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Article

Adriana Barreto de Souza

Between 1831 and 1840, the Brazilian Empire was ruled by regents. Pedro I, who became Brazil’s first emperor in 1822 on the occasion of the country’s independence, was forced by a popular political movement to abdicate his throne on April 7, 1831. This episode set off a series of revolts that involved broad segments of society: slaves, Indians, the urban and rural poor, liberal professionals, and large and small landholders. Not all of the revolts, however, counted such diverse social groups among their ranks, and fewer still included common people in leadership roles. The Balaiada War, or simply the Balaiada, waged in the provinces of Maranhão and Piauí, was one such revolt. Albeit in different phases, this multifaceted movement drew in landholders, slaves, and quilombolas (members of a community formed by escaped African slaves and their descendants, usually in inaccessible regions of the forest or backlands), and was led by caboclos (a term used in northern Brazil to refer to those who work the fields and forests) and a black leader who headed an army of more than 3,000 quilombolas. These men fought their freedom and civil rights, values widely invoked by the literate elite since the time of Brazil’s independence. The successful repression (“pacification”) of this movement, beginning in 1840, employed two strategies: by sowing intrigue, it sought to relegate each group to its original place in society and reconstruct social hierarchies; and at a symbolic level, it sought to disparage the war and its leaders, portraying the movement in historical accounts as one of vicious and bloodthirsty barbarians.

Article

On January 7, 1835 a group of landowners, artisans, soldiers, and peasants stormed Belém, the capital of the Amazon region. Now known as the Cabanagem, this rebellion occurred during a time of social upheaval in not just Pará but also Brazil. On that first day a prominent landowner, Felix Malcher, was released from prison and declared the new president by popular proclamation. The administration in Rio refused to recognize him, despite his statement of allegiance to the Empire of Brazil. Soon factions erupted, aligned with differences between the local elites and their poorer allies; Malcher and a subsequent president were killed. After battles with imperial forces the third rebel president, Eduardo Angelim, was adopted by a victorious crowd in August 1835. The capital reverted to imperial hands on May 13, 1836; however, the rebellion had not been quelled as the rest of the region became embroiled in conflict. As it developed, ethnic and class alliances changed, and the battles continued for four more years. While rebels gradually lost towns and fortified rural encampments, they were never defeated militarily. Organized attacks continued until a general amnesty was granted to all rebels by Emperor Pedro II in July 1840. The Cabanagem, which involved indigenous people, was a broad and fragile alliance composed of different interests with an international dimension. Radical liberal ideas brought together those living in rural and urban districts and appealed to long-standing animosities against distant control by outsiders, the inconsistent use of the law to protect all people, and compulsory labor regimes that took people away from their families and lands. Yet the regency administration feared the break-up of the newly independent Brazil. The violent pacification of the region was justified by portraying the movement as a race war, dominated by “people of color” incapable of ruling themselves.

Article

João Paulo Pimenta

Stemming from an accelerated and tumultuous process unleashed by European wars in the first decade of the 19th century, Brazil and Portugal split politically in 1822. In a sense, Brazil’s independence reflects a number of peculiar characteristics within the context of the time due, in part, to three centuries of Portuguese colonization and to changes within the colonial system beginning in the second half of the 1700s. In other ways, however, Brazilian independence is linked to external events like the French Revolution, the independence of Haiti, and, above all, the wars of independence in Spanish America. The most profound and lasting consequences of the break with Portugal were the emergence of a Brazilian state and nation that until that point did not exist and that was consolidated over the course of the nineteenth century, as well as the nationalization of certain colonial institutions that were partially maintained. Historiography and national memory would later imbue independence with supreme importance as the foundational moment of the nation such that it has become a recurring theme in historical studies of Brazil.

