Our South American Neighbors - G. Southworth


We are hearing much to-day of South America which, like a great magnet, is drawing to it the attention of the entire civilized world. Perhaps no other republic on that continent is adding more to the drawing power of this magnet than the United States of Brazil. Does that phrase—The United States of Brazil—seem a bit strange to you? In its political divisions, Brazil closely resembles our own nation. Our republic consists of forty-eight states, and one federal district. Brazil has twenty states, one federal district and one Indian territory.

Brazil differs from all the other republics in South America in that it is not a Spanish but a Portuguese speaking country. It was a Portuguese navigator—Pedro Alvares Cabral—who discovered this part of the continent in the year 1500.

[Illustration] from Our South American Neighbors by G. Southworth


Cabral had no idea the land was part of great South America. He thought it was merely an island. Taking possession of it in the name of his King and the Church he gave it a Portuguese name which means "The Land of the Holy Cross."

By that name the country was called for nearly half a century. How did it become changed to Brazil? It was this way. Because Cabral found no gold or silver there, Portugal paid no attention to its remote possession. Finally, however, certain exploring expeditions found that The Land of the Holy Cross possessed a great quantity of fine dyewood which in Europe was called Brazil wood. The commercial importance of this find resulted in changing the poetical name of the country to a name which resembled a trade mark.

Now you are wondering how small Portugal was able to hold this great immense region of Brazil. The truth of the matter is that she did not. Varied fortunes came to Brazil and the country was invaded at different times by the French, the Dutch and the British. Then, because none of these European powers knew the real wealth of Brazil the land was finally given over to Portugal, and Portugal went ahead colonizing Brazil and ruled over it until the year 1822. Then the Brazilians declared their independence of Portugal, but Brazil did not at once become a republic. The people thought they would prefer a monarchy so they chose Don Pedro I, a son of the King of Portugal, as ruler of their independent empire.

A few years later, Don Pedro I gave up the throne, asking that his little boy be made ruler in his place.

The Brazilians agreed, and with the infant son a mere figure-head of power, chose some of their best men to manage the affairs of their nation. Finally Don Pedro II grew old enough to rule for himself and for forty-seven years governed Brazil wisely and well. Then, as he had no son to succeed him, the Brazilians were forced to make another move. This time they actually changed their government and in 1889 became a republic with a constitution modeled closely after ours of the United States.

The Brazilian President is elected every four years but cannot succeed himself. He must be native-born and over thirty-five years of age. His duties and powers are very similar to those of our President. Likewise the various departments of the Brazilian government resemble closely the various departments of our own government.

Because the geographical maps of South America which we see are usually drawn on a smaller scale than those of the United States, we do not fully appreciate the vastness of Brazil, nor do we realize that the United States of Brazil covers a larger area than the United States of America. But, though larger in area, Brazil has not reached us in material development. Their slow development is due to lack of population, great Brazil having less than one-third as many people as the United States of America.

"How men from the Mississippi would make things hum along the Amazon and the Parana!" exclaims the United States traveler in Brazil. "In thirty years, Brazil would have fifty millions of inhabitants. Steamers would ply upon the rives, railways would thread the recesses of the forests." Yes, unquestionably it is a greater population, especially a greater white population, that Brazil sorely needs.

There are five distinct elements among this republic's people today. First, there are the descendants of the Portuguese settlers, who call themselves the true Brazilians. Second, are the aboriginal, or primitive Indians. The latest census estimates that in the Amazon region there are today 500,000 uncivilized Indians. This part of Brazil then is as "dark" as darkest Africa, never yet having received the light of learning. Third, in Brazil's population come negroes. These are descendants of the African slaves which Brazil, like the United States, used to import for work on great plantations. Fourth, there are the mixed descendants of all these three races. And, fifth, are the European immigrants, a rapidly increasing class of people from all nations.

As might be supposed, the upper classes of the republic's population are chiefly to be found in Brazil's beautiful capital, Rio de Janeiro. They are a delightful, hospitable, courteous people. Many of them have been educated abroad, mainly in France, and speak the French language almost as fluently as their own.

To-day the Brazilian boys are being sent in increasingly greater numbers to schools in our states, especially for technical education. It is on such promising young men that Brazil relies for the various kinds of engineering and technical improvements which she so greatly needs.

