Slavery and Brazil

Topics: Slavery, Brazil, Slavery in the United States Pages: 11 (5776 words) Published: November 2, 2014
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Brazil: From Colony to Democracy

Part I: Discovery and Development

C

overing 3,286,488 square miles—a
landmass nearly as large as the United
States—Brazil is the fifth largest country in the
world. In 2000, Brazil celebrated its five-hundredth birthday. The arrival of the Portuguese in Brazil on April 22, 1500 began a new chapter—both tragic and vibrant—of the country’s history. By 1532, the Portuguese had established their first permanent settlement, and by 1550, the Portuguese crown recognized Brazil

as an official part of its empire.
Who are the native Brazilians?
In the fifteenth century, over one hundred
distinct language groups populated the region
that is now Brazil. The total population of
native Brazilians was between three and five
million. Anthropologists divide Brazil’s native
population into three broad groupings: the
Tupi, the Mundrucú, and the Yanomami. The
Tupi inhabited the coastal regions of Brazil
and relied heavily on fishing for sustenance.
The Tupi belong to a larger population of
more than forty language groups throughout
Latin America called the Tupi-Guarani. As

compared to the other two groups, the Tupi
are thought to have engaged in more war-like
activities. Researchers believe that ritual (human and animal) sacrifice was a part of Tupi cultural tradition—a point that would give
rise to numerous myths of Indian savagery and
cannibalism among Portuguese colonists. Over
twenty-one Tupi-Guarani languages are still
spoken in Brazil today.
The second group of indigenous people
dwelled in the Amazon River basin and are
called the Mundrucú. Historians believe that
the Mundrucú were primarily peaceful and
depended on agriculture. The Mundrucú have
been widely studied by anthropologists who
have found the group’s ritual life to be based
on an elaborate spiritual belief system.
The best-known Amazonian group is the
Yanomami. The Yanomami remain South
America’s largest self-contained tribal group
with a population of about twenty thousand.
They live in the Amazon rainforest region to
this day, where they remain relatively isolated
and self-sufficient.

Portuguese Colonialism
When the Portuguese “found” Brazil,
Spain and Portugal—the two most powerful
European countries of the time—were both
actively exploring the “New World.” Spain
and Portugal explored and eventually settled
in the New World to expand their empires and
to spread Christianity.

Brazil and the United States are nearly the same
size. Only the United States (with the inclusion of
Alaska and Hawaii), Canada, Russia, and China are
larger in area than Brazil.
■ Choices for the

21st Century Education Program 

How did the Portuguese settle
in South America?
The Catholic Church was closely tied
to the process of European expansion. The
Church claimed the authority to permit or
prohibit the states’ rights to “discover and
acquire” lands in the New World. The Catholic
Church, concerned above all else with bringing the New World into the Church, granted Spain and Portugal the right to explore the
New World in a 1493 edict.

■ Watson Institute for International

Studies, Brown University 

■  www.choices.edu

Brazil: From Colony to Democracy



Through our own liberality and
certain knowledge and with full
Apostolic power, all islands and
mainlands found and to be found,
discovered and to be discovered, to
the west and to the south…to you and
to your heirs and successors by the
authority of Almighty God conferred
on us through Saint Peter along with
the vicarate of Jesus Christ, which
we exercise on earth forever, by
this present text we give, concede,
and hand over to you with all their
realms, cities, fortresses, towns,
villages, laws, jurisdictions, and
all things pertaining thereto. And
to you and to the aforementioned
heirs and successors, we make you,
constitute you, and deputize you as
masters of the same with full, free,
and...
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