Clinton St. Quarterly, Vol. 3 No. 2 Summer 1981

■MA , , f ’M . j ^ A * ■■* * * ' ■/' ^.f - •■>• MT .'^r, », X» " :« hardwoods which serves to mute the downfall and transforms it into a fine warm spray before it reaches the jungle floor. Hundreds of rivers, including the immense Parana, Sao Francisco and Amazonas extend to the Atlantic. Scattered across the land, thousands of small groups of native people live inside the grand design. Though practices vary, most combine hunting and foraging with slash and burn agriculture. Because crop yields decline dramatically if cultivation is prolonged beyond two seasons, tribes are nomadic and require large extensions to support even modest populations. And because the forest rapidly encroaches upon the abandoned plots, a generation later no traces or habitation can be found. Little changes for thousands of years. THE OCCUPATION THREE YEARS AFTER Vasco da Gama reached Calcutta in 1497, opening the lucrative Eastern trades to Portugal, his compatriot, Pedro Alves Cabral, landed on Brazil’s NE coast and claimed it for the crown. While the Spanish pillaged and constructed an American empire, the Portuguese focused eastward, settling into Brazil more slowly. Finding no precious metals, they tried enslaving the natives (who they termed bugres for their reputed sexual practices). Unable to make the Indians a pliable workforce, boatloads of West Africans were imported in ever increasnig numbers. The coastal cities of Salvador and Recife prospered as this slave labor Aseemingly endless land with untapped resources and miraculous opportunities has always beckoned the adventurous to Brazil ... As here, only a few “ignorant savages” stood in the way. made the Brazilian sugar industry the world’s largest. Few early Portuguese settlers tilled the soil themselves. An attitude to labor emerged: Quem nao roba nem herda acabo comenda merda—He who neither robs nor inherits ends up eating shit. A more ambitious, less capitalized group of settlers, largely from poorer Northern Portugal, began a colony further south, in the highlands around present-day Sao Paulo. Faring poorly in the sugar trade, they soon launched forays further inland in search of gold. These hearty bandeirantes—flag bearing expeditionaries—ranged across the whole of Brazil, eventually extending the “portugee” lands to nearly their present limits. They captured, killed and bred with the Indians they encountered. A seemingly endless land with untapped resources and miraculous opportunities has always beckoned the adventurous in Brazil. A pattern of short-term, speculative exploitation has predominated, and Brazil’s history is rife with booms and busts. In many ways, this Clinton St. Quarterly 5