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

frontier mentality has parallels with our own. As here, only a few “ignorant savages” stood in the way. The bandeirantes finally discovered gold in 1698, and diamonds soon thereafter. And just in time, for the once- thriving sugar industry was fading in the face of tremendous competition from the Caribbean Islands. Thus, many plantation owners joined the rush inland. This “golden age” lasted nearly 100 years, and opened the Sertao or backlands to further mineral exploitation and some established agriculture. At the start of the 19th century, revolutionary fervor swept the Spanish colonies, but in Brazil people were ill- prepared and little-interested. Portugal’s grip had been less tenacious than the Spanish crown’s. So as Bolivar, O’Higgins, San Martin and their troops succeeded in removing the Spanish yoke, the Brazilians imported theirs. In 1808, Napoleon’s army forced the Portuguese royal family to scuttle for cover to Brazil. A decade later, King Joao VI returned to Europe, but left his son, Pedro I, who soon became the “Perpetual Defender and Protector of the Independent Empire of Brazil.” Thus until 1888, when his declaration of the end of slavery forced Pedro II from his permanent throne, the nation experienced prosperity and cultural development, but gained little experience in self- government. By this time, the Brazilian people were a many-hued melange, as centuries of interbreeding wove together the African, Amerindian and Iberian strains. Gilberto Freyre’s Masters and Slaves advanced the theory that comingling had produced a “new race,” but by and large, the vested wealth, power and privilege stayed in the hands of the “pure” blooded descendants of European stock. And new immigrants continued to pour in from throughout the Old World. THE HOLOCAUST DURING THE Pedros’ reign, coffee replaced the lagging gold mines as, the major economic factor and Brazil soon controlled the world market. Boom-bust cycles in cocoa, rubber, cotton, oranges and even mate tea followed. And each cycle left in its wake ravaged lands, abandoned communities and further depradations on the native peoples. At the start of the Twentieth Century, German-born professors could be found teaching theories of white supremacy in Brazilian universities, and the hue of “protect the settlers” was heard from distant Europe. The clamor for new lands and the rush to garner windfall profits led to inevitable confrontations. Colonization companies launched Amaracoes—Indian hunting expeditions—with bounties paid. Candido Rondon, who had grown up among the Indians on the frontier, became the spokesman for those “In the past ten years more than 24% of the Amazon has been destroyed by the reckless falling of trees.’’ Brazilians who were horrified by reports of the massacre of Indians tribes. Rondon argued that the Indians were neither savage nor barbarian, but merely a stage in the overall development of human civilization. In 1910, Rondon joined a number of his fellow army officers in establishing the Indian Protective Service (SPI). The SPI’s enabling legislation recognized the Indians’ rights to exist on their own lands and to continue their “ancient and traditional ways of life.” While such legal decisions have seldom prevented human greed from having its day, the SPI was remarkably successful in preventing armed conflict from resulting in genocide. But other forces were at work as well. Native groups which had been self-sufficient for millenia found their religious practices prevented by missionaries, saw their lands evaporate and stood helplessly by as one epidemic after another flew through their ranks like wildfire. Brazilian anthropologist Darcy Ribeiro reports that between 1900 and 1957, more than 80 tribes came into contact with Brazilian national society, and the indigenous population dropped from more than 1million to fewer than 200,000. Some groups retreated into further isolation, but those who became “integrated” found themselves living in the greatest misery. A SWING TO THE LEFT AS THE century unfolded, economic activity increased substantially in Brazil, especially in the area around Sao Paulo, which was to become one of the world’s great industrial centers. The disparity of wealth grew even more extreme, particularly in the eight states of NE Brazil, which had long ago been ravaged in the speculative cycles, and among the urban poor who had largely fled from intolerable conditions on the land. This immense supply of cheap labor was exploited at every turn. In 1930, a revolution headed by Getulio Vargas swept to power. A man of dramatic contradictions, Vargas consolidated his position by deposing his own government in 1937, inaugurating the Es- tado Novo—after the Mussolini model. The next year, in the wake of a fascist coup attempt, he declared himself a populist. Despite tremendous right-wing pressure, Vargas led Brazil into WWII on the side of the allies, the only South American nation to participate. At war’s end, a coup ousted Vargas and a liberal republic was restored in Brazil. Throughout this period, U.S. and European economic interests vied for control of Brazil’s vast resources. U.S. oil companies were particularly eager to explore and exploit the Amazon basin. In 1950, Vargas bounced back, winning the presidency with the anti-imperialist slogan Opetroleo e nosso—the oil is ours. Petrobras, the state-owned oil company created by Vargas-introduced legislation in 1953, became the symbol of economic nationalism. In the space of seven years, it was producing 45% of national consumption. Vargas also developed a strong Ministry of Labor, linked directly to the unions, which threatened big business interests. He fell from power and committed suicide in 1954, blaming “hidden forces” and “International groups” as the compelling raison d’morte. His successor, Juscelino Kubitschek, who planned and built Brasilia, completed his five-year elected term. The next elected president resigned his office in the furor arising from an award he’d given Che Guevara, and Vice President Joao Goulart became president. Goulart’s policies veered increasingly leftward, but his presidency was endorsed by an overwhelming majority of Brazilians. His bill limiting profit remittances abroad squeezed through congress, and as foreign investment dried up, inflation grew rampant. Finally, in late March 1964, Goulart was forced to flee to neighboring Uruguay. THE GENERALS' "REVOLUTION” THE PRETEXT for the generals’ “revolution” was that Goulart, like A Vargas before him, had designs on perpetuating himself in power. Secretary of State Dean Rusk justified our involvement by saying that the Brazilian military would not act in the interests of an privileged oligarchy, but would instead act as a modernizing force. Though the generals had stepped in to “defend democracy” and stabilize the economy, elections were held in abeyance so the economy could be rationalized, free from political pressures. Rapid development in the interests of all would surely soon Venezuela Guyana Colombia Boa Vista Ecuador R. Amazon Belem R. Amazon R. Tocantins Recife Peru R. Xingu Salvador Brazil Brasilia Bolivia R. Parana 'Horizonte, Paraguay Chile Argenti /Uruguay ^/Francisco Rio de Janiero Sao Paulo • » < iSurinam^ Guiana* Yanomamo lands Negro _ _ I Manaus * Amazon Region Young Witukaiateri mother and child 6 Clinton St. Quarterly