Article

In 1817, and again in 1824, radical liberals took power and proclaimed a republic in Pernambuco. These movements were violently repressed by imperial troops who landed in Alagoas and were supported by large landholders, who mobilized allies while they advanced on Recife and Olinda, where the rebels had most support, including among the black and mixed population. The fall of Pedro I in 1831 reopened these wounds and rekindled the dispute for land in the forests between Alagoas and Pernambuco, where the Cabanos rebels lived—also known as the “people of the forests.” Armed by those who fought against the republicans in 1817 and 1824, the Cabanos defended their right to own the land they held and fought for the return of Pedro I. The people of the forests were a mix of posseiros, Indians, and quilombolas, and in 1833 under the leadership of Vicente de Paula, a poor pardo with an uncertain past, they totally escaped the control of landholders. The Cabanada defeat (1835) coincided with the beginning of the regresso in court, which strengthened the conservatives of Pernambuco, guaranteeing the hegemony of those led by the Cavalcanti clan and by the Marquis of Olinda. This faction only left the Pernambuco government in 1845, during the “liberal quinquennium” (1844–1848), when the Praieiro Party rose to power, bringing together rebels from 1817 and 1824 and rural landholders whose demands had not been met by the hegemonic conservative alliance, which would only return to the provincial government in 1848, after the fall of the Liberal cabinet in Rio de Janeiro. However, the Praieiros refused to give up their positions and their posts in the national guard and civil police, starting the Praieira Rebellion, which had the support of various rural landholders and the free poor urban population mobilized by radical liberals around a nativist demand: the “nationalization of retail trade.” The crushing of the Praieira Rebellion sealed the destiny of the liberal opposition, confirming the conservative dominion in Pernambuco and in the capital of the empire.

Article

Luís Carlos Prestes, from his birth in 1898 to his death in 1990, had a long, restless, and bustling life. His childhood and youth, as well as key events in his family life, are especially important in understanding the formation of his character. Trained as a soldier, Prestes would as an adult participate in the struggles of Brazilian army officers for the modernization and democratization of the nation (1920s), commanding, with Miguel Costa, a guerrilla column that traversed the country from 1924 to 1927. After that, Prestes became a communist and joined the Communist Party, leading a revolutionary putsch in November 1935, which was quickly put down. He then spent nine years in prison. By the time he was released, in 1945, he had become the undisputed leader of Brazil’s communists, and he was elected senator from the city of Rio de Janeiro in December. Between 1946 and 1964, through victories and defeats, he was one of the leading lights of the Brazilian Lefts. He was also an important player in the international communist movement, serving as an interlocutor in talks with the Communist parties of the USSR and China. After the triumph of the Cuban Revolution in 1959 and the defeat of the Brazilian Left in 1964, when a long military dictatorship was established in Brazil, Prestes’s prestige at home and abroad declined sharply. However, in the context of redemocratization, a process initiated in 1979, he remained a frequent reference point for leftists, albeit on a secondary level, who lauded his integrity and determination. For the Right, he stalked the political scene like a menacing ghost. Upon his death in 1990, no one could deny his impact on the history of Brazil, and on the Brazilian Left in particular.

Article

João Roberto Martins Filho

The coup that took place in Brazil on March 31, 1964 can be understood as a typical Cold War event. Supported by civilians, the action was carried out by the armed forces. Its origins hark back to the failed military revolt, headed by the Brazilian Communist Party (PCB), in November of 1935, stirring up strong anticommunist sentiments. The Estado Novo coup, which occurred two years later, was supported by the army (war) and navy ministers. It marked the beginnings of the dictatorial phase of Getúlio Vargas, who had been in power since 1930. At the end of the Second World War, officers who had taken part in the struggle against Nazism in Italy returned to Brazil and overthrew the dictatorial Vargas regime, who nonetheless returned to power through the 1950 presidential elections. In 1954, under pressure from right-wing military forces, he committed suicide, thereby frustrating existing plans for another coup d’état. The Superior War School (ESG), created in 1949, had become both the birthplace of the ideology of National Security and stage where the French doctrine of guerre révolutionnaire was welcomed. During the 1950s, the military came to be divided into pro-American and nationalist factions. The alliance between the Brazilian Labor Party (PTB) and the centrist Social Democratic Party (PSD), which had elected Vargas earlier, now enabled Juscelino Kubitschek’s victory in the 1955 elections, disappointing the conservatives of the National Democratic Union (UDN) and its military allies. The latter were briefly encouraged when the 1960 presidential election put Jânio Quadros at the head of the executive. In August 1961, when Quadros resigned, his military ministers tried to use force to keep Vice-President João Goulart, Vargas’s political heir at the head of the PTB, from taking office. The coup was frustrated by the resistance of the governor of the state of Rio Grande do Sul. Yet the Goulart administration was marked by instability, in the midst of intense social struggles and by a sharp economic crisis. The outcome of this drama began to take shape in March 1963, when the government took a leftwards turn. A massive demonstration in downtown Rio de Janeiro on March 13 served as an alert, and the March 25 sailors’ revolt as the match in the powder keg. On March 31, military forces carried out the infamous coup. The Goulart administration collapsed. Social movements were left waiting for orders to resist that never came.