More and more Brazilian women, too, are being given a practical education to fit them for self-supporting work.

The homes, in Rio de Janeiro particularly, are for the most part charming, tasteful and, in many cases, very luxurious.

[Illustration] from Our South American Neighbors by G. Southworth


The people enjoy amusement and always welcome "festa" occasions. Brazil has two independence days, one the 7th of September, commemorating her anniversary as an independent empire; the other, the 15th of November, marking the birth of her republic. Both are national holidays. The great Carnival season, however, occurs the week preceding Lent. In Rio de Janeiro the merry-making lasts for three whole days and during that time business is entirely suspended. The gorgeous decorations, the elaborate processions and the general spirit of gayety make the capital an enticing center for great crowds of people.

"But," you say, "Rio's more than a million inhabitants cannot live always on good times." No, indeed, and it would be most unjust to imply such a thing. "Order and Progress" is emblazoned on the flag of the United States of Brazil, and if there is any one city in the republic which is completely worthy of this inspiring motto, it is the beautiful majestic capital—Rio de Janeiro.

Rio—for nearly everyone uses this shorter term—was endowed by nature to be one of the most beautiful spots in the world. Nevertheless, for a great many years it was handicapped by the most deadly pests of the tropics—yellow fever, bubonic plague and smallpox. This unfortunate condition existed from the time of the city's founding until 1903. The inhabitants, not understanding how these dread fevers were spread, made no attempt to stamp them out. Sometimes the epidemics were so serious that for weeks not a single merchant-ship would stop at the infected port.

For centuries, then, the city was little more than an actual pest hole for disease. Then the wand of science, in the skillful hands of sanitation engineers, touched Rio and the Brazilian capital came into its own. If you would know the Rio of old, picture a city with unattractive, narrow streets—streets which were more like dark, rough alleys, than public thoroughfares. Imagine them lined with old-fashioned, low-lying buildings, and worst of all, imagine foul-smelling, open sewers which were the breeding places of all kinds of diseases.

In 1903 Rio started house cleaning on an enormous scale at the cost of $100,000,000. Low marshy places were filled in, an up-to-date water and sewer system was installed, the breeding places of mosquitoes—those dread agents of infection—were thoroughly wiped out and the entire city was made absolutely sanitary.

And all this meant progress. For, in the process of cleaning and polishing, many changes were made. Now picture modern, artistic buildings in place of the old, homely, low-lying structures; wide, paved streets and broad charming avenues and spacious parks. All these changes were accomplished in little more than ten years. It is no wonder that all late writers of Brazil nearly exhaust their vocabularies in praising the progress made by Rio de Janeiro.

[Illustration] from Our South American Neighbors by G. Southworth


In the reconstruction of the city, perhaps the most remarkable feature was the building of the boulevard now known as the Avenida Rio Branco. This avenue sweeps through the center of the city and continues for several miles around the bay. It is said that over three thousand men were kept at work night and day to construct this avenue, and that over four hundred buildings were torn down. The change was accomplished in less than two years and the magnificent boulevard, one hundred and five feet in width, to-day presents an enchanting scene.

Would it not be wonderful if we, too, could take the beautiful drive along the Avenida Rio Branco? The views would make us think that we were in fairy land. Imagine yourself in a softly purring car, with the avenue a strand of dazzling white in the flood of sunshine, sweeping ahead of you in a long, wonderful curve. Part of the way palatial homes are on either hand, for this is one of the most fashionable residence sections in Rio de Janeiro. Again, right beside you is the sea, a sparkling turquoise blue, and in the distance lie the hills—some jagged peaks of granite, some covered with a feathery forest of green.

The cliffs of the mountains descend majestically to the sea and form a truly land-locked harbor. Two of them which extend out beyond the city are very unusual in outline. One, a great cone of bare granite rising almost out of the sea, is known as the "Sugar Loaf." According to a pretty Brazilian legend, the Creator, having made the Bay of Rio de Janeiro, was so pleased with His work that He erected this monument as a sort of exclamation point to call man's attention to His masterpiece. The other lofty cliff, even more unusual in outline, is called by a Portuguese name which means "Hunchback."

