Brazilian colonial literature followed classical traditions, drawing from Portuguese and Catholic influences. After Brazil attained independence in 1822, artists looked for inspiration from other sources in an effort to create a uniquely Brazilian literary style. Ideas were drawn from French, English, and German literature, which introduced romanticism, a movement in the arts that emphasized a highly imaginative and subjective approach to artistic expression. There was a strong nationalistic element in these writings. A leading figure was José de Alencar, who wrote about Brazil and its history. His Iracema (1865; translated as Iracema the Honey-lips, a Legend of Brazil, 1886) portrayed a romance between an indigenous Brazilian princess and a Portuguese colonist.
The major literary figure in the late 19th century was Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis, whose works include Quincas borba (1891; Philosopher or Dog?, 1954) and Dom Casmurro (1899; translated 1953). Many of his works provide searching comments on the human condition. Another major novel of this period is Euclides da Cunha’s Os sertões (1902; Rebellion in the Backlands, 1944), a powerful portrait of rebellion and massacre in the Northeast.
The modernist influence has encouraged an exploration of national character and of distinctive regional cultures, and an interest in social issues. The regional novel has been particularly strong in the Northeast, where an important group of writers have portrayed the nature of the region and the experiences of its people in the cane fields, the dry interior, and in the cities. One of Brazil’s most popular novelists, Jorge Amado, wrote about his native state of Bahia in such works as Gabriela, cravo e canela (1958; Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon, 1962), which portrays the experience of migrants from the interior of the Northeast to the cocoa port of Ilheus. Other important regional novels from the Northeast include Graciliano Ramos’s Vidas secas (1938; Barren Lives, 1965) and José Lins do Rego’s Menino de engenho (1932; Plantation Boy, 1966). The country’s first important female novelist, Rachel de Queiroz, wrote about the challenges that women faced in Brazilian society in O quinze (1930; The Year 1915).
Among the best post-1945 writers are João Guimarães Rosa, whose Grande sertao: veradas (1956; Devil to Pay in the Backlands, 1963) provides a powerful portrait of rural life in the interior of Minas Gerais, and Clarice Lispector, best known for her short stories such as Laçosde família (1960; Family Ties, 1972). Important contemporary writers include Autran Dourado, author of Ópera dos Mortos (1967; The Voice of the Dead, 1980); Darcy Ribeiro, author of Maíra (1978; translated 1985); João Ubaldo Ribeiro, author of Sergeant Getúlio (1977; translated 1980); and Paulo Coelho, author of O alquimista (1988; The Alchemist, 1993) and Veronika decide morrer (1998; Veronika Decides to Die, 1999).
In poetry, major figures in the 19th century were Antonio Gonçalves Dias and Antonio de Castro Alves, who wrote on native Brazilian themes in their works. Important poets of the modernist movement have been Manuel Bandeira, Carlos Drummond de Andrade, and Jorge de Lima. See Brazilian Literature.
Art and Architecture
Portuguese religious influences dominated colonial art. In the 19th and 20thcenturies, artistic movements in Europe provided inspiration for Brazilian artists. For example, the Week of Modern Art, an international arts festival in São Paulo in 1922, introduced cubist ideas, which focused on abstract forms rather than lifelike representation of objects. Important modern artists Anita Malfatti and Tarsila do Amaral were both early pioneers in Brazilian modern art. Cándido Portinari depicted people and landscapes of his homeland in a patriotic manner, and Lasar Segall helped introduce expressionist paintings to Brazil with an exhibit in Rio de Janeiro in 1913.
Colonial architecture was strongly influenced by the Jesuit priests and the Roman Catholic Church. In the 20th century, modern artistic movements provided inspiration for architecture as they had for art, particularly after the 1936 visit of Swiss French architect Le Corbusier, who collaborated with Oscar Niemeyer and Lúcio Costa on the Ministry of Education building in Rio de Janeiro. Niemeyer and Costa have been key figures in the high reputation of Brazil’s modern architecture. Their masterpiece is the capital city of Brasília (constructed in the 1950s), which Costa planned and for which Niemeyer designed many of the public buildings. Other important figures include Jorge Moreira Machado and Afonso Reidy. Buildings designed by these architects tend to be light, graceful, and airy, incorporating features appropriate to tropical heat and strong sunlight. They also frequently combine the skills of the architect with those of sculptors, painters, and landscape gardeners such as Roberto Burle Marx, who designed many parks and gardens in Brazil and overseas.
One of Brazil’s most famous sculptors and architects is the colonial artist known as Aleijadinho, who worked in a baroque style on the churches of colonial Minas Gerais. In the modern period, more abstract styles have dominated. Important figures such as sculptors Bruno Giorgi and Maria Martins contributed works to the design of Brasília.
Photography was introduced in Brazil in 1840, and early photographs provide an important record of society and landscape. In recent years photographer Sebastião Salgado has created powerful images of Brazilian poverty.
There is a strong folk-art tradition in Brazil, deriving from and often blending together the legacies of the Native Americans, Africans, and Portuguese. Indigenous art traditionally focused on three forms: pottery, weaving, and body art, which involved painting designs on the skin. Goods that have utilitarian functions have come to be appreciated for their aesthetic qualities. Such items include pottery, leatherwork, basketry, lace, and embroidery.
