II, life expectancy in southern states was eight years higher than the national average and sixteen years more than in the long-depressed Northeast. Vargas had done little for the poor regions of the country.

His suicide in 1954 produced outpourings of grief that matched in intensity and scope the shock felt by most Americans at the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1945. Even though Vargas had not provided very much, and even if the archaic hierarchical structure of the Brazilian oligarchy had remained completely intact, he had been the first politician to extend dignity to the Brazilian people. The contrast between the political spirit of the Old Republic, which had despised the common people, and the uplifting rhetoric of Vargas's radio broadcasts, speeches, and public appearances in even the most remote reaches of the vast country, was striking. Vargas really had become the father of the poor in the minds of the mass of the population. For nationalists, the stridency of his admonition against imperialism and foreign interests, which dominated his suicide letter, made him a prophet and seer.

Yet Vargas's laws were never intended to close the vast gap between rich and poor. Only laws based on concepts of distributive justice could have brought real change, but this was alien in concept to Vargas and the upper classes. Vargas's reforms raised the quality of life for millions but distanced the lives of millions even further from those of the affluent. They modernized Brazil, but they did not do much to enlarge the domestic market, to deal with underemployment, to facilitate the acquisition of land, to provide technical training, or to remove the pariah status of men and women doomed by lack of opportunity to grinding poverty. The period between 1939 and the early 1970s was to yield increased real wages for industrial workers (industrial wages rose 60 percent between 1939 and 1975) but a decline in real wages and living conditions for unskilled workers, the vast majority.


NOTES
1.
Gabriel Bolaffi, "Para uma nova política habitacional e urbana," in L. do P. Valladares, ed., Habitaçõ em Questão ( Rio de Janeiro: Zahar, 1980), 50, cited by Edesio Fernandes, Law and Urban Change in Brazil ( Brookfield, VT: Ashgate, 1995), 17.
2.
Franciso Campos, O Estado Nacional ( Rio de Janeiro: Livraria José Olympio, 1938), 256-57.
3.
O Jornal ( Rio de Janeiro), 1939. Clipping file, Arquivo Nacional, Rio de Janeiro.

-119-

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The History of Brazil
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Advisory Board ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Series Foreword ix
  • Preface xiii
  • Timeline of Historical Events xv
  • 1 - An Earthly Paradise 1
  • Notes 29
  • 2 - Early Brazil (1500-1822) 31
  • Notes 52
  • 3 - Independence and Empire (1822-1889) 55
  • Notes 76
  • 4 - The Republic (1889-1930) 77
  • Note 96
  • 5 - The Vargas Era (1930-1954) 97
  • Notes 119
  • 6 - Dictatorship and Democracy (1954-1998) 121
  • Notes 144
  • 7 - Political Culture 147
  • Notes 166
  • 8 - Social and Economic Realities 167
  • Notes 183
  • Notable People in the History of Brazil 185
  • Bibliographic Essay 195
  • Index 203
  • About the Author 209
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