[Illustration] from Our South American Neighbors by G. Southworth


With so many attractions it is no wonder that Rio's harbor is placed by the majority of travelers above all other harbors in the world. The famous Bay of Naples, the historic and stately Golden Horn of Constantinople, our own charming Golden Gate at San Francisco, all of these are surpassed by the grandeur and picturesqueness of the Bay of Rio de Janeiro.

It is this great magnificent harbor which accounts for Rio's name. When the two explorers, Joao Manoel and Amerigo Vespucci, sailed down the coast of Brazil in the year 1501 and came by the "Sugar Loaf" into the Bay, they thought they were entering the mouth of a mighty river. So, it being the first of January, they simply called their discovery Rio de Janeiro, or "The River of January."

Of course, Rio de Janeiro was afterwards discovered to be not a river at all, but the name, although a misfit, has become that of the greatest commercial port of Brazil.

We have not yet stopped to learn of what this republic's commerce consists, nor have we looked at her other ports. These are, Santos, Bahia, Recife or Pernambuco and Para. In order of the total value of their commerce, Santos comes after Rio de Janeiro.

Now, the state of Sao Paulo is the coffee garden of the world. Brazil's chief export is coffee and in this one state alone more than half of the world's coffee supply is grown. No wonder Santos ranks as Brazil's second commercial port.

If you were in Santos, no matter which way you turned, you would see coffee in some form or other. On the street you would see drays going by, laden high with sacks of coffee; if you went near the railroads you would see long freight trains loaded with coffee; while at the docks you would see a steady stream of men carrying great bags of coffee into large ocean steamships.

[Illustration] from Our South American Neighbors by G. Southworth


The city was formerly unhealthful and old fashioned. But, as a result of the spirit of progress and the money made in the coffee business, Santos, with its some 50,000 inhabitants, is to-day a modern, bustling little city. It has a thorough system of sanitation, an excellent water supply, an admirably equipped harbor, and all such improvements as trolley systems, electric lights and telephones. After this, whenever you look at a map of Brazil, remember that Santos whispers proudly to you, "I am the chief coffee port in the world."

But though Santos is the chief coffee port of the world, Sao Paulo is the chief coffee market of Brazil. In Sao Paulo live the great coffee merchants, the majority of them very wealthy or fast becoming so. Sao Paulo is in appearance more like an American city than any other place in Brazil. It is unusual to see very much manufacturing in agricultural Brazil, but Sao Paulo, with its population of 565,000, seems to be growing rapidly in this field. The high smoke-stacks of its many factories rise on every hand. Here are many large shoe-making factories, several cotton mills, a few foundries, and factories for making clothing, hats, furniture, and other necessities.

It would be interesting, indeed, to ride about fifty miles from Sao Paulo out into the country to the heart of the great coffee plantations. Coffee thrives best in a hot, moist climate, and on a rich, well-drained soil, and just these essential conditions are to be had in the state of Sao Paulo.

Arriving at the plantation home of a great coffee planter, we would be treated with true Brazilian courtesy and hospitality. Some of the largest plantations are veritable villages with the plantation owner like a feudal lord of old. One famous "coffee king" has nearly eight thousand people living on his one plantation, and 23,000,000 pounds of coffee are said to be marketed by this man in a single year. The plantations, whether as colossal as this one or not, are managed in a very efficient manner. They have their own stores, their own blacksmiths, their own telephone lines, their own private railways even.

In October, no more beautiful sight can be imagined than a great coffee plantation, for this is the flowering season. The low, carefully pruned trees, covering the hills and tablelands for miles, glisten in the sunlight with their soft, feathery blossoms, and everywhere there is a delicate fragrance. As soon as the flowers wither and drop. the green berries begin to form. These usually ripen in about seven months, and at that time look very much like ripe cherries.

When the berry is ripe, all other work on the plantation is dropped and the harvesting begins. This occurs either in May or June. And oh, everybody is busy! Large sheets are spread under each tree and the men, mounting ladders, or standing on the ground if they can reach high enough, carefully pull all the berries from the trees, allowing them to fall upon the sheets. From the sheets the berries are gathered up and swiftly sifted by women and girls to remove the stems and leaves which have fallen too. The berries are then placed in baskets and carried to one side, out of the way.

