BECK index

Brazil 1850-1935

by Sanderson Beck

Brazil under Emperor Pedro II 1850-75
Brazil & Emperor Pedro II 1875-89
Brazil’s Republic 1889-1930
Brazil & Vargas 1930-35

Brazil under Emperor Pedro II 1850-75

Brazil 1500-1850

      During the two decades prior to 1850 about 700,000 slaves had been illegally imported into Brazil. In 1850 British cruisers captured several slave ships in Brazil’s harbors. Under the intellectual Emperor Pedro II (1825-91), who had been reigning since 1840, Brazil’s legislature finally enacted the strong anti-slave-trade Queirós Law on 4 September 1850, and the number of slaves imported decreased from 22,856 in 1850 to 3,287 in 1851 to 800 in 1852 to none in 1853 and 1854 and with one last illegal shipment of 90 slaves in 1855. For this violation the Minister of Justice José Tomás Nabuco de Araújo Filho replaced the President of Pernambuco. Pedro II refused to allow anyone who was involved with the illegal trade to have any honor or position in the government. In September 1850 the Land Law ended gaining land by squatting. Instead the Empire would reward those who served the government with donations (sesmarias). Rio de Janeiro had 200,000 people in 1850. In 1851 a regular steamship line to Europe began.
      Pedro II led negotiations with the Argentine envoy in Rio de Janeiro, and on 18 August 1851 the Buenos Aires Governor Juan Manuel de Rosas declared war against Brazil which then supported the Argentines and Uruguayans opposing Rosas. In the battle of Caseros on 3 February 1852 those allies aided by 20,200 Brazilians defeated Rosas who fled. In a treaty made on 12 October 1851 Uruguay had promised to return escaped slaves to Brazil, and Brazilians living in Uruguay were allowed to have slaves on their property.
      After the death of both of his young sons the Emperor Pedro II stopped giving state balls and court assemblies in 1852. In September 1853 he began initiating his own program, and he gave them written instructions. He dismissed the conservative cabinet, and he let Honório Hermeto Carneiro Leão, Marquis of Paraná, head of the Conservative Party, form a new cabinet. Liberals and Conservatives made up this Ministry of Reconciliation. Brazil began building its first railroad in Rio de Janeiro in 1854. In June 1855 Pedro II restructured his cabinet, and led by Pedro de Araújo Lima, Marquis de Olinda, they proposed single-member electoral districts that would help Liberals regain power. Just before the first elections under the new system the president of the Council of Ministers, Marquis of Paraná, died on 3 September 1856. Emperor Pedro II realized that he had lost the main support for his politics, though the rest of the cabinet remained until May 1857. He decided he must intervene in public affairs, and he held meetings with ministers, politicians, and the general public.
      From 1850 to 1865 about 94,000 Portuguese immigrated into Brazil. More Germans began coming in the late 1840s, and about 28,000 came by 1865. Some 3,000 Italians arrived 1861-65. In the early 1850s Brazil had 61,700 students in elementary schools and only 3,713 in secondary schools.
      In 1852 Brazil’s government had begun guaranteeing return on capital invested. Irineu Evangelista de Sousa, Baron of Mauá, initiated Brazil’s first railroad that Coffee planters supported from the Rio port to the Paraiba valley, and it reached the Paraiba River in 1858. Mauá developed the Banco do Brasil, and he founded the first bank in Uruguay. He increased his wealth with merchant shipping, and he built the Mangue canal in Rio and developed the transport lines on the Amazon and Paraná rivers. By 1867 Mauá’s wealth was greater than the annual budget of Brazil’s government. In 1871 the New York Times called him the Rothschild of South America, and in 1874 he was made a viscount with greatness. He also invested in gas-lighting systems and streetcar lines.
      In 1855 making electoral districts for single members aided the liberals, and their minority greatly increased in the 1856 election. The Marquis de Olinda appointed the Liberal leader Bernardo de Sousa Franco to be Treasury Minister, and tariffs were lowered. In 1856 an electric telegraph connected Rio de Janeiro with the imperial city of Petrópolis, and by the end of the year Brazil’s first railroad ran from Rio’s Guanabara Bay to Petrópolis.
      In 1857 the Viscount of Rio Branco signed the treaty that established the Uruguay River as the border between Brazil and Argentina, but the latter did not ratify it until Brazil became a republic in 1889.
      The first great native work of literature in Brazil was the novel O Guarani by the lawyer José de Alencar which was serialized in the newspaper Diario do Rio de Janeiro in 1857. On 5 May 1859 Brazil and Venezuela agreed on a border treaty. In 1860 Pedro II began learning Hebrew. After he could read and write Hebrew, he hired three German linguists to teach him Arabic, Sanskrit, and the native Tupi-Guarini. The Emperor opposed the death penalty, and there were only three up to 1876. After that he commuted all death sentences.
      In 1859-61 the Conservatives on the Council reversed the electoral reforms, and they enacted restrictive company laws. In the election of December 1860 moderate Conservatives joined with some Liberals to form the Progressive League. They suggested reforms without altering the Constitution, and they separated the judicial function from police authority. Although Conservatives were still the majority, some ardent Liberals gained seats. Both parties were split and were challenged by the Progressive League. The Conservative Council was defeated in 1861. Brazil adopted the metric system in June 1862. The former Conservative Zacarias de Góis e Vasconcelos became Prime Minister for six days in May in 1862 and again in 1864 from January through August. In between the Marquis of Olinda was President of the Council. Another progressive reformer Francisco José Furtado replaced Zacarias, but he gave way to Olinda who became Prime Minister for the fourth time in May 1865.
      In 1863 Brazil provided military support for rebels in Uruguay, and the Uruguay government asked for military aid from Paraguay. English ships blockaded the port of Rio de Janeiro, and Brazil in June broke off relations with the British. In September the president of the Institute of Attorneys of Rio de Janeiro made the speech “The Illegality of the Right of Property Established over Slaves.” On 14 January 1864 Emperor Pedro II in response to events in the United States instructed his cabinet, “The measure which seems to me most efficacious is that of freeing the children of slaves who are born a certain number of years from the present.”1 On 15 October the Emperor’s oldest child Isabel married Gaston, Count of Eu.
