Brazilian History                 123


A little aboutof Brazilian history

In 1807, Napoleon's army marched on Lisbon. Two days before the invasion, the Portuguese Prince Regent set sail for Brazil. On arrival, he made Rio de Janeiro the capital of the United Kingdom of Portugal, Brazil and the Algarve; Brazil became the only New World colony to serve as the seat of a European monarch. In 1822 the Prince Regent's son, who had been left behind to rule the colony when his father returned to Portugal, pulled out his sword and yelled the battle cry "Independência ou morte!" (independence or death). Portugal was too weak to fight its favorite son, so Brazil became an independent empire without spilling a drop of blood.

During the 19th century, coffee replaced sugar as Brazil's major export. At first, the coffee plantations used slave labor, but with the abolition of slavery in 1888 thousands of European immigrants, mostly Italians, poured in to work on the coffee estates, called "fazendas". In 1889, a military coup, supported by the coffee aristocracy, toppled the Brazilian Empire, and for the next 40 years, IBrazil was governed by a series of military and civilian presidents supervised, in effect, by the armed forces.n 1929, the global economic crisis weakened the coffee planters' hold on the government and an opposition Liberal Alliance was formed with the support of nationalist military officers. When the Alliance lost elections in 1930, the military seized power on their behalf and installed the Liberal leader, Getúlio Vargas, as president. Vargas, whose regime was inspired by Mussolini's and Salazar's fascist states, dominated the political scene for the next 30 years, until he was forced out of office in 1954. His replacement, Juscelino Kubitschek, was the first of Brazil's big spenders; he built Brasília, DC the new state capital, which was supposed to catalyze the development of the interior. By the early 1960s, the economy was battered by inflation, partly because of the expense of building the new state capital, and fears of encroaching communism were fueled by Castro's victory in Cuba. Again, Brazil's fragile democracy was squashed by a military coup.


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