The Independence of Brazil, which occurred on September 7, 1822, represents a fundamental moment in the country’s history. On that day, Prince Regent Dom Pedro I proclaimed Brazil as an independent nation from Portugal, marking the end of over three centuries of colonial rule and the beginning of a new journey towards freedom and sovereignty.
Before delving into the heart of independence, it is crucial to understand the colonial context that led Brazil to seek its emancipation. The colonization of Brazilian territory by the Portuguese began in 1500 under the command of Pedro Álvares Cabral. Brazil was treated as a colony of exploitation, with its economy centered around the production of sugar, tobacco, and other agricultural products.
The Portuguese colonial system established a series of economic and political restrictions that hindered the country’s development. Moreover, tensions between the metropolis and local elites increased, as Brazil had significant economic importance for Portugal, yet little or no decision-making power.
The colonial situation in Brazil began to change when Napoleon Bonaparte invaded Portugal in 1807. To avoid capture by Napoleon’s forces, the Portuguese royal family, led by Prince Regent Dom João VI, moved to Brazil, making it the seat of the Portuguese Empire.
The arrival of the Portuguese court in Brazil brought significant changes. The country was elevated to the status of the United Kingdom of Portugal, Brazil, and the Algarves, and several reforms were implemented, benefiting the colony. These changes began to stimulate a Brazilian national identity, as the population realized its potential and demanded greater autonomy.
Despite the changes promoted by the Portuguese court, tensions continued to grow between Brazilians and the colonizers. In 1820, a liberal revolution in Portugal demanded the return of King Dom João VI, creating uncertainties about Brazil’s future.
Facing the prospect of losing their privileges and autonomy, Brazilian elites began to advocate for independence. Prince Regent Dom Pedro I, who remained in Brazil after Dom João VI’s return to Portugal, became a symbol of resistance to re-colonization. On September 7, 1822, during his journey from São Paulo to Rio de Janeiro, Dom Pedro received a letter from Portugal demanding his return. In response, on the banks of the Ipiranga River, he proclaimed the famous “Independence or Death!”, officially declaring the political break between Brazil and Portugal.
After the Cry of Ipiranga, conflicts with Portuguese troops still persisted, culminating in the Battle of Jenipapo, where Brazilians fought for the maintenance of independence. The conflict was finally resolved with the signing of the Peace and Friendship Treaty between Brazil and Portugal in 1825, officially recognizing Brazil’s independence and ending hostilities.
The Independence of Brazil brought significant changes to the country. Dom Pedro I was proclaimed Emperor, initiating the First Brazilian Empire. The Constitution of 1824 established a centralizing political regime, granting extensive powers to the Emperor. However, this period was marked by political instability and conflicts between regional elites and central power.
In 1831, Dom Pedro I abdicated in favor of his son, Dom Pedro II, who ruled Brazil until the Republican coup in 1889. Independence also stimulated economic development, primarily driven by coffee production and European immigration.
The Independence of Brazil represents a crucial moment in the construction of the country’s national identity. It marked the beginning of a trajectory of struggle for freedom, sovereignty, and political autonomy. Despite the challenges faced over the years, Brazil continued to grow as an independent nation, becoming one of the world’s largest economies and possessing one of the most diverse and rich cultures on the planet. Independence is, therefore, a historical milestone that should be remembered and celebrated, as it shaped Brazil as we know it today.
Matheus is an entrepreneur at Araujo Media, where he serves as CEO and Creative Director. He shares analyses on his personal blog "matheusaraujo.me" and is currently pursuing a degree in Advertising and Propaganda. Moreover, he has a passion for history, particularly that of Brazil, which led him to become the founder and editor of the Brazilian History portal.