Chapters of Brazil's Colonial History, 1500-1800

By Capistrano De Abreu; Arthur Brakel | Go to book overview

11
Three Centuries Later

Three centuries after its discovery, Brazil had a population of more than one million. If the people were spread out evenly over the land that Lisbon claimed was hers, each individual would have two or three square kilometers.

There were people living along the coast from Marajó Island down to the Chuí, as well as along both shores of the Amazon, from its mouth up to Tabatinga and the Javari River. Along its tributaries in this basin, settlements were erected close to harbors, preferably near the muddy water streams. The Rio Negro settlements were different because concerns about the border pushed natural expansion farther inward, up the Madeira, Tapajós, and Tocantins Rivers, which flow from Goiás and Mato Grosso. Beginning at Piauí, the coastal line had as parallels one or more interior lines of settlements on the banks of rivers and on the plateaus along the Parnaíba, the São Francisco, and the Paraná, as well as in the regions between these rivers. These lines were constantly interrupted. It would be better to call them points along which lines could be drawn.

By observing settlers' geographic distribution, one can see two easily distinguishable trends. Spontaneous settlement tended toward continuity and sought the periphery in the west, north, and south. The voluntary trend, which was determined by governmental measures and by the desire for land or strategic advantage, came out scattered and disconnected. It started on the periphery and took off in opposite directions. In the gold

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