The Road to Independence in Brazil
The Spanish Caribbean islands such as Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico,
as well as the Portuguese colony of Brazil, did not participate in Independence wars nor
host revolutionary movements in the early 19
For the Spanish possessions in
the Caribbean this would mean deferring independence and the abolition of slavery, on
which the economies of the islands revolved, until the 1880s.
Brazil in some respects, managed to have its cake and eat it too:
-- it negotiated a peaceful separation from Portugal, retaining a monarchy linked by
kinship and shared cultural ties with the Bourbon dynasty in Lisbon;
--buffered its plantation and slave-based economy from the kind of massive rebellion that
and forestalled the widespread dislocation and costly wars of independence that depleted
the mining, agricultural and commercial enterprises of
its Spanish South American
How did it manage this? And what were the consequences for Brazilian society?
Like Spain, Portugal was also the victim of Napoleonic invasion, but in contrast to
Ferdinand the VII, Joao VI, the Portuguese Emperor, relocated his court to his colonial
possession in the Americas: specifically, Rio de Janeiro, the northeastern coastal port city
of Brazil in 1807.
For the duration of Napoleon’s occupation of Portugal, the Portuguese
Empire re-directed trade and political matters to Brazil, opening up the ports of the
country to British trade in order to ensure a steady income from its colonial possessions
in Africa and Brazil.
In 1822 when the Napoleonic threat had passed and Joao VI decided to move back the
imperial court to Lisbon and restore the former monopolistic control of trade as well as
the subordinate political position of Brazil as a colonial dependency of Portugal, Joao’s
son, Dom Pedro opted instead to join the Brazilian nobility and create a separate,
independent kingdom in Brazil.
Independence was thus won without bloodshed, but the cost of this move was the
maintenance intact of colonial political institutions, an economy based on large estates
and plantations owned by a powerful, non-hereditary nobility who commanded their own
private armies and dependents, retained a highly segregated and exclusionary political
system and ensured the survival of slavery intact from the colonial period in which 90%
of the population remained illiterate and without political rights.
Dom Pedro assumed the title of Emperor and a Constitution was passed in 1824 that