These berries each contain two seeds or coffee beans. Each bean is covered tightly by a thin, delicate, silver skin, and outside this by a parchment. Then comes the fleshy pulp of the outer portion of the fruit in which the two beans lie imbedded. All of these coverings have to be removed in preparing the beans for market. So you see the picking is the smallest part of the process. Nearly all of the work, however, is done right in the open out-of-doors.

[Illustration] from Our South American Neighbors by G. Southworth


After the berries are gathered into the baskets, they are carried to large tanks and washed in running water. They are then run through a "pulper," a machine which lightly crushes the pulp. Next they go into a tank again where the pulps float off, leaving the seeds. But these seeds still have on their tight little double-jackets. They are therefore put through a process of fermentation which removes the first coat, the parchment. The beans, still enveloped in their thin little silver skins, must now be run into vats, washed once more, and spread out upon great stone or concrete floors to dry. After this process is carefully completed, the beans are put through rubbing machines which at last take off the silver skins. Then they are run through machines called sorters, which grade the beans according to size.

[Illustration] from Our South American Neighbors by G. Southworth


The product is now ready for sacking and weighing, needing only to be roasted and ground to be ready for the coffee pot.

Now, for the figures. Take a long breath. Brazil's average coffee crop is estimated at something more than 1,593,120,000 pounds.

[Illustration] from Our South American Neighbors by G. Southworth


Another of Brazil's important products and exports is rubber. Just as the southern part of Brazil is her great coffee garden, so the northern part—namely, the great region of the Amazon—is the home of rubber. We seem to be using a good many superlatives in describing the various parts of this interesting republic. Now comes another, Brazil's Amazon is the greatest river in the world. Its total length is over 3,850 miles while our greatest river, the Mississippi, measures about 3,000.

Up in this tropical northern region of Brazil is the port of Para. And here another superlative adjective is required, for Para is the greatest rubber port in the world. It is the gateway to the state of Para, an enormous and rich stretch of country.

The state of Para is twice as large as our state of Texas. But its vast resources are handicapped by a lack of population, there being, on the average, less than one person to each square mile of territory. It has an extremely fertile soil, capable of producing almost anything necessary for the support and comfort of life, and yet rubber is the only product which is developed.

Complaint is made that in the state of Para the people think of nothing, deal in nothing, and dream of nothing but rubber. But what is more natural? In this all-important industry the people have made or are busy making their fortunes, and if there is nobody to develop the other rich resources of the state, it is not their fault.

The city of Para, with its 200,000 inhabitants, is very beautiful and up-to-date. With its magnificent palms and luxurious vegetation, it seems like a city built in the midst of a beautiful tropical garden. Being almost on the "line" of the Equator, it has a very warm climate, although the natives do not seem to think it unpleasant.

In the beautiful and spacious bay which stretches out in front of Para, are moored steamers from all parts of the world. The docks are the busiest place in the city. Men of all shades, from yellow to black, and also many whites, are busy loading vessels with rubber from the scores of enormous shipping houses along the wharves.

But one cannot learn as much as one would like to know about rubber standing along these busy docks. So pretend to be a rich rubber merchant and go over a part of your great estate with one of your tappers.

You get up very early in the morning and follow a trail through the forest with your workman and guide. The trail winds through a dense tangle of tropical growth. The trees make an almost solid roof of green above your head. Monkeys swing through the branches. No zoo ever had such nimble creatures as these. You see many gayly colored birds flying about, the most familiar of which are brightly hued parrots. In the distance you may hear the howling of wild beasts. Probably the most dangerous of these is the great spotted jaguar whose home has always been the Amazon valley. Aren't you frightened? No, for you are a rubber merchant and as has been said, "The howling of enraged beasts disturbed in their lairs, the fear of poisonous snakes, the dread of the fever-laden mosquito, the annoyance of troublesome insects are nothing, with the price of rubber soaring upward toward three dollars per pound."

Each rubber tree that you come to, the tapper skillfully gashes in several different places with a sort of little hatchet. He then fastens a tin cup under each gash. Unlike our maple trees, it is not the sap of the rubber tree that produces the rubber, but a juice which is yielded from the bark. As it flows, this juice looks much like milk, and it acts in the same way, for if left to itself it will separate into a lower fluid and a surface mass, actually called "cream." Latex is the correct name. The "cream" is the so-called India-rubber.