      In May 1864 Brazil’s Prime Minister Zacarias sent the political envoy José António Saraiva to Montevideo with Brazilian complaints against the government of Uruguay, and on August 4 he gave Uruguay an ultimatum to comply or face war. On August 30 Paraguay’s President Francisco Solano López sent a warning to Brazil. On August 31 Emperor Pedro II replaced his cabinet with radical Liberals led by Francisco José Furtado. Uruguay declined to respond, and on September 14 a Brazilian army crossed the border and marched to Montevideo. Brazil’s navy on October 12 blockaded the ports of Paysandu and Salto on the Uruguay River, and in December their forces besieged Paysandu. On November 13 a Paraguayan gunboat had captured the Brazilian steamer Marquês de Olinda on the Paraguay River, and Brazil broke off diplomatic relations. Paraguay’s President López sent an army that invaded Mato Grosso in Brazil on December 14. He also asked Argentina to let him send a force through their Corrientes Province to attack Brazil’s army in Rio Grande do Sul and Uruguay, but Argentine President Bartolomé Mitre denied the request.
      On 27 January 1865 Brazil declared war on Paraguay. On February 15 Tomás Villalba became Uruguay’s President, but he served for only five days. He abandoned Montevideo, and on the 20th a Brazilian envoy negotiated with a convention the surrender of the capital. Brazil and Argentina installed the former President Venancio Flores to govern Uruguay. In March 1865 Paraguay declared war on Argentina, and a Paraguayan squadron attacked two Argentine ships at Corrientes on April 13. On May 1 Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay signed a triple alliance and transferred disputed Paraguayan territory to Brazil and Argentina. That month a parliamentary session defeated the Liberals, and Pedro II replaced them with a moderate cabinet led by the Marquis of Olinda. Paraguayans invaded Rio Grande do Sul from Corrientes, but on June 11 the Brazilian navy and marines defeated them at Riachuelo on the Paraná River. Pedro II left Rio de Janeiro on July 10 with his military advisors, and he did not return until November 9. They reached the siege of the Paraguayans on September 11, and one week later the Paraguayan garrison surrendered. That month Brazilians drove the foreign troops out of Rio Grande do Sul.
      In November 1865 the fighting moved into Paraguay, and they suffered a major defeat at Tuyutí on 24 May 1866. In July Pedro II received a petition from the French Committee for the Abolition of Slavery signed by eminent men. He had the foreign minister respond by writing, “The emancipation of the slaves, the necessary corollary of the abolition of the slave trade, is therefore no more than a question of means and opportunity.”2 In August the Emperor replaced the Olinda cabinet with a ministry led by Zacarias. On September 3 the allies defeated the Paraguayans and captured their Fort Curuzu; but on the 22nd their attack on Fort Curupaití failed, and they suffered 4,227 casualties. Pedro II in November sent the experienced Caxias to be Brazil’s commander, and in February 1867 he became the supreme commander for the allies. Brazil needed more troops, and male slaves were freed if they would fight with the army. Those in the National Guard could also purchase and free slaves to be substitutes. The native population (Indians) of Brazil had fallen to less than 1.5 million by 1750, to 800,000 in 1819, and to 500,000 in 1867.
      Zacarias persuaded Emperor Pedro II in May 1867 to include in his speech a plan to emancipate the slaves. Franco de Almeida published O Conselheiro Francisco José Furtado to criticize that politician and Brazil’s imperialistic policies. Paraguayans suffered another devastating defeat at Tuyutí on November 3. People believed that Pedro II promoted the common good. On 14 July 1868 he replaced Liberals with the Conservatives, and that changed opinions. The allies captured the Paraguayan fortress of Humaitá on July 25. That year the Conservative coffee planter, Itaboraí, replaced Zacarias as prime minister. In response the Progressive Liberals Furtado and Zacarias with the radical Teófilo Ottoni organized a Reform Club with the abolitionist Nabuco de Araújo as the leader. On 5 January 1869 about 44,000 allies overwhelmed Paraguay’s army of 5,000, and they sacked and occupied their capital at Asunción. On July 18 the Emperor dissolved the Chamber of Deputies and ordered an election. Paraguay’s President Solano López was killed while he was being disarmed on 1 March 1870, ending Brazil’s war against Paraguay.
      Criticism of Itaboraí led to him and Conservatives accepting the abolishing of slave auctions. On May 6 Pedro II argued that the moral development of the Empire depends on free labor for agriculture. That month Spain declared that all slave children born in its colonies from 18 September 1868 are free, though they might be compelled to work until the age of 22. In 1868 streetcars began to be introduced into Brazil’s large cities, and in the 1870s a telegraph line connected Brazil to Europe.
      A committee on 16 August 1870 recommended freeing children of slaves at birth. The ministers all decided to resign on September 23. Liberals suggested the idea, and Republicans adopted the slogan “Centralization equals dismemberment; decentralization equals unity.”3
      Pedro II appointed the Marquis of São Vicente the president of the council and gave him instructions, and they asked José Paranhos, Viscount of Rio Branco, to organize a cabinet. He arrived in February 1871. He became Prime Minister on March 7 and succeeded in separating judicial and police functions. The legislative session began on March 4, and Pedro II asked them to resolve the slavery issue. A bill permitted the Emperor to leave Brazil, and they recognized his daughter Isabel as regent on May 17.
      Pedro II with his wife and an entourage of 15 left on May 25 for a ten-month trip to Portugal, Spain, France, England, Italy, and Egypt. While he was gone the ministers worked out a bill to make the children of slave women free persons, and their mothers were obligated to raise them to the age of eight. Senator Nabuco de Araújo persuaded the Senate to provide 1,000 ontos for emancipating slaves, and they devised a national registration of all slaves. Brazil’s Law of Free Birth became law on September 28.
      Brazil’s first census in 1872 found that nearly 90% of females were illiterate compared to 80% of males. The population was 9,930,478, and this would increase to 22 million in 1910.
      A Republican Manifesto signed by 56 men on 3 December 1970 was later published in the first edition of the newspaper A República in February 1874. The Paulista Republican Party (PRP) was founded on 18 April 1873. The Manifesto concluded:

