Colonization of Brazil

The first European to land in Brazil was the Portuguese explorer Pedro Alvarez Cabral, in 1500. The region received its name from the pau-brasil, a wood brought back by the explorers that produced a red dye. Portugal began to colonize the area about 30 years after Cabral made landfall. The colonies exported agricultural goods, mainly sugar, back to Portugal; gold and diamonds were also mined for a short time during these early colonial years. Portugal began to bring African slaves to Brazil to work in these colonial endeavors, in addition to the smaller quantity of native slaves.

As the Napoleonic Wars advanced on Portugal, the King Joao fled with his court to Rio de Janeiro in 1808. When he returned to Portugal, he left his heir Pedro as regent of Brazil. Dom Pedro was crowned as the first Emperor of Brazil when the country received its independence in 1822.

Dom Pedro’s son, Pedro II, was deposed in 1889 and replaced by Brazil’s first de facto president. The country became the United States of Brazil, and the large states of Sao Paulo and Minas Gerais alternated the presidency for several decades.

A military junta took control of the government in 1930, setting in motion a series of military regime changes that occurred until 1985, when indirect elections took place and Brazil returned to a civil government regime.