Brazilian Culture: An Introduction to the Study of Culture in Brazil

By Fernando de Azevedo; William Rex Crawford | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER THREE
THE DEVELOPMENT OF URBAN LIFE

The system of settlement on the margin -- The early settlements, depositories of maritime commerce -- The face of urban civilization turned toward the Atlantic -- Fortified cities -- Foreign invasions -- The contrast between rural splendor and urban misery -- The profit of the sugar mills -- Freedom, the condition of the city inhabitants -- The action of urban bourgeoisie on feudal society -- Wars and native explosions -- The cities on the plateau -- The Villa of Piratininga, at the mouth of the sertão -- The constant danger of attack by Indians -- The bandeiras and the loss of population by the cities -- Vila Rica and the route of gold -- The centers of cattle trading -- The splendor and decadence of the colonial cities -- Before attaining the age of maturity . . . -- The dispersion and isolation of urban settlements -- The coast and the back country -- The tranquillity and poverty of the cities of the Empire -- Life in the cities -- Industry and the growth of urban centers -- The cities as political capitals -- Foci of progress and of civilization.

ALL OF HISTORY, from the Colony to the Republic, as we have seen, is, in the words of Oliveira Viana, "the history of an agricultural people, of a society of agriculturists and shepherds. It is in the rural districts that our race was formed, it is there that the inner forces of our civilization were built up. The dynamism of our history in the colonial period comes from the country; and it is from the country that we get the bases on which the admirable stability of our society rests in the imperial period." But while "urbanism" may be a very recent condition of our social evolution, the study of the development of urban life presents a double interest, arising from the particular form of the Brazilian cities and from the special character which their genesis and evolution reveal, as well as from the relations that existed between culture and the development of urban centers. In all civilization, cities exercise as centers of concentration a role of major importance in the formation of the culture in its intellectual sense. They are powerful instruments of social selection, not only attracting to themselves, as Hansen thinks, by a selection which one might almost call mechanical, the best elements of the country, but also in addition to selecting them, contributing to make their value, as Weber observes,1 making real the merits which otherwise would only be virtual and "overexciting forces which, without this stimulus, might remain inactive and dormant." They will be doubtless many times great destroyers of human life, but this consumption of social forces appears to Weber to be necessary in order to permit the cities to play their role, which is that of "intensifying collective energy, raising the latent and scattered capacities of the population to the highest point of possible development. The civilization of which they are foci, cannot, writes Durk-

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1
Adna Ferrin Weber, The Growth of the Cities in the Nineteenth Century: A Study in Statistics ( New York: Macmillan, 1899). Cf. Carl Stephenson, Borough and Town: A Study of Urban Origins in England ( Cambridge, Mass.: Mediaeval Academy, 1933).

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