Monday, October 22, 2012

Viceroyalty of Brazil

The Viceroyalty of Brazil formed the Portuguese colony in the New World, and not a small one at that!

File:Brazil states1789.png
Viceroyalty of Brazil in 1789AD.

* - refers to the year of the establishment of a diocese.

Though claimed in 1500, with its discovery by Pedro Cabral, the Portuguese were not diligent in Brazil, for Africa and Asia (India) was so much a focus, and Portugal was simply not a large county.  The initial economic interest in Brazil came in the form of brazilwood that made a red dye.   In an attempt to settle and block foreign incursions, the crown divided Brazil into fifteen Captaincies, of which only Pernambuco in the north (famous for its sugar, as brazilwood ran out) and Sao Vincente in the south did well – indeed, the first colonial city was that of Sao Vicente in Sao Paulo in 1532. In 1549, Thome de Sousa (1549-1553) was named first governor-general, and he established the first colonial capital at Salvador, Bahia (founded in the 1549, *1552 first Portuguese Bishop).  This change was, in large part, owing to the general failure of the captaincies.  Salvador was placed mid-way between the two successful areas, Sao Vicente in the south and Pernambuco in the northeast.  Jesuits, who had spearheaded the early missionary activity here, sought to evangelize the interior, especially as the first bishop was in conflict with them, and the Society of Jesus founded a city-mission of Sao Paulo inland from Sao Vincente in 1554.  With French incurtions on the coast, the Governor-General Mem de Sa (1558-1572) expelled the French and their “Antarctic” colony and founded the city of Rio de Janeiro in 1565 (*1575).

Brazil would be divided into two states in 1621, Brazil in the South, its capital at Salvador, and Maranhao in the north, with its capital at Sao Luis (a city founded by the French in 1612, but seized in 1615), also notable being the city of Belem, founded in 1616.   Indeed, in 1774, Maranhao was divided, and a new state of Grao-Para was formed in the northwest, with its capital in Belem.  The Dutch, for their part, occupied the northeast and Pernambuco from 1630-1654.

Exterior of the Church of Sao Francisco, Salvador, Bahia.
Sugar would dominate the economy after its introduction and throughout most of the 17th century, when gold and mining became the chief concern of Brazil, especially in the Minas Gerais region, where it was discovered in 1695, and in the Mato Grosso where it was discovered in 1719.  The spurred colonization of the interior (indeed, Minas Gerais had a population of 320,000 in 1782 compared to 1.5 million throughout Brazil), and caused the capital city to be shifted to Rio de Janeiro in 1763, as it became a busy port for exporting precious metals.  That same year, the crown formed a unified Viceroyalty that included all of the states.

The decline of gold production, and general dissatisfaction at the treatment of the colonies led to the 1789 revolt in Minas Gerais, the Inconfidencia Mineira under Tiradentes.  Soon, of course, the royal family would arrive.

Interior of the Church of Sao Francisco, Salvador, Bahia.

Of course, Brazil's road to independence would be rather unique, with the Portuguese royal family, fleeing Napoleon, taking up residence in 1808 in Brazil, and when the royal family returned to Europe in 1821, one of the princes stayed found a dynasty in the new Empire of Brazil that ruled until the 1880s.

Live well!


  1. Whatever do you mean? Looks about right to me...