888.

Economy of Brazil

Coffee entered Brazil sometime in the early 1800s. Nine years later, coffee accounted for nearly 2/3 of Brazil's exports! By this time, sugar cane production had all but stopped, so coffee beans filled in the gaps in the Brazilian economy. The rubber tree was discovered in the late 1800s and became a significant export for Brazil by 1912.

Brazilian Independence

On September 7, 1822, Brazil declared independence from Portuguese rule. The country became the Empire of Brazil and operated as a constitutional monarchy.

During this time, there were two rulers - Pedro I and Pedro II. Pedro I ruled as emperor from 1822 to 1831, at which time his five-year-old son became emperor and ruled from 1831 to 1889.

Republican Government

The year 1889 - a republican government was established as a result of a military coup. The man who led the coup, General Deodoro da Fonseca, was Brazil's first de facto president. Brazil's name was changed to the Republic of the United States of Brazil. The constitutional democracy in Brazil lasted from 1889 through 1930.

Brazil History - Getulio Vargas

Getulio Vargas took power of the government via a military coup in 1930. He was dictator over Brazil through 1934. He was elected president by Congress in 1937 and ruled as such until 1945 at which time he was again a dictator.

The people of Brazil elected Vargas president in 1951 and he remained their president until he took his life in 1954. The country continued under a democratic government until 1964.

Military Dictatorship

Another military coup in 1964 resulted in the military dictatorship over Brazil through 1985. The economy was almost completely destroyed and thousands of Brazilians were forced to leave the country or murdered during this time. Brazil's name changed in 1967 to Federative Republic of Brazil.

This traumatic time in Brazil history is relatively recent and there are still people alive today who lived through these terrible times.

Brazil's Timeline to Current Day

  • 1985 - 1990 - New Republic under Jose Sarney, a member of the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party

  • 1990 - 1992 - Fernando Collar de Mello was elected President and served until he was impeached.

  • 1992 - 1994 - Vice President Itmar took the reigns of the government. I was there during this time period and remember how quickly the value of our money would change.

    We'd go to troca dineiro ("change money") to change our U.S. dollars to Brazilian currency and the values fluctuated so wildly that it was almost impossible to predict exactly what the money would be worth the next day! Soon after this they switched to the Brazilian Real, prounouced hay - al.

  • 1995 - 2003 - Fernando Henrique Cardoso was granted power by V.P. Itmar to run the country. Cardoso came up with a plan that eliminated the inflation that threatened to destroy Brazil. He was elected President and remained in office until 2002.

  • 2003 - 2010 - Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was elected President. His controversial and popular administration created many social programs to eliminate hunger and address the many challenges in the country. He was re-elected and began focusing on growing the Brazil economy, and in 2008 Brazil actually began to be capable of loaning money to other nations, after decades of being one of the largest debtors.

The history of Brazil is quite unique and interesting considering how often their government changed hands. The Brazilian culture traditions and the diversity of the population has flourished despite the changes. The people of Brazil are what make the country what it is today.

History of Brazilian Music

My husband is a musician and he absolutely loves Brazilian music. For this reason I have a special interest in the amazing and beautiful music created in Brazil. I will be devoting more to this topic soon!

How did the unique style of Brazilian music develop? The Jesuits brought music to the indigenous people of Brazil and what followed was a culturally rich history of musicians and composers. Throughout the years of Brazil history, many types of music were created and embraced despite the dictatorship rule that held the country in its grip for 21 years.

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