Brazil| People, Culture, Business, and a Few Other Things

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Hello again and welcome to Denmark Brazil very first post. In this post I will give you an overview of Brazil:

Historical Introduction

There are rumors that might be truth regarding South America´s Pre-history:

As it is now well agreed, the first people to discover America wasn´t Columbus and his crew, but it had been long inhabited for thousands by native tribes.

The Viking raiders had been in America long before Columbus. Their presence in North America is well known but did you know that they also sailed down to South America?  There is debatable evidence of Norse writing and runes found throughout South America and particularly here in Brazil.  Sadly, they left because I can´t help but wonder how Brazil would have been different if they stayed.

The fact that South America remained unsettled by Europeans allowed the Portuguese Empire to colonize Brazil later in history.

Brazil was colonized by the Portuguese Empire and was officially sanctioned as a Portuguese colony in the beginning of the 14th century, more specifically in the year of 1500. At the time Portugal was a rich catholic empire whose main commercial activity was commerce and trade. Portugal had strong alliances doing trade and commerce with countries all over Europe and given the high profits bestowed from India, China and Indonesia the Portuguese crown was carelessly distracted by their other interests. This “little” distraction from the crown in Brazil led to invasions from several countries onto the Brazilian lands. Desperate to find a solution Portugal decided to distribute lands for free in a system known as Hereditary Captaincies.  This divided Brazil into strips that were donated to Portuguese noblemen who took on the responsibility for that piece of land and therefore had to report on a regular basis back to the king.  This resulted in Brazil being owned by a handful of men. Today, there are still parts of Brazil owned by some of these families.

The system however proved to be extremely inefficient.  The lots that were successfully occupied were São Vicente (in the state of São Paulo) and Pernambuco (Northeast). With Portugal´s shift in interest, Brazil became their new exploitation colony. It all began with the extraction of the so called “Pau-Brasil” or “Brazilian-wood”. Since Brazil was extremely underdeveloped and swamped with thousands of local tribes of Indians the only thing the Portuguese were able to work on at first was on the exploitation of this wood. Pau Brasil contained a rare form of ink in its trunk. Using Indian labor to extract the ink, the Portuguese sold it at an overpriced rate all around Europe resulting in huge profits. Sadly the result of this overexploitation of the “Pau Brasil” was nearly the extinction of this tree.

In the meantime, and happening almost simultaneously, the foreign industry of sugarcane started to boost in Brazil and this later became the cornerstone of the Brazilian economy. Introduced to Brazil by the Portuguese, the first sugar mill opened in 1532. At the time (and still today) sugarcane was high in demand. This perennial grass quickly became famous and in a blink of an eye shifted Europe´s sweet tooth from honey to sugar.  Known as “white gold”, sugar swiftly took over the trade market. For the sugar manufacturers and Portuguese empire alike, enormous benefits were had, as indeed sugar was the new gold and it was heavily taxed a luxury product.

African slavery in Brazil came with the sugar industry. Being that the indians slaves were “too lazy” to get the job done (the Indians had a tendency to flee the job and return to the forests which they knew well), and because they were not resistant to the white man´s diseases, the Portuguese saw no other way but to start importing African slaves to work the plantations. The slaves had no idea whatsoever of what they were coming to. On top of that they didn´t know the forest as the Indians did which was to the Portuguese´s benefit. This is, of course, is a simplified summary of how slavery first occurred in Brazil.

Slavery in Brazil was the driving force of the sugar business and by 1650 this business started to decline. After this period, by the beginning of the 18th century, gold and diamond mines started to emerge as the “new promising” business which contributed to more African slaves being brought into the Brazilian territory. Also by the beginning of the 19th century, the rise of the coffee industry started to boom (and it is still alive and well today) which additionally increased the demand for African slaves. Consequently Brazil was the last country to abolish slavery (in 1888) and according to official data some 4 million slaves were imported from Africa to Brazil (although this number could be much higher).

Brazilian Recent Economy

The colonization in Brazil, has printed a strong mark in Brazilian history and Brazilian economy. Brazil is still a country that strongly relies on it’s primary sector to achieve commercial surplus in its commercial trade balance.This isn’t only due the colonization in the country but also due strong political interests

According to the 2013´s report from the Brazilian export Ministry, Brazil´s main exports income comes from Mineral Ores, Mineral Fuels and Oils, Oil Seeds, and from the Meat and Sugars industries.

Below we found an illustrative image on wikipedia that represents brazil main income from it’s export

Brazil_Export_Treemap

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Carlos Monteiro is a Brazilian citizen, graduated in Business Administration by the Catholic University of São Paulo. He lives in Odense, Denmark with his Danish Wife, Cathrine, and their half Danish /Brazilian daughter Ines Marie. You are very welcome to be in contact him at any time.

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