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Brazil's Independence Day - September 7

Independência ou Morte

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When the Spanish explorer Vicente Yáñez Pinzón drifted ashore in northern Brazil in January 1500, he saw the Amazon, but could claim none of it for Spain, according to the terms of the 1494 Treaty of Tordesillas which divided the Americas (and the rest of the world) between Spain and Portugal. Instead, Portuguese explorer Pedro Álvares Cabral who came ashore in May 1500, is recognized as the discoverer of Brazil. The first settlement was founded until 1532 as São Vicente founded in 1532.

Steadily pushing the indigenous tribes back over the next three centuries, the Portuguese colonists planted sugar plantations, imported slaves from Africa, exploited the vast stands of lumber, built cities and mined gold and other minerals and gemstones and became extraordinarily wealthy.

With Napoleon and the Peninsular Wars, and the invasion and occupation of Spain and Portugal, Dom João VI, the seventeenth king of Portugal, fled Lisbon and established his court in Rio de Janeiro, where for the next 13 years, he ruled Portugal’s Asian, African, and American colonies. Although Dom João VI (1769-1826) never ruled over an independent Brazil, historians call him the "Founder of the Brazilian Nationality." One of his major contributions to the growth of Brazil was opening the colony's ports to free trade with friendly nations, thus signaling a marked change in trade and the resulting improved consequence of Brazil. Additionally, Dom João VI spearheaded the founding of the Academia Naval (Naval Academy), Hospital Militar (Military Hospital), Arquivo Militar (Military Archives), Jardim Botânico (Botanic Garden), Intendência Geral de Polícia (Police Commissariat), Real Biblioteca (Royal Library), the Banco do Brasil (Bank of Brazil), and the gunpowder factory. With the defeat of Napoleon in 1815, he thought it safe to make Brazil another kingdom equal to Portugal. He also decided to remain in Brazil.

The Portuguese government disagreed with both decisions and in 1820 sent troops to assist his relocation to Portugal where the army headed a revolution designed to bring about a constitutional government with Dom João as the constitutional monarch. Dom João returned to Portugal, leaving his 23-year-old son Pedro as prince regent of Brazil. Pedro actively engaged in enlisting support from both able advisors and the people of Brazil.

With revolutions and the desire for independence active in other Latin American countries, Pedro realized Brazil would soon wish for the same. With the support of the Brazilian people and the Brazilian Senate who had bestowed on him the title of Defensor e Protetor Perpétuo do Brasil, Protector and Perpetual Defender of Brazil, he defied an order to return to Portugal. When the Portuguese parliament wished to return Brazil to colonial status, Pedro seized the moment. On September 7, 1822, after receiving orders from the Portuguese parliament limiting his powers in Brazil, Pedro declared Brazil’s independence near the Ipiranga River in São Paulo. Tearing the Portuguese blue and white insignia from his uniform, Pedro drew his sword, and swore: "By my blood, by my honor, and by God: I will make Brazil free." Their motto, he said, would be Independência ou Morte, Independence or Death! This statement is known as the Grito do Ipiranga.

Pedro de Alcântara Francisco Antônio João Carlos Xavier de Paula Miguel Rafael Joaquim José Gonzaga Pascoal Cipriano Serafim de Bragança e Bourbom, became Dom Pedro I, the first emperor of Brazil and ruled for nine years.

Dom Pedro hired Admiral Thomas Cochrane, one of Britain's most successful naval commanders in the Napoleonic Wars and recently commander of the Chilean naval forces against Spain and others to drive the Portuguese out of Bahia, Maranhão, and Pará, and to force those areas to replace Lisbon's rule with that of Rio de Janeiro.

After a series of skirmishes and setbacks, international recognition of Brazil came when Britain and Portugal recognized Brazilian independence by signing a treaty on August 29, 1825. However, internal politics, wars with neighboring countries and the difficulties of establishing an independent country led to Dom Pedro I’s abdication in 1831. Leaving his five year old son, Pedro de Alcantara João Carlos Leopoldo Salvador Bibiano Franciso Xavier de Paula Leocadio Miguel Gabriel Rafael Gonzaga de Bragança e Borbón (1825-1891), in the care of three regents, Dom Pedro sailed to Europe.

The regency was an uneasy one but when Dom Pedro II was crowned emperor on July 18, 1841 at the age of 14, it was hoped that the second empire would be one of national unity, peace, and prosperity. Dom Pedro II reigned for 49 years and is acknowledged as one of the most able monarchs of his time. He ruled until 1889 when Brazil was proclaimed a Republic.

On September 7, join in celebrating Brazil's Day of Independence!

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