   Strengthened therefore by our rights and our conscience,
we present ourselves to our fellow citizens,
boldly unfurling the flag of the Federal Republican party.
We belong to America and we wish to be Americans.
Our present form of government is in its essence
and its practice antithetical and hostile
to the law and the interests of the American states.
In the eyes of Europe we are a democratic monarchy
which does not inspire sympathy or gain adherents.
In the eyes of America we are a monarchical democracy
in which the instinct and the power of the people
cannot prevail over the sovereign’s
arbitrariness and predominance.
In such conditions Brazil has to consider itself
a country isolated not just in the context of America
but also the context of the world.
Our struggle is designed to end this state of affairs,
placing us in fraternal contact with all the peoples
and in democratic solidarity
with the continent of which we form a part.4

      Emperor Pedro II and his cabinets led by São Vicente and Rio Branco enacted police reform, slave emancipation, and electoral reform. They demobilized the National Guard in 1873 and ended conscription into armed forces in 1874. Pedro II was concerned he was losing power, and he said that if people did not want his policies that he would leave and become a school teacher. The weekly periodicals O Mosquito and O Mequetrefe (The Meddler) satirized public affairs and the Emperor. More men were studying law, medicine, and technology. Rio de Janeiro was growing and dominated exports, foreign trade, and new technology. In the 1870s the government issued 741 more new laws than in the 1860s and 2,937 more decrees. Rio Branco was the longest serving president of the Council of Ministers 1871-75. They promoted free labor, better transport, and extended telegraph lines.
      Since its Constitution of 1824 Brazil had been using a two-tier electoral system in which people in parishes voted for electors who met in colleges and elected representatives for the Chamber of Deputies. Senators were replaced by nominating three candidates from which the Emperor selected the new senator. Even in the 1870s most men could not read or write. Pedro II also wanted reform, and said, “I trust only in the education of the people.”5 He urged everyone including freed slaves to become literate. He declined to give up his selection of senators. In May 1872 the Chamber of Deputies voted they had no confidence in the ministry. Rio Blanco asked Pedro II to dissolve the Chamber, and he complied. Elections that year were not improved. The Catholic Church was the state religion of Brazil, though other religions could be practiced privately. Bishop Antônio Gonçalves de Oliveira in December tried to purge freemasons from the lay brotherhoods, and a conflict resulted in him and another bishop being tried and imprisoned. In 1874 a transatlantic cable connected Brazil to Europe.
      In 1875 Brazil suffered a financial crash, and in June the Rio Branco cabinet resigned. Pedro II chose the Duke of Caxias for the third time to be Prime Minister and the conservative Baron of Cotegipe as Minister of Finance. They issued a general amnesty on September 17 for those who had been convicted on religious issues. Capitalism increased the number of industries from 175 in 1874 to more than 600 in 1884.
      Tobias Barreto was a philosopher influenced by German culture, and he introduced the new thought of the Recife School. He promoted Darwin’s theory of evolution along with Spencer’s interpretation, Haeckel’s materialism, and his own romantic Condorism.

Brazil & Emperor Pedro II 1875-89

      On 26 March 1876 Emperor Pedro II began a long journey to the United States and Europe. He told his daughter Isabel, the Regent who replaced him in Brazil, to “send me only the telegrams indispensable to the conduct of affairs,” and he also instructed her, “Do not do so without first consulting the ministers.”6 “Dom Pedro” as he was also called, became the first sovereign head of a nation to visit the United States. He liked to talk with philosophers, novelists, poets, and scientists. He arrived in New York on April 15, and he went to see Shakespeare’s King Henry V. He attended the opening of the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition that opened on May 10, and with President Grant he turned on the huge Corliss steam engine which supplied power for 8,000 machines. Pedro II had tremendous intellectual curiosity, and he loved to learn and often impressed people with his knowledge. He traveled to Cincinnati, St. Louis, New Orleans, Washington DC, Niagara Falls, and visited a lunatic asylum in Toronto. After going to Montreal, colleges in the Boston area and Yale, he returned to Philadelphia on June 21 for two more weeks before leaving for New York. During a week there he was elected to the American Geographical Society, and then he left for Europe. He visited Germany, Austria, Scandinavia, Russia, Constantinople, and Heinrich Schliemann showed him the ruins of Troy. From Athens he went to Beirut, Damascus, Nazareth, and Jerusalem. In January 1877 he went to Italy, and he spent two months in France and became a member of the Académie des Sciences. During the second regency Isabel exercised little control over the ministers, and a new system of elections was tried out in 1876. The Duke of Caxias was ill, and in August 1877 the Baron of Cotegipe was accused of being involved in a customs house scandal. Pedro II came home to Rio de Janeiro on September 22. He announced that during his 18-month tour he did not send one telegram to the Regent or to any of the ministers.
      After ten years of rule by the Conservatives they became divided, and on 5 January 1878 Pedro II appointed the Liberal Party leader João Lins Vieira Cansação de Sinimbu as President of the Council. He wanted constitutional reforms and was not a radical. In April his cabinet dissolved the Chamber of Deputies. A bill for constitutional reform in February 1879 defined the specific amendments the Chamber was to enact, limiting its autonomy. The right to vote was restricted to those who are literate. Despite intense opposition the Chamber of Deputies passed the bill in May; but two Senate committees advised rejection, and it was defeated in November. Ouro Preto became the Minister of Finance in 1879, and he worked on agricultural credits and balancing the budget.
      In early January 1880 streetcar fares imposed by the Finance Minister in Rio de Janeiro provoked a protest that became a riot that had to suppressed by force. On February 19 Pedro II rejected the cabinet’s request to dissolve the Chamber of Deputies. A new cabinet was formed to be led by José Antonio Saraiva who arrived from Bahia on March 28. The legislators worked on a comprehensive reform of the electoral system that was finally enacted on 7 January 1881. Voting was extended to men who were not Catholic, freedmen, and naturalized foreigners, but they had to be literate and have an income of at least 200 milréis. The elections held on October 31 were the most honest in Brazil’s history, and the Chamber of Deputies would have 75 Liberals and 47 Conservatives. The number of registered voters had been reduced from 1,114,066 to 145,296, and the new requirements gave more power to urban voters and less to those in rural areas. The legislatures had to deal with a growing deficit. Brazil’s post office in 1880 handled about 50 million government and private letters, and in 1890 this increased to 200 million letters.
      In 1882 a Republican party was founded in Rio Grande do Sul. There and in other provinces the Republicans organized clubs, published newspapers, and ran for office, and in 1886 their first candidate was elected in Assis Brasil. By 1882 the physician Mota Maia had diagnosed that Emperor Pedro II had diabetes (Type II). From 1882 to 1884 there were four Liberal cabinets, but they could not get a majority in the Chamber of Deputies. On 20 January 1882 the physician and Liberal Senator Martinho Álvares da Silva Campos replaced Prime Minister Saraiva and was also Minister of Finance. The loyal Minister of War João Lustosa da Cunha Paranaguá became President of the Council on 3 July 1882 and served until May 1883. Then the lawyer and diplomat Lafayette Rodrigues Pereira was Prime Minister for one year and 12 days. In the 1884 election the Liberals obtained a 67-55 advantage over Conservatives, and there were 3 Republicans. Isabel and her husband, the Count of Eu, made a successful tour of the southern provinces from November 1884 to March 1885.
      The abolitionist Senator Manuel Pinto de Sousa Dantas served as Prime Minister for 11 months until May 1885. He noted that the 1871 Law of Free Birth was insufficient, and on 15 July 1884 he introduced a bill to free all slaves at or over the age of 60. The bill became law on 28 September 1885, though to compensate the owners they had to work without pay for three years or until they were 65. The Chamber of Deputies and Ministry voted for no confidence in Dantas, and the Emperor dissolved the Chamber. Saraiva came back to fill in from May 1885 until August 20.
      The Conservative leader Cotegipe returned as Council President, and this time he served until March 1888. In an election in January 1886 the Conservatives gained a 103-23 advantage over the Liberals, reflecting the power of money, prestige, family, and sometimes violence. Cotegipe and the ministers criticized the abolitionists, though many people opposed slavery. The Minister of Justice then proposed banning whipping as a legal punishment. This bill was passed on September 28. Abolitionists urged slaves to run away, and they provided sanctuaries to protect them from former owners. On November 20 they attacked a provincial chief of police on the Santos railroad as he was trying to return four slaves to captivity. The next day Pedro II alerted Cotegipe who said they would repress the abolitionists. Plantation owners began accommodating their slaves. In Rio the Viscount of Silva Figueira freed 201 slaves in exchange for their working six years for him. The Count of Eu favored abolition, and in 1869 he had advised Paraguay to abolish slavery. In São Paulo the former Minister of Agriculture, Antônio Prado, urged planters to promise slaves freedom in one or two years.
      On 5 January 1887 Isabel and her family left for a six-month tour of Europe. Women were working for their rights, and the first woman graduated from a medical school in 1887. On February 27 ill Pedro II was diagnosed with a swollen liver, and he suffered from fevers and vomiting in April. Isabel was called home, and the family returned to Rio de Janeiro on June 6. Another regency law was passed, and the Emperor with his wife and grandson Pedro Augusto left for Europe on June 30.
      Slavery in Brazil was gradually being abolished. In 1873 they had 1,566,416 slaves and in 1887 there were 723,419. In the 1870s the price of slaves was so high that in some places free labor cost less. In 1883 Nabuco de Araújo published O Abolicionismo demanding the abolition of slavery in Brazil. He wrote,