Music and Dance
The National Conservatory was established in 1841, and classical music drew upon European and ethnic traditions. There is a strong nationalist element in the work of composer Antônio Carlos Gomes. Brazil’s leading classical composer, Heitor Villa-Lobos, blended European traditions and melodies with those of Brazil’s African and Native American populations. This blend is perhaps best heard in his Bachianas Brasileiras (1930-1945), a series of nine suites.
The best-known form of popular music is samba, which grew from the rhythm and vocal styles of the Native Americans, Portuguese, and Africans. Samba has come to be particularly associated with the spectacular dance and music competitions that take place each year in Rio de Janeiro during Brazil’s Carnival celebration. Although samba, as a dance form, is best seen during Carnival, there are other dances of African origin, such as the ritualized fighting of capoeira,which originated among African slaves. Bumba-meu-boi is a dance that uses drama, dance, instrumental music, and song to recount the mythical tale of the death and resurrection of an ox.
In the 1950s and 1960s bossa nova emerged from a blending of Brazilian popular music with American jazz. Key composers of bossa nova were João Gilberto, Antonio Carlos Jobim, and Vinicius de Morães. In the mid-1960s the addition of electric guitars and elements of rock music resulted in the creation of música popular brasileira (MPB), associated with musician Chico Buarque and others. MPB focused on urban protest against the military regime that ruled Brazil from 1964 to 1985. In the late 1960s tropicalismo drew upon a range of musical traditions, with Maria Bethânia and Caetano Veloso as leading performers. It combined Brazilian folk traditions with rock and roll and popular music styles. Lambada, originating in the Amazon region in the 1970s, is a sensual dance based on Afro-Brazilian rhythms. There are also elements of regional popular music, such as sertanejo in the South and Center-West, which resembles American country music, with simple tunes and themes of love, nostalgia, and hardship.
Theater and Film
Theater was not an important art form in Brazil until the 1940s, when playwrights such as Nelson Rodrigues and Alfredo Dias Gomes began to contribute more original works. In the 1950s the theater became more experimental and socially concerned, and the Teatro de Arena in São Paulo became an important place of innovation and a center of social protest against the military regime in the 1960s.
Interest in cinema has a long history, but motion-picture production was constrained by the limited market for films in Portuguese. However, the cinema nôvo (new cinema) movement of the mid-1950s began to attract international attention through films such as Vidas Secas (Barren Lives, 1963), a dramatization of the novel by Graciliano Ramos. A major figure was Glauber Rocha, who made several striking films on Brazilian themes, most notably Deus e o diabo na terra do sol (Black God, White Devil, 1964). More recently, Bruno Barreto has produced films based on several novels by Brazilian writer Jorge Amado, and a novel by Paulo Lins about two boys growing up in the slums of Rio de Janeiro was turned into a film, Cidade de Deus (2002, also released as City of God).
Before 1930 the Brazilian economy was dominated by a number of agricultural and mineral products for export. The world economic depression of the 1930s encouraged the government to diversify the economy, particularly through industrialization. The state led much of this development, through economic plans and government participation in key sectors of public services, such as electricity, telephones, and postal services. The government was also directly involved in some of the country’s largest firms, particularly in the mining, steel, oil, and chemical industries. At the same time, it encouraged foreign investment in areas such as automobile manufacturing, engineering, and the production of electrical goods. As a result, the importance of agriculture and mining in output and trade fell significantly.
Despite success in growing its industrial sector, Brazil encountered economic difficulties. Periodic world recessions, the oil crises of 1973 and 1979, the accumulation of high foreign debt, and periods of rapid inflation all contributed to slow the progress of development in Brazil. In response to these difficulties, the government reduced its role in planning the economy and in financing the development of new industries. The government also opened up a number of state-owned companies to private investors in areas such as steel, petroleum, electricity, and telecommunications. In 2001 services accounted for 57 percent of Brazil’s gross domestic product (GDP); industry, 34 percent; and agriculture, forestry, and fishing, 9 percent.
In 2001 the labor force in Brazil was 80.7 million people, of whom 36 percent were women. Unemployment was estimated at 9.6 percent in 1999, but that figure may be imprecise, due to the number of people holding part-time jobs or working in unreported employment, particularly in the cities. Urban-based employment surpasses agricultural-based employment, with much of its growth in service jobs rather than manufacturing. In 2001 the service sector employed 57 percent of the workforce.
The government first granted legal recognition to labor organizations in 1907. In 1931 President Getúlio Vargas created a government-supervised trade union structure. Strikes were forbidden, but labor courts assessed workers’ grievances. The Vargas government also instituted social legislation that was advanced for its time, regulating hours of work and establishing a minimum wage, worker training, and health care. By 1944 there were 800 unions, with over 500,000 members. During the 1950s labor became more militant, and there was pressure for a central labor organization and moves to unionize rural labor.
