Timeline of the History of Brazil
Source: Peter N. Stearns (ed.), Encyclopedia of World History. New York: Houghton-Mifflin, 2001
INTRODUCTION: Not much is known of the Brazil inhabited by Indians for the thousands of years preceding the arrival of the Portuguese in 1500. Groups from four linguistic families inhabited Brazil: Tupi-Guaraní, Gê, Carib, and the Arawak. The Tupi-Guaraní were divided into warring tribes and lived along the Atlantic coast, from the mouth of the Amazon River to south of present São Paulo. Tupi, Arawak, and Carib tribes lived in the Amazon basin. The Gê tribes were situated in central Brazil. All of these peoples were semi nomadic. Hunting and gathering slash-and-burn agriculture were the cornerstones of economic life.
1499 – 1519 Vicente Yáñez Pinzón arrived near Cape St. Roque in January, 1500. The Portuguese commander Pedro Cabral sailing to India from the Cape Verde Islands landed in Brazil in April, 1500 and laid claim to the country which he named “Terra da Vera Cruz.” Amerigo Vespucci followed in 1501 claiming he had found a “new world.” In 1507, Vespucci’s name came to be attached to this area, which was known from that time as “America.” In 1519, Magellan explored the Brazilian coast near Pernambuco and the estuary of the Río de la Plata.
1548 Brazil came under direct rule by King João III. Salvador was designated the capital in 1549.
End of 16th Century – 17th Century Brazil and southern Africa were the only remaining major territories in the Portuguese empire. Portugal endured a forced union with Spain from 1580 and 1640. By the 17th century, the Portuguese empire had ceased to be a major world power.
1608-1697 Life of Brazil’s foremost scholar and defender of the Indians, the Jesuit Antônio Vieira.
1624-1654 Portugal was at war with the Dutch over Brazil. The Portuguese prevailed.
In the Spanish Caribbean and South American colonies and in Portuguese Brazil, commercial plantations producing sugar and other export products transformed these areas into important markets for African slaves. Between 1659 and 1893, more than 600,000 slaves were shipped into Brazil. Expeditions that some labeled “extermination” actions were mounted against native peoples such as the Gê and Tupi tribes. The Bahian countryside was largely depopulated. Communities (quilombos) of refugee slaves, such as the largest in Palmares (in the northeastern state of Alagoas) were also attacked.
1710-1711 War of the Mascates: armed conflict broke out between Portuguese living in Recife and the natives of Olinda. The Portuguese prevailed, and Recife displaced Olinda as the seat of government.
1750-1777 Portugal’s Marquês de Pombal (Sebastião José de Carvalho e Melo), minister to Joseph I, introduced colonial reforms. The capital was transferred from Bahia to Rio de Janeiro, and in Maranhão was incorporated into Brazil. Pombal proclaimed the Indians free citizens in 1755 and officially expelled the Jesuits from Portugal and its possessions in 1759 and 1760.
1807 Napoleon invaded Portugal and King João VI was evacuated to Rio. Rio was declared the temporary capital of the Portuguese empire “in exile.” King João returned to Portugal in 1821 leaving behind his son Dom Pedro, who promptly crowned himself King of Brazil and oversaw the creation of a constitutional monarchy.
1825 In April, a revolution led by Fructuoso Rivera, broke out. Rivera recruited an army of anti-Brazilian patriots. Some of the rebels were Argentinians. War between Argentina and Brazil ensued.
1828 Brazil and Buenos Aires accepted the independence of the Banda Oriental.
1835 The Cabanagem Rebellion broke out: an uprising of the dispossessed, finally put down in 1845.
1865-1870 War between Paraguay and the “Triple Alliance” (Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay). It was the bloodiest war in South American history.
1888 On May 3, “The Golden Law” abolishing slavery was passed.
1889 Collapse of the monarchy. Brazil became a republic after a bloodless transition. The monarchy and slavery had been linked together in a symbiotic relationship. When slavery was abolished, large landowners withdrew their support from the king, and the monarchy was unable to sustain itself.
1920 On January 10, Brazil joined the League of Nations. In June of 1926, Brazil pulled out after failing to win a permanent seat on the council.
1926-1930 Presidency of Luis Pereira de Souza. He undermined the traditional alliance between the coffee elites in Minas Gerais and São Paulo by favoring Paulistas. This caused divisions in the ruling classes which in turn led to social unrest.
1930 Revolution: the rebellion erupted in the southern provinces, led by Getúlio Vargas, governor of Rio Grande do Sul. He capitalized on the ruin of the coffee market by the depression and on widespread discontent over presidential elections. The military sensed an impending collapse, deposed Washington Luís on Oct. 24, and turned the presidency over to Vargas.
1932 Vargas introduced electoral reforms that included the secret ballot, lowering the voting age to 21, and giving the vote to women.
1934 On July 16, new constitution is set up: autonomy of the states vis à vis the federal government was decreased. The president and bicameral legislature were to be directly elected.
1935 Martial law is declared following a rebellion of Communists and radical members of the military led by Luis Carlos Prestes who called themselves the “National Liberation Alliance” (ANL). Vargas assumed nearly dictatorial powers.
1937 Vargas cancelled presidential elections and declared himself dictator of an “estado novo” modeled after Fascist regimes in Portugal and Italy.
1945 On October 29th, Vargas was forced to resign. Despite this, Vargas remained popular and easily won election as a senator. Eurico Dutra becomes president.
1946 In September, a new constitution outlaws all anti-democratic activity.
1950 Vargas is reelected president by a huge majority.
1954 Unrest led to Vargas’ enemies rising up against him. When they demanded his resignation on August 25th, Vargas calmly walked into his bedroom and fatally shot himself.
1956-1961 Following a tense eighteen months of interim government. Juscelino Kubitschek became president in 1956 and presided until 1961 when Janio Quadros assumed the office. On Sept. 30, 1959, Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay, Peru, and Uruguay set up a South American free trade zone.
1961-1964 A period of rising labor militancy occurred in the face of a declining economy and widespread inflation. Quadros resigned in August, 1961 after only six months in office. He was succeeded by João Goulart, a leftist, whose views alarmed the Brazilian right and paved the way for the military takeover in 1964.
1964 Goulart is deposed in a bloodless military coup. The army dismantles the apparatus of democracy.
1979 In January, General João Baptista de Oliveira Figueiredo became president and proclaimed an “abertura” (opening): a pledge to oversee a gradual transition to civilian rule. General amnesty was given to most political prisoners and exiles and censorship was eased.
1984 In June, the “Conference of Foreign and Finance Ministers of Latin America” takes place in Cartagena, Colombia. The presidents of Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, and Mexico released a joint statement condemning First World protectionism and rising interest rates. The conference adopted the “Declaration of Quito,” a resolution stipulating that negotiations over debt payments must consider the social and developmental aims of the debtor nations and that creditor nations should accept some responsibility for Third World debt.
1985 In January, Military rule collapses and Tancredo Neves proclaims the “Nova Republica.”
1991 On March 26, Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, and Paraguay create the “Southern Cone Common Market” (“Mercosur” in Spanish, “Mercosul” in Portuguese). Bolivia joined Mercosur in 1996.
1999 On February 9, Bolivia and Brazil start up a natural gas pipeline 1,830 miles long between Rio Grande, Bolivia and São Paulo, Brazil. In June, an international summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, brought the European Union and Mercosur together to discuss trade liberalization efforts between the two continents leading to free trade by 2005.
2002 Luis Inacio da Silva – “Lula” – is elected president.
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