   The characteristics of the slave system are improvidence,
routine methods, lack of interest in using machines,
disdain for future interests,
and ambition to obtain the greatest possible profit
with the least possible work on one’s own part
regardless of the extent of damage to future generations.
The feudal division of the land, which slavery instituted,
along with the labor monopoly that it created,
impedes the formation of nucleuses of industrial workers
and the extension of commerce to the interior.
   In every sense, slavery was and is an obstacle
to the material development of the counties;
the land was exploited without concern for the locality
and without recognition of obligations
to the people outside one’s doors.
Burning, planting, abandoning.
The profits consumed through the purchase of slaves
and in the luxuries of the city.
No one to build schools, churches,
bridges, canals, or river-works.
No one to found asylums, or to construct roads,
or to build houses—not even for the slaves—
or to encourage industry, or to increase the value of
or make improvements on the land, or to till the soil,
or to utilize machines, or to contribute in any way
to the progress of the surrounding region.
What slavery did do was to sterilize the soil
through its extensive cultivation, brutalize the slaves,
impede the development of the counties, and spread
about the outskirts of the seignorial fiefs a miasmatic region
devastated by the institutions it supported.7

In 1885 Nabuco made a famous speech in the Chamber of Deputies that was a petition signed by 39 Liberal Deputies. In 1884 the provinces of Ceará and Amazonas freed their slaves. About 42,000 immigrants, who were mostly from Portugal and Italy, came to Brazil from 1875 to 1885. In the next two years about 114,000 immigrants arrived.           Between 1884 and 1933 Brazil accepted as immigrants 1.4 million Italians, 1.1 million Portuguese, and 577,000 Spaniards. In the last fifteen years of Brazil’s Empire that ended in 1889 more than 600,000 Europeans immigrated into Brazil.
      On 2 July 1887 Regent Isabel moved into her father’s palace, and she began to put in order the papers left behind by the Emperor. She and her husband, the Count of Eu, governed Brazil. Pedro II arrived at Lisbon on July 17 and went to Paris. Doctors there understood his illness less than his own physician Mota Maia. Following his usual habits his condition deteriorated until Mota Maia took him to the German spa at Baden-Baden. Pedro II went back to Paris in October and insisted on attending the theatre every night. Then at Cannes his health improved. Dissuaded from going to the Mideast, he went to Italy where on April 6 Queen Victoria said he and his grandson “looked aged and very ill.” His illness worsened at Milan in May, and he began a slow recovery in June 1888.
      In Brazil more planters were offering slaves freedom for work contracts. Conflicts with Rio’s chief of police led Regent Isabel to dismiss Cotegipe, and his cabinet resigned on 6 March 1888. She made the Conservative Senator from Pernambuco, João Alfredo Correia de Oliveira, the Prime Minister. On May 8 the ministry introduced a bill to free the remaining 700,000 slaves without compensation for their former owners that the General Assembly passed. On May 13 Princess Regent Isabel signed the Golden Law. This change did not disrupt labor, and the successful coffee crop made the Regent popular.
      Emperor Pedro II returned to Rio de Janeiro on August 22. Isabel accepted an honor from Pope Leo XIII, and on September 28 the papal nuncio presented her with the Golden Rose; she made a vow of obedience to the papacy.
      In March 1889 an academy was extended to establish the War College. Brazil’s legislature opened on May 3. In the Senate the Liberals and some Conservatives led by Paulino José Soares de Sousa elected Paulino their president. João Alfredo offered to resign or have the Chamber of Deputies dissolved; but Pedro II refused to do either, and he summoned the Council to discuss the issue. The ministers resigned, and in June the Emperor named the Senator Afonso Celso de Assis Figueiredo, Viscount of Ouro Preto, as Prime Minister. He chose two ministers associated with Isabel, and he opposed the federalism that republicans were spreading. The Council guaranteed low-interest loans to planters, and they bestowed titles of nobility. Ouro Preto influenced the Chamber of Deputies, and he worked to get Liberals elected.
      On July 15 while the Emperor was leaving a theatre, a radical student shot at him and hit no one. In early August a liberal senator was elected from Rio de Janeiro. On August 31 the Liberals won a large majority in the Chamber of Deputies, and they kept out republicans and even federalist Liberals.
      Republicans began to plot a coup d’état. Manuel Deodoro da Fonseca had fought in the Paraguay War and was President of Rio Grande do Sul for six months in 1886. Since June 1887 he was the president of the Military Club that included the Army and the Navy. The Council sent Deodoro da Fonseca away by appointing him commander of the army in the frontier province of Mato Grosso. In late August 1889 the Council reorganized the National Guard. Ouro Preto dissolved the corps of protection and dismissed their commander Deodoro da Fonseca. When Ouro Preto appointed a junior officer as president of Mato Grosso, the insulted Deodoro dissolved his corps and arrived at Rio de Janeiro on September 13. He worked with Republicans to overthrow the Council. In 1889 Brazil produced 57% of the world’s coffee. Oliveira Viana in November published the Setting of the Empire which noted that Brazil had 273 republican clubs and 77 republican newspapers.
      The Rio garrison joined the conspirators in early November. On November 9 over a hundred lower officers in the Military Club decided to reform “decrepit politics.” That night a grand ball was held on an island with prominent people and the entire imperial family attending. Although Deodoro was in bed with asthma, he approved action. On the night of November 14 lieutenants led the Rio garrison to Army headquarters, and Deodoro and the military professor Benjamin Constant Botelho de Magalhães joined them.
      The next day Ouro Preto telegraphed Pedro II about the insubordinate troops. Deodoro led the rebel troops into the headquarters, and he told Ouro Preto that he was going to present names of new ministers to the Emperor. Deodoro, Benjamin Constant, and Quintino Bocaiúva led troops in a parade through the city, and there was no resistance. In the afternoon republicans in city hall proclaimed a republic, and that evening Deodoro and others organized a provisional government.
      Pedro II, his wife, and his physician took a train to Rio de Janeiro. The military controlled the central telegraph office. Isabel and the Count of Eu went to Petrópolis and met with her father. Ouro Preto also met with Pedro II who agreed to appoint a new president of the Council who had a conflict with Deodoro. Isabel persuaded her father to summon the Council of State, and he proposed José Antônio Saraiva. On November 15 Deodoro da Fonseca told Saraiva that the republic was definitely established. Newspapers the next morning reported the proclaiming of the republic and the formation of a provisional government. On November 17 Emperor Pedro II and his family left Brazil. That morning an army officer had brought them a document decreeing that the provisional government granted the former ruler 5,000 contos de réis (about $270,000). Pedro II at São Vicente in the Cabo Verde islands refused to accept this and expected his usual income. Ouro Preto was also exiled and arrived there on November 30. Pedro planned to live in France. On 1 December 1889 a decree banished the imperial family and prohibited their owning property in Brazil, though they were allowed two years to sell their property. A decree on December 23 annulled the Emperor’s income and canceled the grant of 5,000 contos de réis. Pedro II’s wife Teresa Cristina died on December 28, and he died in Paris on 5 December 1891.

Brazil’s Republic 1889-1930

      Three provinces had the most political influence in the ruling Republican Party. São Paulo had the Paulista Republican Party (PRP) and dominated the coffee trade and had industry. Minas Gerais with the Minas Republican Party (PRM) were liberals, and they had cattle and milk as well as coffee. Rio Grande do Sul with the PRR Republican Party were positivists who wanted autonomy. On November 17 positivists led by Benjamin Constant marched for the republic with the banner Ordem e Progresso which was later put on the national flag. On 3 December 1889 Deodoro da Fonseca appointed five jurists to write a constitution. They were influenced by the constitutions of the United States and Argentina, and the Minister of Finance, Ruy Barbosa de Oliveira, reviewed their document and made revisions.
      In the first two years of the republic about half the states were governed by military officers. Deodoro da Fonseca chose republicans to be ministers, and they included Ruy Barbosa, Quintino Bocaiúva, Campos Sales, and Benjamin Constant. The Minister of Agriculture was the positivist Demétrio Ribeiro from Rio Grande do Sul. The Minister of the Interior was the radical lawyer and journalist Aristides Lobo, and he excelled at settling disputes peacefully. Rio’s chief of police Sampaio Ferraz suppressed riots in the capital. The republic began with business activity that included speculation and the printing of money giving easy credit which led to an economic bubble. Brazil’s paper money increased from 192,000 contos in 1889 to 712,000 in 1894 stimulating economic activity.
      On 7 January 1890 the Government of Brazil issued “The Degree Separating Church and State.” Article 1 prohibited the federal authority establishing or prohibiting any religion. Article 2 stated,

All religious sects have an equal right to exercise their
forms of worship according to their faith, and shall not be
molested in their private or public forms of worship.8

