3. Dutch Invasions & Gold Rush


The Dutch invasions in the 17th century were the most important conflicts of the
colony times. Sugar business actors sponsored this war, using capital from many
countries. The Brazilian people from every capitania also contributed with the
payment of special taxes. This war cost Portugal not only men and gold, but also
its east colonies and its sovereignty, as it didn’t have the means to negotiate its
debts with England as an equal when it came to an end.

The Avis heritage crisis led the Portuguese to join Spain in the “Iberic Union” in
1580. The animosity between Spain and Holland forced Portugal to review its
traditional Dutch partnership in the sugar business. In 1621, the Dutch started
the Dutch Company of West Indies, with the purpose to control Portuguese
colonies. Salvador surrendered in 24 hours. Using a guerrilla strategy, the
Portuguese constrained the Dutch expansion, but was unable to avoid the Dutch
from taking over the Pernambuco Capitania. Prince Maurice of Nassau brought
architects, artists, naturalist lawyers (man… im talking about no one other then
Hugo Grotius here), etc in his settlement expeditions.

The period was troubled. In 1640 the Portuguese regained control of the
capitania and the dutch moved to the Antilles, where they successfully installed
sugar plantations, together with French and English men. In 1648, with the
resumption of Angola, the Portuguese Empire was reestablished. A sprout of
nationalism took place in Pernambuco as soon as the invaders left. For the next
200 years, almost every liberalizing revolt took place in this part of the colony.
They rebelled against the metropolis and claimed for more space to lead their

Paintings by dutch artist Frans Post. 17th century.


In 1616, an expedition was sent to the north of Brasil (Maranhão) to fight the
French. They still today occupy the “French Guiana” territories. Most of the
settlers were Jesuit priests, interested in the conversion of massive amounts
of indigenous population. Belém was founded. The main activities were the
extration of Amazonian drugs, such as vanilla and cocoa. In 1684, this religious
organization was expelled from Maranhão, because they had their own policies
and refused to submit to the crowns desires.

(romantic novel moment starts)

Every capitania started with a coastal settlement. The first men to penetrate the
interior were the Jesuits. In 1554, father Da Nóbrega and father Anchieta started
a village called São Paulo together with other middle-aged men that hadn’t
been to bed with a woman for at least four years. That explains the stimulus the
crown gave to Indian-Portuguese intermarriage. The paulistas survived thanks
to the traffic of Indians1 as slaves. They gathered more then 1000 man willing
to dart into the forests, walking barefoot for more than 1000 kilometres, in a
search for barbaric tribes that could eventually end up in the finding of the most
precious treasure the untamed tropical forest hid: gold and diamond mines.

(romantic novel moment ends)

If observed in a wide perspective, Brazil took part of the most dynamic
economic system of the time, the English system. While Brazil participated of
it actively, Portugal had but a secondary importance. 50% of the Portuguese
people immigrated to Brazil around 1750. My mother’s family came in this
lead. The gold rush craze was such that the crown had to prohibit emigration,
in order to stop the massive exodus. The consequence of was that, for the
first time in centuries, the white population was superior to the black slave
one. It boosted urban life and the appearance of a small industrial sector.

The Portuguese balance of trade had been in deficit due to the Methuen Treaties
2 for long. As a result of this lack of equilibrium, most of the gold mined in Brasil
ended up in English vaults. This concentration of currency allowed the English
banking system to become the head of the European financial complex.

The mining economy articulated distant areas of the colony. For the first time,
cattle and food were being transported from Bahia to Minas. Trade also existed
in the opposite direction. Mules and jerked beef from the south were available in
the Minas markets. Where the troops 3passed, villages flourished.

1 Aimore and Spanish Indian enslavement were allowed. In the end, they imprisoned any tribe that was an enemy of the Tupis and the Guaranis.

This business flourished in the XVII century as the war against Nassau interrupted the negro slave traffic.

2 Methuen treaties, also know as Cromwell’s, 1642/1654/1661 or “Textiles X Wines”.

3 Portuguese followed by hundreds of mules carrying goods from one capitania to the other, or from the interior to the docks. My great granddad

was one of this people, and he even found a city himself, Heliodora. It’s in the car trip map as a place for us to visit. I’ve never been there. Check

your car trip map.

The Portuguese correctly identified the need to take close care of the mining
industry. The “fifth” meant the 1/5 of the gold mined belonged to the crown.
The “heading”, that later replaced the fifth, was a tax that the miner paid over
each head of slave. This second tax was also charged over other establishments
such as butcheries in the region.

Concessions were distributed as a way to limit the presence of intrusive miners
in the region. São Paulo expected to own the rights to the mines, but most of the
concessions were given to Portuguese men. Priests were prohibited to enter
the Minas region, accused of smuggling. Laical groups professed the mass. All
this isolation gave the mines society a sense of group that allowed them to lead
many revolts against the colonial administration. Besides the crisis in the sugar
plantations, the importing of black slaves increased at the period, as gold mining
was also based in the black slave workforce.

In the beginning, famine struck the colony as every men dropped the plow to
try their luck in the mines. In 1780, with the decadence of the mines, 40% of the
slaves were freed, because their lords didn’t have the means to support them.


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