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.
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.
Christon I. Archer and Stephen B. Neufeld
By 1821, a decade of bloody warfare had fragmented the viceroyalty of New Spain, divided the population into hostile factions of patriots and royalists, and intensified old hatreds among peninsular, or European-born, Spaniards (gachupines), American-born criollos, the complex racially mixed groups, and the indigenous population. In many regions, the native villagers were angry, resentful, and politically mobilized. The war had taught different segments of the population that mobilization and the effective use of political action—even violence—could address their political demands, their interminable grievances concerning landholding, and their chronic disputes over taxation. These campesino insurgent and guerrilla fighters, many of whom knew little Spanish, fought tenaciously and often successfully for different factions and regions. Although some sought to escape combat and brutal suppression by fleeing into rugged mountains or posing as neutral noncombatants, guerrilla warfare, endemic banditry, and pervasive violence changed the lives of ordinary people. In the cities, large floating populations of vagabonds, gamblers, and petty criminals frequented cockfights, bullfights, and other popular entertainments; loitering in parks and public markets, they made the night extremely dangerous for respectable urban residents. Nevertheless, even as indigenous and mestizo people suffered from the dislocations of war, arbitrary conscription, heavy taxation, and narrow paternalism, some also developed feelings of pride and empowerment that would find new expression in the post-independence decades. By the outbreak of the war with the United States twenty-five years later, Mexico was ill-equipped and unprepared to defend its territory. Its economy was in ruins, its army lacked modern weapons and training, and many of its citizens were unwilling to engage in the defense of a nation that they did not fully comprehend. Others rose to lead the republic in its heroic, but impossible, defense.