The cabinet approved Ruy Barbosa’s draft for a Provisional Government. Ten days later his banking reform, which Deodoro had approved, was opposed by Manuel Farraz de Campos Sales and Demétrio Ribeira. The decree called for government bonds replacing gold as the reserve used to issue bank notes which the United States had done during the Civil War. Deodoro threatened to resign if it was not accepted. The press and business leaders also opposed the financial reform, and the market boom that led to a crash was called the Encilhamento. That period in Brazilian history was described by Machado de Assis in his 1904 novel Esaú e Jacó. Ruy Barbosa also changed the Empire’s revenue tariff into a protectionist tax, and the Agriculture Ministry became the Industry Ministry. Ruy tried to correct the situation by requiring that customs duties be paid partly in gold. He also reduced interest rates on some of the internal debt, and he converted gold reserves in the bank into Treasury bonds. On 28 June 1890 a decree prohibited the immigration of Africans and Asians without the approval of Congress.
      The Constituent Assembly on 15 November 1890 began working on three drafts submitted by the constitutional committee, and the new Constitution was adopted on 24 February 1891. The provinces became states which were authorized to receive foreign loans, have military forces, and organize courts. The Union or Federal Government controlled import taxes, could establish banks and coin money, and had the nation’s armed forces. The President replaced the Emperor and had executive power in a four-year term. In the legislative branch the Chamber of Deputies were elected in each state proportional to the population with three-year terms, and each state and the Federal District had three senators with nine-year terms as opposed to serving for life as before. All citizens over the age of 21 could vote, and it was assumed that this did not include women. Only the first president and vice president were to be elected by the first Congress. Brazil’s constitution guaranteed liberty, rights, safety, and property for everyone living in Brazil. The constitution did not recognize a state religion; only the republic could recognize civil marriages; and municipalities were in charge of cemeteries where any religion was allowed ceremonies.
      Unregulated speculation building up in 1890 would cause the stock market in Brazil to crash in 1891 that resulted in many bankruptcies. On 17 January 1891 President Deodoro said that he would not sign any act until the contract for the port of Torres was approved. Finance Secretary Rui Barbosa resigned on January 20. Other ministers left, and Floriano Peixoto telegraphed his agreement with them. On the 21st the six ministers handed their letter of resignation with an explanatory statement to Deodoro who said he accepted them.
      That day Deodoro asked his friend, the Baron of Lucena, to select another cabinet. Lucena kept Agriculture for himself and held back Justice, and of the other five ministers only Justo Chermont for Foreign Affairs had been active in the republican movement, though Joao Barbalho at Interior was a federalist.
      Many wanted to nominate Vice President Floriano Peixoto for president; but he warned that defeating Deodoro could bring about a military dictatorship, and he decided to support Deodoro in the election. On 25 February 1891 the Constituent Assembly elected Deodoro the President 129 to 97. Then they elected General Floriano Peixoto the Vice President 153 to 57. Peixoto made the jurist José Higino Duarte the Minister of the Interior and Justice, and he appointed Conselheiro Rodrigues Alves as Finance Minister, and Admiral Custódio de Melo for the Navy.
      Lucena became the Prime Minister and took over the Finance Ministry. He canceled paying gold for customs duties, and he sold or loaned gold to insolvent banks. This scandal caused a battle in the Assembly, and on November 3 Deodoro dissolved them and declared a state of siege. On November 15 Peixoto declined to march in a parade with Deodoro, and plotters met at his house. Deodoro ordered two conspiring admirals arrested, and Custódio de Melo escaped and led a mutiny on November 23, the day that Deodoro resigned. The next day Deodoro turned over the government to General Floriano Peixoto who had been President of Mato Grosso for one year, Minister of War for 9 months, and a Justice of a Superior Military Court for over 4 years.
      Deodoro soon came into conflict with the Congress, and he shut them down and called for elections and a revised constitution to increase the power of the executive and reduce that of the states. He expected the support of the military; but he faced opposition from civilians and the Navy which revolted in November. Deodoro resigned on November 23, and Peixoto became President. He wanted a centralized government, and he was supported by the PRP. The Constituent Assembly met on December 21.
      From the beginning of the republic to November 1893 Rio Grande do Sul had 17 state governments. There liberals opposed the positivists and formed the Federalist Party in March 1892 and supported Silveira Martins. The civil war between federalists and republicans that erupted on 9 February 1893 known as the Federalist Revolution lasted 30 months. In 1893 a law created a public registry of births and deaths, and it decreed that all foreigners in Brazil since 15 November 1889 were to become citizens of Brazil unless they wanted to retain their nationality. The Navy Minister Custódio resigned on April 27. Brazil’s Navy revolted again in 1893-94, and in January 1894 the United States Navy used five ships to end the rebel blockade at Guanabara Bay without any casualties. On June 27 Brazil’s army defeated Federalist rebels by the Passo Fundo River in Rio Grande do Sul, and each side had about 250 casualties while 300 Federalists were captured.
      On 1 March 1894 the PRP’s Prudente de Morais was elected President, but he did not become President until September 15. The fighting was continuing in Rio Grande do Sul. Morais established diplomatic relations with Portugal, and on November 5 he made a friendship treaty with Japan to encourage Japanese immigration. President Prudente de Morais ended the Federalist Revolution by signing a peace treaty at Pelotas on 23 August 1895, and he promised not to punish federalists. The rebels had about one-third of the casualties of Brazil’s winning forces, and the war killed about 10,000 people.
      In November 1896 Morais sent a force to keep the peace at Canudos in Bahia, but a war broke out that killed thousands before it ended on 2 October 1897. Brazil’s force of 12,000 lost less than 5,000, and estimates of how many died among the 25,000 fighting for Canudos varied and were much higher. The military became less involved in politics, and the Military Club, which had coordinated political action, did not meet between 1896 and 1901. Nationalists called Jacobinos, who attacked Portuguese, were involved in Rio’s commerce. They lost credibility after they tried to assassinate President Morais on 5 November 1897. Between 1890 and 1907 Brazil’s national debt increased by about 30%. In 1898 the Rothschilds in London loaned £10 million to Brazil’s new civilian government with no repayment on the principal until after 13 years, though they required a surcharge on import duties. Campos Sales went to London and negotiated the loan which suspended interest for three years and amortized payments for ten years.
