Brazil: An Interim Assessment

Brazil: An Interim Assessment

Brazil: An Interim Assessment

Brazil: An Interim Assessment

Excerpt

The study of a nation of nearly fifty-three million people, inhabiting the fourth largest political area in the world and the second largest in the Western Hemisphere, needs no justification. The problem is what sort of study to make, and to what extent it can add to the general understanding of Brazil. Traditionally, it should be assembled under a few main headings dealing in turn with the geography, the people, the history, the economy, and so on; the result, assuming accuracy, would be a useful book of reference. Alternatively, there is the impressionist approach; the traveller's tales filled with colour and as often as not most readable when least accurate. The problem is to combine the facts of the first with something of the interpretative value of the second.

There is always the danger in the study of a country not one's own that the differences, however unimportant, will loom larger than the similarities, however fundamental. In the case of Brazil the danger is there but it matters less; for Brazil and Britain are as different from each other as it is possible for two nations belonging to the same civilization and culture to be, though this does not mean that the two nations have not many points of contact. The fact is that Brazil belongs essentially to the West European cultural group--what we might now call the Atlantic civilization. Beyond this, Brazil is a country that presents many unique features: violent contrasts, new types of development, a possible pattern for the development of the underdeveloped areas of the world, an example to other nations in a similar stage of development in the conduct of foreign affairs and new experiments in self-colonization. Brazil, in fact, is a fruitful field for study as the first tropical colonial area ever to give signs of wholly achieving its emancipation.

Politically, Brazil became an independent empire under Dom Pedro I in 1822; but nominal political independence is not necessarily emancipation. It was Disraeli who said: 'Colonies do not cease to be colonial because they are independent.' The nations of Latin America did not lose their colonial characteristics overnight because the power of Spain in the New World was finally broken at the battle of Ayacucho in 1824. Their political . . .

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