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History of Brazil Essay

It is a matter of fact that Brazil is a country of contrasts. One can easily observe that the development of this nation is incredibly uneven. Taking into consideration their past experience, the Brazilians are seeing some very good times as a nation. Certainly, they have overcrowding problems. However, each country has its own difficulties and tries to overcome them. Thus, the diversity of this country and its amazing history has brought a “mixing bowl” of culture preparing a bright future for Brazil.

It is widely known that four major groups make up the Brazilian population. They are the Portuguese, who colonized Brazil in the 16th century; Africans brought to the country as slaves; various European, Middle Eastern, and Asian immigrant peoples who have settled in Brazil since the mid-19th century; and indigenous people of Guarani and Tupi language. (Skidmore, 131) Brazil is the only Latin American nation that takes its language and culture mainly from Portugal. Intermarriage between indigenous people or slaves and the Portuguese was a common phenomenon.

Despite the fact that the major European ethnic culture of Brazil was once Portuguese, waves of immigration have greatly contributed to a diverse ethnic and cultural heritage. Admiral Pedro Alvares Cabral claimed Brazilian territory for Portugal in 1500. The early explorers brought back a wood with them that produced a red dye, pau-brasil. This is where the land received its original name. Portugal began colonization in 1532 and made the area a royal colony in 1549. During the Napoleonic Wars, fearing the advancing French armies, King Joao VI left the country in 1808 and set up his court in Rio de Janeiro.

He was brought home later in 1820 by a revolution, leaving his son as regent. When Portugal wanted to reduce Brazil to colonial status again, the prince declared Brazil’s independence on Sept. 7, 1822. Thus, he became Dom Pedro I, emperor of Brazil. Harassed by his Parliament, Pedro I resigned in 1831 in favor of his five-year-old son who became emperor Dom Pedro II in 1840. Emperor Pedro II ruled to 1889 when a federal republic was established as a result of a coup d’etat organized by Deodoro da Fonseca, marshal of the army. A year earlier, while Dom Pedro II was in Europe, the Regent Princess Isabel had abolished Slavery. Abreu, 311) Dom Pedro II was a popular monarch. Yet discontent grew up and, in 1889, he had to resign because of a military revolt. Although a republic was proclaimed at that time, Brazil was ruled by military dictatorships until a revolt allowed returning gradually to stability under civilian presidents. From 1889 to 1930, the government was a constitutional democracy. The presidency was alternating between the dominant states of Sao Paulo and Minas Gerais. This period ended with a coup d’etat that placed a civilian, Getulio Vargas, in the presidency. He remained as a dictator until 1945.

From 1945 to 1961, presidents of Brazil became Eurico Dutra, Vargas, Juscelino Kubitschek, and Janio Quadros. When Quadros abdicated in 1961, he was succeeded by Vice President Joao Goulart. (Abreu, 329) Goulart’s years in office were marked by high inflation, total economic failure, and the increasing influence of radical political parties. The armed forces alarmed by these developments organized a coup d’etat on March 31, 1964. The coup leaders chose Humberto Castello Branco a president, followed by Arthur da Costa e Silva (1967-69), Emilio Garrastazu Medici (1968-74), and then Ernesto Geisel (1974-79).

All of them were senior army officers. Geisel began a liberalization that was carried further by his successor, General Joao Baptista de Oliveira Figueiredo (1979-85). In the last of a long series of military coups, General Joao Baptista de Oliveira Figueiredo became president in 1979. He pledged a return to democracy in 1985. Figueiredo not only allowed the return of politicians exiled or banned from political activity during the 1960s and 1970s, yet also permitted them to run for state and federal offices in 1982. (Alden, 284)

However, at the same time, the Electoral College consisting of all members of Congress and also six delegates chosen from each state continued its activities of choosing the president. The election of Tancredo Neves on January 15, 1985, the first civilian president since 1964, brought a nationwide wave of optimism and activity. He was elected from the opposition Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB). (Alden, 287) However, when Neves died on April 21, Vice President Sarney became president. The latter was widely distrusted because he had previously been a devoted member of the military regime’s political party.

Collor de Mello won the election of late 1989 with 53% of the vote in the first direct presidential election in his 29 years. (Abreu, 378) Mello promised to lower the persistent hyperinflation by following the path of free-market economics. Having faced impeachment by Congress because of a corruption scandal in December 1992, Mello finally resigned. Vice President Itamar Franco took his place and assumed the presidency. Fernando Cardoso, a former finance minister, won the presidency in the October 1994 election having 54% of the vote.

He took office on January 1, 1995. (Skidmore, 232) Cardoso has organized the disposal of bad government-owned monopolies in the electrical power, telecommunication, port, railway, mining, and banking industries. His timely proposals to Congress included constitutional amendments in order to open the Brazilian economy to greater foreign participation and to implement such sweeping reforms as social security, government administration, and taxation so as to reduce excessive public sector spending and considerably improve government efficiency. Alden, 298) During his short time in the office, Cardoso’s economic wisdom has made a measurable progress in overcoming Brazil’s poverty level. It is remarkable to observe how the Brazilian government makes certain efforts in order to address basic needs of its people such as education, distribution of meals, health care, and the promotion of children’s rights.

Co-signed by the President of Brazil and 24 state governors, the “Pact for the Children” is intended to fully implement the constitutional and legal obligations providing for protection of children and adolescents. Several federal agencies supervise the execution of government programs for children and adolescents aimed to give Brazilian youth opportunities for a better life, shelter, education, and love. Thus, if not forgetting about the past mistakes and taking care of its nation, the Brazilians will surely come to the brightest future.


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