      President Manuel Farraz de Campos Sales (1898-1902) was also a Paulista, and he was elected on 1 March 1898 with 91% of the votes. He managed the economy well and arranged a governors’ policy to reduce disputes between states and to strengthen the President. He aimed to reduce conflict between the President and the Congress, and he improved relations by having the central government support politicians in the states while they supported the President. Brazil settled its boundary dispute over Amapá with French Guiana by Swiss arbitration on 1 December 1900. Brazil’s foreign debt increased from £5 million in 1900 to £50 million in 1912.
      The next Paulista to become President was Francisco de Paula Rodrigues Alves, and he was elected with 92% of the votes on 1 March 1902. He appointed the Baron of Rio Branco to be the Minister of Foreign Affairs on December 3, and he would have that position for over ten years. When the use of rubber from Acre in the Amazon region became a dispute between Bolivia and Brazil, on 11 November 1903 he signed the Treaty of Petrópolis that gave Brazil sovereignty in Acre for 2.5 million pounds sterling and included building the Madeira-Mamoré Railroad. By 1914 Brazil had 16,000 miles of railroads.
      Oswaldo Cruz was a scientist and a physician, and he helped Rio de Janeiro become free of yellow fever. In October 1904 the Congress greatly increased the Navy budget. On October 31 they approved a mandatory vaccination for smallpox. A rebellion against this in Rio de Janeiro lasted nine days before it was put down on November 18. In the years 1900-04 Brazil produced about 70% of the world’s coffee. On 9 February 1906 representatives of the three states that yielded the most coffee (São Paulo, Minas Gerais, and Rio de Janeiro) signed the Taubaté Agreement which maintained high prices by storing excess coffee and reducing the export of inferior coffee. This kept prices high until 1912 and enabled Brazil to pay off its loan in June 1913. The price of Brazil’s natural rubber went from £182 in 1870 to £512 in 1911. On 5 May 1906 Brazil and the Netherlands agreed on the border with Suriname.
      Afonso Pena had much government experience and had been President of Minas Gerais 1895-98 and Vice President under Alves. On 1 March 1906 he was elected President of Brazil with 98% of the votes. Pena’s administration adopted the gold standard in 1906, and the Bank of Conversion was organized to redeem inconvertible paper currency by issuing convertible notes secured by deposited gold. The Federal Government took over the coffee “valorization” scheme in which states purchased coffee at a very low price and stored it until the price would cover the operation’s cost. This led to prosperity without inflation until the Great War of 1914. General Hermes da Fonseca helped Pena modernize the military. He encouraged immigration and had roads built “to populate” Brazil, and in June 1908 the first group of Japanese immigrants arrived at the Port of Santos. In the 1890s Brazil accepted over 1.2 million immigrants, and 690,000 of them came from Italy. On September 10 Brazil launched the first South American Dreadnought battleship which was built in England. Pena died of pneumonia on 14 June 1909, and Vice President Nilo Peçanha became President for 17 months.
      In the next election Deodoro da Fonseca’s nephew Hermes da Fonseca was supported by Rio Grande do Sul and Minas Gerais against Ruy Barbosa who was backed by São Paulo, Bahia, and the middle class who wanted civil liberties, democracy, and a secret ballot. Many intellectuals were disappointed when Fonseca won with 57% of the votes. In 1910 the Conservative Republican Party (PRC) was founded in Rio Grande do Sul. In October 1912 the Contestado War broke out between landowners and settlers when the southern state of Paraná sent a regiment to expel invaders from Santa Catarina. That war would continue until Brazil’s army defeated the rebels in August 1916. In the war the rebels suffered about seven times as many casualties as the government’s forces.
      Vice President Venceslau Brás ran for president in 1914 and was elected with 92% of the votes. Six days after a German submarine torpedoed the Brazilian steamer Paraná, on 11 April 1917 Brazil broke off relations with Germany. From May to November the Germans attacked several more of Brazil’s ships, and on October 26 Brazil declared war on the Central Powers. Brazil provided food and other supplies for the Allies. Brazil’s exports during the war increased from £26,470,000 in 1914 to £78,177,000 in 1919. Immigrants from Mediterranean nations provided labor for the coffee industry. In July 1917 about 50,000 workers participated in a general strike in São Paulo, and strikes continued without much improvement until 1920.
      On 6 July 1918 Alves was elected President for a second term with 99% of the votes; but he became too ill to serve, and he died of the Spanish flu on 16 January 1919. Vice President Delfim Moreira served until July 28 when because of his illness he was succeeded by Epitácio Lindolfo da Silva Pessoa who got 71% of the votes and completed the term. He finished the construction of 200 dams in the northeast, founded the University of Rio de Janeiro in 1920, opened the first radio station, and he created public works in the northeast to reduce droughts. In 1920 Brazil’s population was 30.6 million. By then the population of the capital at Rio de Janeiro had more than doubled since 1890 to 1,157,873, and the city of São Paulo multiplied from 64,935 to 579,033. President Pessoa printed so much money to increase the price of coffee from 1921 to 1923 that it caused inflation and declining exchange rates. Much was spent on Brazil’s centenary exposition in 1922.
      Arthur Bernardes was elected President on 1 March 1922 with 56%, and there were no legislative elections that year. That month the Brazilian Communist Party (PCB) was founded. During most of his full term Bernardes faced a military insurrection that began with an attempt to stop his inauguration. He increased military spending while reducing public works and imposing an income tax. On 3 May 1923 Brazil signed the Pan-American Treaty. Brazil began broadcasting radio. Liberals challenged the PRR. In July 1924 the rebelling military officers controlled the city of São Paulo for two weeks. Revolts in Rio Grande do Sul occurred in October 1924 and in 1926.
      In 1926 the founding of the Democratic Party (DP) ended PRP’s domination of the ruling class. Washington Luís Pereira de Sousa had governed São Paulo 1920-24. He was elected President in 1926 with 98% of the votes, and he served for nearly four years. Local governments and states were allowed more autonomy. Landowners regained some of the power they lost when slavery was abolished in 1888. Epitácio Pessoa’s nephew João Pessoa was elected governor of Paraíba in 1928. That year the Center of Industries of the State of São Paulo was founded. The Democratic Party (PD) worked for liberal principles. Younger military officers, who were mostly lieutenants (tenentes), exerted more power.
      On 20 September 1929 the Liberal Alliance nominated Getúlio Vargas for president with João Pessoa for vice president. The stock market crash in the United States on October 24 caused the value of Brazil’s coffee business, which was 70% of Brazil’s exports, to fall drastically. In the presidential election of 1930 João Pessoa declined to support the Republican Júlio Prestes who was President of São Paulo and had been nominated by Washington Luís. Vargas ran on a platform that included the following:

