November 15th – Proclamation of the Republic in Brazil
Today we are publishing a guest blog post written by John Clites, an American expat residing in Brazil. In this post John writes about an important Brazilian National Holiday: The Proclamation of the Republic, and explains in a very interesting way why Brazilians have “two Independence Days”.
November 15th is Proclamation of the Republic Day here in Brazil. Brazil has a rather interesting history, quite different from that of the U.S., although they were “discovered” at about the same time. Here is a quick primer:
The first colony in Brazil was founded on April 22nd, 1500, in what is today the state of Bahia. Other Portuguese colonies followed soon after in the northeast, to the east of the Tordesillas Line, which had been fixed in 1494 to divide the newly discovered lands outside of Europe between Spain and Portugal.
Permanent settlements in North America came a bit later. And the patterns of colonization in the future United States and in the future Brazil were quite different. North America was settled largely by men looking to stay and to build a new life. Accordingly, they often brought their wives and children; they established small farms and businesses.
Brazil, on the other hand, was for a long time seen largely as simply a land to exploit. Single men were sent to Brazil, often without a choice. They mixed with the native women and slaves, which is one of the reasons that much of the Brazilian populous is quite racially mixed today. The early settlements were organized as “captaincies”, which were largely left to govern themselves as long as they sent enough wealth back to Lisbon.
Things continued in this way for some time, with Brazil one country in name only. In reality it was several independent captaincies, which might have evolved into several distinct countries had it not been for Napoleon.
In the early years of the 19th Century, Napoleon was rolling across much of Europe, and he invaded Portugal. The royal family, staring down French cannon, fled to their New World colony at the end of 1807. The capital was officially transferred to Rio de Janeiro in 1808, which for several years was the capital of the Portuguese Empire.
The Portuguese king, Dom João VI, finally returned to Portugal in 1821. However, the intervening years had served to unify Brazil considerably, and to instill in it a stronger national identity. On September 7th, 1822, Brazil declared its independence, led by Dom João’s son, Prince Pedro. In 1824, fighting ended and Brazil was declared an independent empire.
The early days of the Brazilian Empire were bumpy to say the least. However, the Brazilian Empire continued for several decades, with the title of monarch passing to Pedro’s son, Dom Pedro II. But by the 1880s, wars with neighboring countries, coupled with economy stagnation, had crippled the country. The question of slavery (which didn’t end in Brazil until 1888) further divided opposing factions. Dom Pedro was plagued with ill health and was not providing strong leadership. On November 15th, 1889, a military coup led by Marshal Deodoro da Fonseca ended the monarchy, and a republic was proclaimed.
Accordingly, Brazil has in effect two “Independence Days”: September 7th, commemorating its independence from Portugal, and November 15th, commemorating the establishment of the Republic.
Brazil’s history has been turbulent, to say the least, a bit of a novela in itself. Personally, I’m pleased to see that Brazilians are becoming more involved and more vocal in recent years, making greater demands on the government for improved services and greater accountability.
It’s an interesting time to be in Brazil.
Still in Brazil
About the author: John Clites is a U.S. citizen who first visited Brazil in 1993. He fell in love with the country and traveled Brazil extensively before finally moving there in 2008. He divides his time between teaching English, writing about Brazil, and maintaining his blog, www.JohnInBrazil.org. His first e-book, Teaching English in Brazil, is available at www.ComeTeachEnglishInBrazil.com. His second e-book, “Live well in Rio” is now available on Amazon. Readers may write to John at [email protected].