Following the 1964 military coup, the government purged the leadership of unions and placed many unions under direct government control. However, continued union activism at the factory level and strikes organized by workers were factors in ending the military regime. Unions reemerged following the return of civilian rule in 1985, and central labor organizations were legalized. During the 1990s the number of unions grew into the thousands and included factory and rural workers, employers, and professionals. In addition to umbrella organizations such as the Central Union of Workers and the General Confederation of Workers, both formed in 1983, there are unions for specific industries, such as metal workers, and for sectors of the economy, such as commerce, transport, and education.
Since the 1930s agriculture has declined in importance in the economy and employment. However, it still generates about one-third of export earnings. Brazil is the world’s largest producer of sugarcane and coffee. Soybeans have become an important crop since the 1970s. Brazil is now the world’s second largest producer of soybeans, which rival coffee as the leading agricultural export. Sugar output has more than doubled since 1975, partly to meet the demand for cane alcohol as a substitute for gasoline. Brazil is also one of the world’s largest producers of oranges, bananas, and papaws, a small tropical fruit. In addition to coffee, sugar, and soybeans, the leading crops are maize, various beans, rice, and manioc, or cassava. Pastoral farming is also important. There are 176 million head of cattle in Brazil; pigs, sheep, and goats are also important.
There has been considerable modernization in agriculture, through mechanization, the use of fertilizers and irrigation, and improvements in storage and transport. Settlements have advanced into the lands in the Center-West and the Amazon region, via planned settlement schemes and spontaneous colonization. This advance is partly a result of the displacement of farm workers by modernization. Brazil has a large number of landless rural dwellers, and the pattern of land ownership is very unequal.
Forestry and Fishing
The forests are an important source of a range of products for domestic use and export. Timber products such as paper and cellulose are important export commodities. Other valuable forest products include açaí fruit; babaçu nut; yerba maté, whose leaves are made into a tealike beverage; piaçava fiber, which is used to make brooms and cords; and charcoal, used largely in the iron industry.
Fish provide a modest contribution to the Brazilian diet. Two-thirds of the catch comes from sea fishing and the remaining one-third comes from inland waters. However, there is a marked contrast between the two systems. Commercial companies take in a majority of the saltwater fish catch, whereas private individuals catch most of the fish in the inland region. Fishing is particularly important in the states of Rio de Janeiro and Santa Catarina.
Minerals are a vital source of industrial raw materials and provide 8.6 percent of export earnings. In 2001 Brazil was the world’s leading producer of iron ore and one of the world’s largest exporters of the mineral. The country is also an important source of gold, tin, and manganese. Iron ore comes from Minas Gerais and more recently from the Serra da Carajás in Pará. Minas Gerais is also a major producer of manganese, bauxite, nickel, zinc, gold, diamonds, and semiprecious gemstones. Carajás has gold, nickel, copper, and the metallic element molybdenum. Other significant minerals are tin in Amazonas, manganese in Amapá, and bauxite, an important ore of aluminum, in Pará. A wide range of nonmetallic minerals are mined, including limestone, dolomite, phosphates, and quartz. Low-grade coal is produced in Paraná, Santa Catarina, and Rio Grande do Sul, but output has fallen by more than half since 1988.
Oil was first discovered in the Northeast in 1939, and in 1953 the government established a state company, Petrobrás, to control production, refining, and distribution of petroleum. The country remained heavily dependent on oil imports until large oil fields were discovered off the shore of Rio de Janeiro in 1974. In 1997 the government ended the Petrobrás oil monopoly and opened the oil industry to competition. New oil fields were discovered near Rio de Janeiro—the nation’s largest oil producer—and off the shore of Sergipe in 1996. In 2001 Brazil was one of the top 20 producers of crude petroleum in the world. Significant oil and natural gas fields have also been found in the Amazon region.
Brazil is also home to Companhia Vale do Rio Doce, a company that ranks as one of the world’s largest iron ore producers and exporters. The Brazilian government had controlled the company but in 1997 it privatized Companhia Vale do Rio Doce as part of an economic plan to raise revenue. Companhia Vale do Rio Doce runs large iron mines in Minas Gerais and a mineral complex in Carajás.
The manufacturing sector has been a key to Brazil’s economic development, with periods of rapid growth, especially in the late 1950s and the 1970s. A major objective of Brazil’s industrialization policy was to replace imported manufactures with Brazilian-made ones. As a result, industry has become highly diversified, including a range of high-technology and heavy industries. This diversification includes such manufactured items as food, drink, textiles, clothing, vehicles, and chemicals. Industrialization involved a mixed pattern of investment by domestic capital; by the government in areas such as steel, petrochemicals, and aircraft; and by foreign capital in the manufacture of automobiles, chemicals, and electrical goods. As a result, Brazil is one of the world’s major steel producers and car manufacturers. The vehicle industry has developed since 1956, with Fiat, Ford, General Motors, and Volkswagen as the largest firms.
The leading industries are machinery and transportation equipment, food and metal processing, automobiles, steel, chemicals, and textiles and clothing. Industry is highly concentrated geographically, with the leading concentrations in metropolitan São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Campinas, Porto Alegre, and Belo Horizonte. Technologically advanced industries are also highly concentrated in these locations.