The activities of women and children in factories
and commercial establishments in every civilized nation
are subject to special conditions that we, up to now, unfortunately do not heed.
We need to coordinate activities between the states
and the federal government to study and adopt measures
to create a national Labor Code.
Both the urban and rural proletariat require
instructional measures, applied to both,
to address their respective needs.
These measures should include instruction, education,
hygiene, diet, housing, protection of women and children,
of invalids and old people, credit, salary relief,
and even recreation, including sports and artistic culture.
It is time to think of creating agricultural schools
and industrial training centers,
of making factories and mills safe,
bringing sanitation to the countryside,
constructing workers’ villas, granting vacations,
a minimum salary, consumer cooperatives, and so forth.9

Pessoa agreed to be the running mate of Getúlio Vargas, and they were defeated by Júlio Prestes who was elected President of Brazil on March 1 with 58% of the votes. The influential landowner José Pereira Lima ran the city of Princesa in Paraíba for 14 years, but in February 1830 he had ended his alliance with the state government in a conflict that was called the “Princesa Revolt.” Luís Carlos Prestes had led the military revolt in 1924, and in May 1830 he declared himself a socialist revolutionary. On July 26 João Duarte Dantas assassinated João Pessoa. On October 3 a revolution started in Minas Gerais and in Rio Grande do Sul, and the next day it spread in the Northeast led by Juarez Távora in Paraíba. About 3,000 soldiers from Rio Grande do Sul prepared the way for Getúlio Vargas who went by train to São Paulo and then to Rio de Janeiro. A junta took power on October 24, and they made Vargas President on November 3.