Article

Monica Duarte Dantas

Scholars have long studied the rebellious movements that rattled Brazil after its independence and during the so-called Regency period. The scholarship has mainly focused on understanding the political and economic elites who led the revolts by joining or fighting the rebels, or whose interests were at stake. Comparatively little attention has been paid to those who actually fought in the battles: namely, the impoverished free and freed people who comprised the majority of the country’s population. These women and men took up arms and, occasionally, led the rebellions, notably during the First Reign and the Regency. Historical accounts of such revolts are limited, however, and those that speak to upheavals that occurred from the 1850s on are even scarcer. In the past decades, new interpretations of popular revolts during the Empire have enabled scholars to reappraise how free and freed poor (of Portuguese, African, or Native American descent) experienced the innovations brought by the country’s independence, and the long process of state-building. Even if the country’s Charta was given by the first emperor, and not duly written and approved by a legislative body, it followed quite strictly the liberal creed that inspired so many other contemporary constitutions. According to the 1824 Charta, all of the country’s natural born were henceforth made citizens, regardless of whether they were free or freed, with constitutionally guaranteed rights. Although one should never mistake the letter of the law for its actual enforcement, its existence should also not be dismissed. This is especially important when trying to understand the history of a country whose elites kept on fighting not only over the Constitution’s true meaning, but also over governmental control. Battling for independence and state power meant publicizing mottos about freedom, emancipation, the people’s rights, and the overcoming of oppression across the country—words that were spoken out loud and printed in newspapers and gazettes, reaching as far as the Brazilian backlands. One must always factor into any historical equation the specifics of a country’s population. By the time Brazil became independent, slaves amounted to roughly 31 percent of the population, where most of the remaining 69 percent were composed of free poor, freed people, and “domesticated” Indians; all of whom became citizens when the 1824 Charta was enforced (with constitutional Rights, according to the law, and even, depending on one’s gender, age, income, and status—as a free or a freed man—to vote and be voted). Considering all those specifics, this article analyzes the involvement of free and freed peoples in 19th century rebellions, riots, and seditions; movements that broke out all over the country, rattling regions as far as Maranhão and Rio Grande do Sul, from the 1820s to the 1880s. Regarding the role played by popular revolts in 19th century Brazil, one must go beyond the boundaries set by a traditional historiography to understand how the experience of protesting was directly related to the process of state building, and how the lower strata of society learned to fight for their demands as citizens of a representative constitutional monarchy.

