August 24-25; Several letters awaiting me, Fulton Oursler among them. Fulton notes: “Why you put the shackles on make damn sure you have the key!”
A crucial poser! Have given it much thought already Don't know full answer but what comes to mind: Land. Dimension. Diversity. Possession. All these are key to understanding Brazil.
The very first impact on Portuguese must have been staggering. Coming from tiny Portugal, the men of Lisbon confine their territories to small bases hugging the littoral, same as in Africa and the Indies. Their motives are primarily exploitive, “factories” for securing wealth, trade for the motherland.
|Natives collecting brazilwood in the 16th century|
European man emerging from the Middle Ages, not thinking of “land” beyond concept of age-old fiefdom, small kingdoms, encounters a new world of a dimension not previously imaginable. What an impact this must have had on his mind, his view of earth, even of the universe... But could he cope with this change?
First, in Brazil, he seeks the simplest solution, the neat and totally impractical division of “captaincies” stretching as far inland as the Tordesillas Line; the captaincies themselves being divided into sesmarias. For two hundred years, he hugs the littoral, fearful of what lay beyond and lacking the ability or manpower to penetrate the interior.
|1591 Map - Terra do Santa Cruz|
Essential to show difference between American homesteading and planned advance to the West and Brazilian method which to this day suggests unplanned chaos. What factors led to different development? The men, their background, their religion? The climate, the topography? All these factors have to be considered?
Did the Portuguese — despite what Freyre says about creation of a Luso-Tropical “new man” — transfer some of the worst elements of Middle-Age Europe to South America?
For example, the concept of nobles and serfs, here becoming casa grande and senzala (slave quarters,) fazendeiro and laborer. As before, the few held vast estates to which the many were bound for their livelihood. Unlike North America where whole concept, once they'd thrown off the European yolk, was toward the individual, his freedom and a stake in the land. Nothing like that ever happened here. On the contrary, in the 19th century the Portuguese Crown was able to transplant itself to Brazil and extend the age-old system almost to the 20th century.
|Classic "Casa Grande" of North-East Brazil |
Image: Joaquim Nabuco Foundation
Perhaps Brazil only achieved its equivalent of the U.S. Declaration of Independence in 1930 with Vargas 154 years later. So that in a sense, it is today where the U.S. was fifty years after independence, mais o menos, with emphasis on spiritual and national development rather than material. The latter with 'secondary acquisition of developed technology' can be deceptive.
With what you see and hear in the North/North-East, the greater part of Brazilian 'land,' you come to realize the divergence between north/south. Whether it's Pumaty's casa grande owner or a local laborer, all decry the south for bleeding the north to develop its industries etc. If you accept that then you begin to think of Brazil as a funnel, the north the mouth, the south the thin stem to which all filters down. (But no doubt the South will have its opinion - probably on the vast cost of supporting the North and its “hopelessness.”)
More on land debate: Perhaps nowhere has “colonial” man faced so great a challenge as in Brazil and, perhaps, Siberia — the sheer vastness makes one of the early essentials for development infrastructure i.e. communication, well nigh impossible.