Brazil & Vargas 1930-35

      The Washington Luís presidency was the Republic’s last one as it was ended by a military junta with many lieutenants in the Revolution of 1830 on October 24. That Junta lasted only ten days as they appointed Getúlio Vargas the Provisional President on November 3. He was a lawyer and a successful politician in Rio Grande do Sul 1917-26. Then he was Finance Minister for President Luís in 1927. Vargas was President of Rio Grande do Sul from January 1928 to October 1930. Although the official count in the election was that Júlio Prestes had about 1,097,000 votes to 744,000 for Vargas, in November he claimed there was fraud. Vargas and his followers overthrew the government and made him the chief of a provisional government taking executive and legislative power by dissolving the Congress as well as state and municipal legislatures. He established regional police in the North led by Juarez Távora. Vargas made Lt. João Alberto the intervenor in São Paulo.
      Miguel Costa, who had led the Prestes Column, supported unions and directed the Santos Stevedore Center. State rights in the previous constitution such as getting foreign loans now had to get approval from the national government, and no state could have more military power than Brazil’s Army. The Ministry of Labor, Industry, and Commerce was formed with laws to protect workers and let the government control unions. Members of the Labor Ministry attended union meetings, and the state took over leftist unions. The Ministry of Education and Health was organized in November 1830, and Francisco Campos became Minister of Education. His reform sequenced curriculum. Attending school was mandatory, and one needed a high school diploma to enroll in a university.
      The Catholic Church was supported by this government, and in April 1931 a decree allowed religion to be taught in schools. In September Brazil suspended its foreign debts, and only the Banco do Brasil was allowed to exchange currency. On October 12 the statue of Christ the Redeemer was unveiled on Corcovado Mountain in Rio de Janeiro.
      Vargas on 14 February 1932 decreed an Electoral Code that changed the voting age from 21 to 18, guaranteed a secret ballot, and gave working women the vote. That month liberals started the São Paulo United Front, and similar efforts against dictatorship formed in Rio Grande do Sul and in Minas Gerais. Their Electoral Code made voting mandatory, secret, and universal including women. This stabilized elections and reduced fraud. A United Front formed in Rio Grande do Sul and opposed Vargas, and Democrats in São Paulo prepared for revolution which began on July 9. The Navy blockaded their port of Santos. Radio was used to organize rallies, and many people donated to help São Paulo. The other 20 states in the federation did not join São Paulo, and the Paulistas surrendered in October. That month Plínio Salgado and others in São Paulo formed the Brazilian Integralist Movement based on Mussolini’s fascism.
      Brazil’s new government had begun buying coffee with money from export taxes and exchange taxes in July 1931, and they destroyed some of the harvested coffee. In 1933 Vargas took control of coffee policy by forming the Departamento Nacional do Café (DNC).
      By 1933 the new government had appointed 36 of the 40 active generals. In May elections were held for a National Constituent Assembly. Most political parties took part as only the Communist Party (PCB) and the right-wing Ação Integralista Party (AIB) were excluded. After long debates they approved a constitution on 14 July 1934. As in 1891 they formed a federal republic, and they used Germany’s Weimar constitution as a model. They passed laws to support family, education, culture, and national security, and they planned to nationalize mines and waterfalls for defense and the economy. Trade unions were given autonomy, and they required equal pay for the same work regardless of age, sex, nationality, or marital status. They set a minimum wage and established rules for work by children and women, weekly days off, paid vacations, and reparation for unjust firing. They mandated free schools with compulsory attendance and allowed classes on religions. The President was in charge of the High Council on National Security that included ministers and the Army and Navy general staff. Military service was required. During the 15 years under Vargas the Army was greatly expanded.
      On 16 July 1934 the Constituent Assembly promulgated their new Constitution, and the next day they elected Vargas as President of Brazil by a vote of 175-59 over the Independent Borges de Medeiros. During the Depression many workers went on strike in 1934, and in October the Integralists and anti-fascists fought in São Paulo. The Department of Propaganda and Cultural Dissemination was started as part of the Ministry of Justice. The University of São Paulo was founded in 1934 and the University of the Federalist District in 1935.
      Early in 1935 the Congress approved the Law of National Security (LNS). Communists and other leftists formed the National Liberation Alliance (ANL), and they announced it in Rio de Janeiro on March 30. Carlos Lacerda read their manifesto, and they elected Luís Carlos Prestes as their president, and he attracted military followers. They advocated agrarian reform, individual rights, not paying the foreign debt, and nationalizing foreign businesses. On July 5 Lacerda read a declaration by Prestes calling for the overthrow of the hated Vargas government. By that month they had about 85,000 members. On July 11 Brazil’s government outlawed the ANL, and many Communists were imprisoned. On November 23 the Communists attempted a military coup which controlled Rio Grande do Norte’s capital at Natal for four days. Larger rebellions in Recife and Rio were put down by loyal troops as several people were killed.


1. Citizen Emperor: Pedro II and the Making of Brazil, 1825-91 by Roderick J. Barman, p. 195.
2. Ibid., p. 210.
3. A History of Modern Brazil 1889-1964 by José Maria Bello, p. 35.
4. Citizen Emperor: Pedro II and the Making of Brazil, 1825-91 by Roderick J. Barman, p. 241.
5. Ibid., p. 252.
6. Ibid., p. 275.
7. Century of Brazilian History Since 1865, p. 72.
8. Documentary History of Brazil, A, p. 289.
9. Brazil Reader, The: History, Culture, Politics ed. Robert M. Levine and John J. Crocitti, p. 156-157.

Copyright © 2023 by Sanderson Beck

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Latin America & Canada to 1850

Brazil 1850-1935
Uruguay 1850-1935
Argentina 1850-1935
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Chronology of Latin America to 1935
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