The story

Discovering Brazil - The First Thirty Years

Discovering Brazil - The First Thirty Years



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Firstly, it is important to know that Brazil, throughout its history, has successively gone through three political periods:

  • colonial: begins with the Discovery by the Portuguese navigator Pedro Álvares Cabral. At that time, Brazil was dependent on Portuguese policy, that is, all decisions regarding our country came from our metropolis: Portugal. This period ends with the proclamation of Independence on September 7, 1822.
  • monarchical: after independence, the monarchical form of government was adopted. Between 1822 and 1831 we have the First Reign, with the government of D. Pedro I; from that date until 1840, the Regency Period, due to the minority of D. Pedro de Alcântara; from then until 1889, the Second Reign, exercised by D. Pedro II.
  • republican: It begins with the proclamation of the Republic by Marshal Deodoro da Fonseca and comes to the present day. The republican period can also be divided into phases: the Old Republic (1889 - 1930), the Getúlio Vargas period (1930 - 1945) and the New Republic (from 1945 onwards).

From the long colonial period, we will now see the first thirty years, which were named Pre-Colonial Period, that is, prior to the colonization process.

This is due to the fact that Portugal, more interested in the lucrative Asian spice trade, paid the least attention to the new colony, which was thus subjected to secondary treatment. Only reconnaissance and defense expeditions were sent and sometimes established trading posts on the coast.

Colonizing means more than that: it involves settlement, economic organization, and colony administration.

The expeditions

The first type of expeditions that Portugal sent to Brazil was to recognize the coast of the new discovered land, and are therefore called exploratory expeditions.

First Expedition (1501)

Aiming to make a geographical exploration of the land, in 1501 the first expedition was sent, commanded by Gaspar de Lemos and with the participation of Américo Vespucci. He touched Brazil at the height of Rio Grande do Norte and, along the country he named a series of geographical accidents: Cabo de São Roque, Cabo de Santo Agostinho, Rio São Francisco, Todos os Santos Bay, Rio de Janeiro, among others.

The Lease (1502)

The prospects for economic use in Brazil were not good. Absent spices, gold and silver, a single product aroused interest, the redwood, useful for the paint industry. From the outset, its exploitation was considered a royal monopoly, but in 1502 Portugal decided to lease its extraction to merchants of Lisbon, the new christians.

The lease term was three years. The contract required the tenant to send annually an expedition of six ships to exploit 300 leagues of the coast and establish fortified trading posts. The following year, Fernão de Noronha signed the lease.

Second Expedition (1503)

A new exploratory expedition was organized in 1503, under the command of Gonçalo Coelho. Americo Vespucci, who had already participated in the previous expedition, was the commander of one of the vessels.

They touched Brazil on São João Island, which was later called Fernão de Noronha. There the flagship sank and the expedition split. Amerigo Vespucci traveled south, founding a factory and a fort in Cabo Frio.

Organized the first entrance to the interior of Brazil. After a few months, he loaded his redwood ships and returned to Lisbon.

Gonçalo Coelho, it seems, also hit Rio de Janeiro, then returned to Portugal.