[Illustration] from Our South American Neighbors by G. Southworth


After the tapper has visited nearly a hundred trees, you return, hot and tired, to his hut. The next day you make the rounds of the rubber trees again to gather the milk from the cups. When you return this time to his hut, the tapper builds a fire, sprinkling it with palmetto nuts, which give off a dense white smoke.

[Illustration] from Our South American Neighbors by G. Southworth


On either side of the fire are two upright forked poles, supporting a horizontal pole over the blaze. With his right hand the tapper slaps the rubber milk on this horizontal pole by means of a wooden paddle, while with his left hand he keeps turning the pole round and round in the smoke.

This is the native method of preparing the "hams" of rubber as they are called. To-day there are other processes used, one involving chemicals, another employing separators similar to those used in butter making. But the primitive method of the tapper remains the most common.

When the hams are formed and cooled, the rubber is ready to be carried by trail and canoe to the nearest river port.

Bahia, another of Brazil's large seaports, is a city of 280,000 located in about the center of the republic's long coast line. The city is divided into an upper and lower town. The latter, stretching along one of the finest harbors in Brazil, is the business section of Bahia. The upper town, like Quebec in Canada, rises steeply from the sea. The bright hues of its buildings—vivid yellow, green, purple, sky blue, terra cotta, and many other equally striking shades—give the city so brilliant a coloring that someone has described Bahia as a "masked rainbow."

To return once more to the country's commerce, besides coffee and rubber, Brazil's three most important exports are hides and skins, cacao, and yerba mate or Paraguayan tea.

The chief products which Brazil buys are these: bread-stuffs, all kinds of iron and steel manufactures such as . machinery and locomotives, coal, cotton manufactures and textiles, chemicals and drugs.

In leaving this vast interesting republic it is worth while to divide Brazil into four imaginary parts and make a sort of summary of the entire great country. Along the frontiers of Guiana and also along a good deal of the coast between the mouth of the Amazon and Cape St. Roque lies the least valuable laud in Brazil. Large tracts are stony; protracted droughts are common and much of the land has hardly been settled at all.

The central section, extending about two-thirds of the way down, may be cut into a western and eastern part. The west central region is the land of the great Amazon selvas, the home of rubber. The east central part, consisting of mountain ridges and table lands, is a region of great resources. Here all tropical crops and fruits can be produced; cotton and sugar grow luxuriantly and might be a great source of wealth to Brazil except for lack of development.

Below these tropical regions of the country lies the fertile southern section. The upper part of this triangular space is given over to the enormous coffee plantations. The lower part is devoted to raising cattle and cereals.

Taking Brazil as a whole, no great country in the world possesses so large a proportion of useful land. In the United States there are deserts, and in gigantic Russia much is desert, much frozen waste. But on Brazil, lavish nature has bestowed nothing for which man cannot find a use. And it yet remains for man to respond to the promises which this magnificent country is offering. We have seen how the splendid capital, Rio de Janeiro, has proven herself worthy of the republic's fine motto: Order and Progress. Now we are looking for Brazil to swing into step with Rio.

Questions for Review and Study

  1. What form of government has Brazil?
  2. How many states belong to the United States of Brazil?
  3. What language is spoken in Brazil?
  4. What language is spoken in the other countries of South America?
  5. Tell the story of the discovery and naming of Brazil.
  6. What other nations besides the Portuguese invaded Brazil?
  7. Sketch the country's early history and give the date when it became a republic.
  8. Compare the United States of America. with the United States of Brazil as to size and population.
  9. What is Brazil's greatest need to-day?
  10. Name the different groups which make up her population.
  11. Describe Rio de Janeiro in its early days and tell how it differs today.
  12. How does the harbor of Rio compare with other noted harbors?
  13. Tell the story of the naming of Rio de Janeiro.
  14. Name the other leading ports of Brazil.
  15. For what is the state of Sao Paulo noted?
  16. Give a word picture of a South American coffee plantation.
  17. Describe the gathering of the coffee berries, and tell the story of the coffee from this time until it is marketed.
  18. What is Brazil's next most important crop?
  19. Where does it grow, and from what port is it shipped?
  20. Describe a trip into the rubber country and tell how the rubber is collected and how the "hams" are formed.
  21. Name Brazil's five chief exports and five chief imports.