History, Social Change
relative poverty, European immigrants, slave trade, immigrant population, Janeiro
Up until the early 20th century, Brazilís economy and social structure reflected a pattern established in the early days of colonial development. A small class of wealthy landowners controlled most of the countryís wealth and power, while the majority of Braziliansómostly slaves, their descendents, and the mulatto populationólived in relative poverty as agricultural workers. This situation began to change gradually toward the end of the 19th century when large numbers of immigrants arrived in Brazil. After the slave trade was abolished in 1850, the coffee planters could not find enough workers and the government began actively recruiting Europeans to immigrate to Brazil. In the last decade of the 19th century about 100,000 European immigrants arrived each year. The numbers increased during the early years of the 20th century, reaching a peak of about 600,000 for the period from 1911 to 1915. Many of these immigrants settled in the cities and urban centers.
Although Brazilís economy continued to be based on agricultural production, industry had begun to develop by the 1920s, especially around the cities of Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo. Industrialization was accompanied by the growth of a small working class and middle class. Both groups found themselves excluded from the power structure developed by landowners to dominate rural workers. The immigrants, particularly Italians who made up about a third of the immigrant population, introduced new political ideologies from Europe, where workers and middle-class citizens were becoming increasingly active in politics. Many of these workers were frustrated with their lack of access to Brazilís political system. As their numbers grew, their demands for a place in the nationís political system also increased. Socialists and anarchists organized unions and strikes, but they encountered intense repression from the government.
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