Last month, we went over several Latin states that had independence days in August. This month, Brazil and Mexico get their turn to celebrate battles and listen to long-winded speeches on how awesome they are. “But Brazil isn’t Latin!” you might (obnoxiously) cry. Thanks for the distinction, Don/Doña Killjoy, but Brazil is too sassy and amazing to be left to the Portuguese sphere.
For those who are not Brazilophiles (is that a word? It is now), Brazil has one of the most senseless independence struggles ever. Not senseless as in “the violence was senseless,” but as in it literally boggles the mind.
How It All Started
In 1807, Portugal was in some deep shit. France suddenly decided the Iberian Peninsula would make a great placeholder for a French flag. Next thing you know, the French came a knocking and the Portuguese royal court did what honorable leaders do in times of crisis; they ran for their lives. They went to Brazil, nice, hot sweaty and lusty Brazil. As sitcom formulas and fate would have it, the royals would stay put for a while.
They even officially moved the court to Brazil, so this was probably the only time in history where a ruling government moved to one of its colonies and called it home. Naturally, the folks back home weren’t thrilled.
Give Me Liberty Or At Least Give Me Some Of That Sweet Sugarcane
Since the royals had a grand old time in Brazil, the Portuguese back in Europe felt pretty lame. The French were gone but the British who helped defeat the French weren’t. In 1820, revolution broke out in the country. The rebels beseeched the royals to return to the original metropole at once. Unlike the French, Americans or the other colonies in Latin America at the time, the rebels wanted to be ruled by a king but with a big difference: they wanted a constitutional monarchy. So, it was a weird hybrid of radicalism and nationalism as the rebels also wanted Brazil to be reduced to colonial status again. The king of Portugal was probably all like “Well, If you say so!” with a goofy look on his face and left with his son staying behind.
Bad move old man.
His son totally jacked Brazil from his dad. He joined with local nationalists and together they threw off the shackles of colonialism and gave each other high fives.
The End! Just kidding. The young prince, Pedro I was a real showman and on September 7, 1822, Pedro I announced that he wasn’t going anywhere and showed his sword for all to see. He was practically telling Portugal, “Bring it, cock-wagons!” It was otherwise known as The Cry of Ipiranga.
Why this is weird
Brazil just loves to be the odd one out in Latin America and in history. For one, unlike with Spain, the royal government actually moved to Brazil for the duration and even elevated it to an equal status with Portugal. The land was renamed the United Kingdom of Portugal, Brazil and Algaves.
It was like a lowly worker being promoted straight to manager. Brazil also benefited greatly from this as it had the luck of having relatively enlightened rulers. While there, the monarchy upgraded infrastructure, set up the forerunner of the national bank and allowed Brazil to trade freely instead of adhering to the mercantilist model that Spain was still using with its colonies. So it all seemed gravy, eh baby?
Well, not really. Brazil was for all intents and purposes an independent nation.
How can that blow? Easy. Since Portugal was aching for some of that monarchy, the court left Brazil in 1821 to handle business. Since Pedro was left, he got some ideas and presto! Brazil was an independent nation. So, a monarchy moved to one of its colonies, made life a bit better, moved, left its son there and the prince decided “Wait a minute, I can run shit now! Step aside old man!”
Guess what? The Brazilians went apeshit for that stuff and loved it so much that the new order was kept until a coup in 1889. In fact, it was the longest lived modern independent monarchy in the Americas. So, instead of a radical republic that paid lip service to equality and freedom, the Brazilians thought monarchy was the way to go.
Brazil wasn’t out of trouble yet: anarchy was a serious issue for years and Pedro I was eventually forced to abdicate; he was a capable man but the needs of the time proved to be too great.
So, Sassy Brazil saw what was going on and said, “Me Too!”. It became a rising star in the region and everybody felt good about it, except for anybody not white and well off. It then threw it all away when certain military personnel decided it would be like, totally rad if they replaced monarchy for a military dictatorship. Not good, Brazil, not good. Don’t worry it all has a happy ending; too bad it took most of the twentieth century for it to happen.