CHAPTER 5. EARLY REPUBLIC (COFFEE-WITH-MILK ALLIANCE) TO MILITARY COUP (1889-1930)

1889

The opposition to the monarchy fell in place: the officer corps was mad because they blamed Dom Pedro for lack of backing during the Paraguayan war; the intelligentsia agitated for a republic; and the larger landowners were mad because Dom Pedro had not prevented the emancipation of the slaves.

After a few months of parliamentary crises, the Emperor was deposed on November 15, 1889, by a military movement that proclaimed the abrogation of the monarchy and the establishment of the Republic. The push came from detachments led by Marechal Deodoro da Fonseca.

This institutional transformation, albeit profound, was carried out without bloodshed. Although treated with all possible respect, the Emperor and his family had to be asked to leave the country. Accompanied by some close associates, they went into exile in France. Most of the leading figures of the country lent their support and collaboration to the new regime; among them was one of Brazil's most outstanding statesmen, the Baron of Rio Branco. It was his wisdom and skillful diplomacy that enabled Brazil to end, by treaty or arbitration, nearly all its outstanding frontier disputes.

1890s

Belo Horizonte, capital of Minas Gerais, laid out on the site of the poor village of Curral del Rey. Today the city sprawls in an enormous bowl surrounded by hills, a sea of skyscrapers, favelas and industrial suburbs.

1891

From 1890 to 1891 a newly elected constituent assembly wrote Brazil's second Constitution. Rui Barbosa, a Bahian deputy and legal scholar, was the main author.

The 1891 Constitution was characterized by a radical decentralization. Brazil was a federation with each state directly electing its own governor and legislature. Each state had extensive powers including the authority to contract foreign loans, levy interstate tariffs, and maintain a militia.

With this new federation of states, the most powerful states economically came to dominate the government, especially Sao Paulo. Power came to rest with the Republican oligarchies of the leading states.

The property requirement for voting was abolished. Illiterates and women, however, were still not allowed to vote.

Marechal Deodora da Fonseca declares himself dictator in 1891. But he was forced to resign three weeks later when even the army refused to support him. His deputy, Marechal Floriano de Peixoto, took over. He was even more incompetent.

The aging monarch was forced into exile; 1891 he dies in penury in a shabby Parisian hotel. The mulatto Andre Reboucas (1838-98) went into exile with Pedro II. He had fought for the abolition of slavery. He opposed the Republic because he predicted (correctly) that it would be dominated by Brazil's landowning elite. (Page 1995)

Republic called the coffee-with-milk alliance, because of the unbroken rule of the rural oligarchies of Sao Paulo and Minas Gerais, each with their respective products.

The newborn republic adopted a federative system which has kept its same characteristics until today. Under federation the provinces of the Empire were transformed into States. The parliamentary system was replaced with a presidential one, a bicameral Congress (Chamber of Deputies and Senate) was created, as well as a completely independent Supreme Court.

At the states' level the same structure was adopted.

President after president, elected under the rules of the prevailing constitutional system, succeeded each other in office until 1930.

1893

Rio shelled in 1893 by rebellious warships, demanding Peixoto's resignation.

Followers of the religious leader Conselheiro (Counselor) attacked. Flee and found city of Canudos, one of the largest towns in Bahia with 20,000 inhabitants.

One of the bloodiest episodes in Brazilian history occurred in the interior of the Northeast during the last decades of the 19th century. A charismatic prophet named Antonio Conselheiro attracted tens of thousands of sertanejos to a form of primitive Christianity that eventually challenged the authority of the newly installed republic. The sect took over the town of Canudos in the backlands of Bahia and created their own settlement. Aided by bandits who rallied to their cause, the followers of Antonio Conselheiro repulsed several attacks by the police and the army but finally succumbed to the superior firepower of federal troops. The troops slaughtered all but four members of the settlement. (Page 1995:234)

Of the 12,000 soldiers who fought in the siege, 5,000 had been wounded or killed. (Skidmore 1999:80)

1894

Popular pressure led to Peixoto stepping down in favor of the first elected civilian president, Prudente de Morais.

1897?

It took 4 military expeditions over a year to take the town of Palmares, costing the lives of nearly 10,000 men. (A dam now covers the area -- new town, called Nova Canudos, nearby.) Today the Northeast still has the worst inequality, illiteracy, and hunger in Brazil.

1902-06

Rodrigues Alves, president from 1902 to 1906, rebuilt Rio complete with a public health system, finally eradicating the epidemics that had stunted its growth. Most of the Brazilian presidents were incompetent and corrupt. Power was concentrated in the two most populous states of Sao Paulo and Minas Gerais, which struck a convenient deal to alternate the presidency between them.

1904

Perhaps the earliest publicized protest against racial prejudice, when a Rio newspaper reported complaints that a well-known local theater was discriminating against blacks through their hiring practices.

1906

Japanese immigration began.

The weakness of the federal government led to Sao Paulo hiring a French military mission from 1906 to 1924 to train its state militia. Altogether, there were more solidiers in the state militias than in the federal army.

1912

end of rubber boom as cheaper rubber becomes available

1914

Asian plantation rubber pushed wild Amazon rubber out of the world markets. The region returned to an isolation it maintained until the late 1950s.

1920's

It was not until the 1920s that Rio De Janeiro's clubs permitted blacks to play on their soccer team.

1920

Beginning around 1920, the decline in the market prices of cotton, cocoa, and sugar, cannot be counterbalanced by the growth of coffee export to render a positive trade balance.

1923

Government official says "the Negro in Brazil will disappear within 70 years." To facilitate this process, the government encouraged European immigration. Also repress African culture.

1924

An Army officer named Luis Carlos Prestes led a rebellion against the federal government, demanding social and economic reforms. Failed. Prestes imprisoned for nine years; his Jewish wife deported to die in Ravensbruck concentration camp.

1926

In 1926 Washington Luis was made president without an election, as the elite contrived to an unopposed nomination.

1930

When Luis appeared to be set to take another unopposed election, an unstoppable mass revolution developed, first in Vargas's home state of Rio Grande do Sul, then in Rio, then in the Northeast. Street battles in the Northeast left scores dead.

Political Disintegration

Around 1920 the corruption and decline of government really speeded up. Elections finally would come to lose their public legitimacy. Voter fraud at the state level was rampant.

CONTINUED SEMI-SLAVERY FOR BLACK BRAZILIANS

Most of the literature on Brazilian racism deals with the slavery issue. Very little has been written on racism per se and the status of the ex-slaves following emancipation. One of the exceptions is an article by Mattos de Castro (1988). While the article is not a great example of clear writing, it is clear reading between the lines that the status of the ex-slaves was very precarious. Not only was their existence precarious, but they could easily be expelled from their plots of land. Employers preferred immigrant labor, mostly white, to the former slaves who were often described as lazy, indolent, and of an undisciplined nature. That the employers maintained much of their previous power vis-a-vis the former slaves is seen when the author asks the uninvestigated question (1988:83): "In what ways were the mechanisms of rural social control redefined, so as to maintain the viability of commercial agriculture and the class dominance of the rural producers who controlled it?"

Skidmore (1999:78) writes that "it appears that Brazilian society became institutionally more race conscious, in favor of whites, after the birth of the Republic, as mobility for non-white Brazilians apparently began to decline."

 

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