Article

The 1798 revolt of the enteados and tailors in Bahia, also called the 1798 Conjuração Baiana (the Bahian conspiracy) in the historiography, was a movement of political contestation which occurred in two phases between 1796 and 1800 and involved all parts of soteropolitana society at the time. During the investigations carried out by two Desembargadores (appellant judges) from the Tribunal da Relação (appeals court) of Bahia, a group of powerful rich men, called the “corporation of the enteados,” “handed over slaves” to the courts to escape being accused of participating in the “planned revolt.” This episode shows that the resurgence of the colonial pact contained in the modernizing reforms of Rodrigo de Sousa Coutinho triggered an awareness of colonial exploitation, causing the upper sectors of Soteropolitana society to demand at the end of the 18th century the enrooting of their economic interests and the maintenance of their privileges threatened by the possibility of the end of monopolies, majorats, a change in the manner of selling positions in the treasury and the courts, and the maintenance of the extension of tithe contracts for Portuguese merchants. After a programmatic alliance with armed groups in the captaincy of Bahia, the middle and upper sectors of the Partido da Liberdade sparked the movement into life with handwritten pamphlets exploiting the two principal fears on the horizon of expectations of the Portuguese Crown in that conflictual fin de siècle: the mirage of free trade and a French invasion. After the beginning of the devassas (inquiry) to investigate the authorship of the pamphlets and discover the movement’s participants, its upper-class members retreated, handed over their slaves to justice, and formulated the principal evidence that had men from middle sectors condemned to death. The hanging in the public square of those condemned for the revolt of the enteados and the tailors, the 1798Conjuração Baiana (The Bahian Conspiracy), is paradigmatic, since the winning political project that emerged was a conservative one, as the Portuguese Crown carried out a series of compromise solutions with the corporation of the enteados, guaranteeing the internalization of their interests and the maintenance of their privileges, which made them the dominant sector in that society, fundamental for allowing Portuguese monarchical power to continue to govern the conflict within dominant sectors in the principal colony.

Article

Monica Duarte Dantas and Roberto Saba

The Sabinada took place between November 1837 and March 1838 in the city of Salvador, province of Bahia, Empire of Brazil. It was a separatist rebellion organized by men of federalist and republican ideals who opposed the conservative turn of the Regency government, which ruled Brazil from the abdication of Dom Pedro I until 1840, when Dom Pedro II—three and a half years before the legal age of 18—was crowned Emperor. The Sabinada, however, was more than a separatist movement organized by a rogue political group. It brought together a myriad of social tensions that had been brewing in Salvador since colonial times. Members of the military, who had seen their standing in Brazilian society rapidly deteriorate since the war of independence, found in the Sabinada an opportunity to reclaim a leading position. Middling sectors of Salvador’s society joined in, with hopes that the movement would give them some voice in a political system otherwise dominated by wealthy planters and merchants. The free poor nurtured similar political hopes and, more importantly, rebelled against a highly unequal economic system that left them in dire straits, facing the constant threat of homelessness and starvation. The slaves did not hesitate to jump into the fray, running away from their masters to join the rebel forces and forcing its leaders to break their initial promise that slavery would not be jeopardized. People of color—slave and free—embraced the Sabinada to exterminate some blatant racial inequality existing in 19th-century Bahia. Brazilians of all colors and social ranks took advantage of the situation to carry out vengeance against foreign nationals, especially the Portuguese, who controlled retail commerce in Salvador. Rebel leaders had to deal with all these different demands at once, and they did so with much improvisation and unexpected turns. Simultaneously, they had to fend off a brutal repression from loyalist authorities and combatants. When the Sabinada exploded, the powerful and rich fled Salvador to Bahia’s sugar-producing region, known as the Recôncavo. There, they received reinforcements from the National Guard and Army battalions from other provinces. Salvador was under siege for most of the rebellion. The rebels had a hard time acquiring the necessary means to wage war and nearly starved to death. When the loyalists finally attacked, they made sure to shed as much rebel blood as possible to make an example. The loyalists killed indiscriminately, burned buildings, suspended civil rights, executed prisoners, and deported rebels. Through this bloodbath, they succeeded in reestablishing the unequal political and social order that had existed in Salvador before.

Article

Ricardo Figueiredo Pirola

Brazil received the largest number of enslaved Africans in the countries in the Americas. Of the 12.5 million men and women taken captive in Africa, about 5.5 million (44 percent) were sent to Brazil, which became one of the main slaveholding areas in the world. The enslavement of Africans and their descendants persisted in that country for more than three centuries and permeated all aspects of life. There was no work in which slave labor was not used, whether in the fields or in towns and cities throughout Brazil’s vast territory. The wealth produced by the exploitation of sugar cane, coffee, and the extraction of gold and diamonds relied primarily on the work of enslaved Africans. Brazil was built on the backs of Blacks. If the work of enslaved Africans and their descendants marked the building of wealth in that country, the struggles they waged over the centuries were also part of Brazilian history. The enslaved resisted the world conceived by their masters in many ways: by sabotaging the production of goods, slowing the pace of work, escaping, forming quilombos (maroon communities), killing masters and overseers, and planning slave revolts. These various forms of resistance coexisted during over three centuries of slavery in Brazil, but above all in the 19th century, when most of the collective slave revolts occurred. This does not mean that there were no uprisings before that time, but the accelerated arrival of Africans in the 19th century and the dissemination of several revolutionary ideologies (such as Islamism and the ideas of equality and freedom arising from the Enlightenment) created a favorable context for the outbreak of mass revolts. It was in the 1800s, specifically in 1835, that Brazil witnessed the largest urban uprising of enslaved individuals in the Americas when the Revolt of the Malês erupted in the streets of Salvador, Bahia.

Article

Due to treaties between the British and Portuguese empires, Portugal and its Atlantic islands had served as some of the most important trade destinations of British Americans prior to the American Revolution. After US independence, however, Portugal restricted North American access to Portuguese markets. As a result, North Americans anticipated a day when they could trade with independent, republican Brazilians. For their part, however, Brazilians followed a different trajectory toward independence. The Portuguese monarchy liberalized trade in the 1790s to avoid uncomfortable associations of free trade and republican revolution. During the Napoleonic Wars, the Portuguese court relocated from Lisbon to Rio de Janeiro to save the empire, opening Brazil to foreign commerce in the process. As a result of such reforms, Brazilians rarely equated republicanism with free trade. After the court returned to Lisbon in 1821 and Brazilians declared independence in 1822, Brazil adopted a monarchy rather than a republic. Brazil disrupted North Americans’ tidy narrative of the Americas as a hemisphere of republics contrasted with European monarchies.

Article

Adriana Michele Campos Johnson

The War of Canudos was fought in the northeastern desert-like backlands (sertão) of Brazil at the end of the 19th century between the community of Belo Monte/Canudos and Brazil’s recently established republican government. The leader of Canudos, a charismatic man known as Antônio Conselheiro, was considered a holy man by his followers and exemplified many of the beliefs and practices of folk Catholicism in the region. While he wandered the backlands for many years, rebuilding churches, pronouncing sermons, and living a deeply ascetic life, he entered into conflict with authorities following the passage from monarchy to republic in 1889, a secular form of government that lacked authority in his eyes. Once Conselheiro settled in a hamlet in 1893, baptizing it Belo Monte, the settlement became a center of attraction and grew quickly, draining labor and threatening the power of neighboring landowners. After two small Bahian expeditions sent to fight with the inhabitants of Belo Monte (called Canudos by outsiders) were routed, news of the community and its leader spread like wildfire in both the Bahian press as well as newspapers in the country’s center of power in the southeast. The failure of a third and larger military expedition sent by the federal government turned Canudos into a media event, leading to songs, caricatures, conspiracy theories, and even carnival costumes. While the community did not arguably pose any real threat to the still nascent republic, it became symbolized as such in the media. A fourth and much larger military expedition finally destroyed the community after months of siege. While the war continued to exert an outsized presence in a variety of media, including poems, memoirs, novelizations, and testimonials, its status as a singular and epic event in Brazilian history was cemented with the publication of Euclides da Cunha’s Os Sertões four years after the end of the conflict, a book based on the author’s experience as a war correspondent for a São Paulo newspaper. The consecration of Os Sertões as one of the foundational texts of Brazilian nationality, however, poses a challenge for understanding the War of Canudos outside the optics and intelligibility established by da Cunha’s text.