Brazil was discovered in 1499 by Pizon, a pilot for Christopher Columbus.  In the year 1500, Cabral, a Portuguese navigator, landed in Porto Seguro by wayward winds and took control of Brazil for the Portuguese on Easter Monday of 1500.  Although it is unclear the exact time that sugarcane was introduced into Brazil, in 1516, Dom Manoel I granted a charter that gave Brazil the ability to open up a sugar factory by giving them all the required resources to build it.  Although the first factory was reportedly opened in 1520 by Christovao Jacques and Pedro Capito, the real credit was given to Martin Affonso da Sousa in 1532.  He is recognized for bringing sugar can from the colony of Madeira to Sao Vincente, where he opened up a factory.  In the first sixty years of existence, the sugar industry in the Portuguese colony of Brazil was doing just fine.

“By 1548, there were six factories up and running in Sao Vincente

1576 – In Pernambuco, where Pedro Capito first built a factory in 1520, there were 36 factories producing about 675-900 tons of sugar

1579 – There were 50 factories in Olinda, a neighborhood in Pernambuco, responsible for the employment of over 4,000 slaves

1583 – Pernambuco was now home to 66 factories and Bahia, another state of Brazil, housed another 36 factories.  Together these were producing about 2,700 tons

1584 – 10,000 slaves called Brazil home, which meant plenty of labor for the booming sugar industry”

Thanks to sugar, Brazil had a very prosperous sixteenth century.  Estimates of the extent of sugar production range from 14,000 tons up to around 57,000 tons.  However in the seventeenth century, tides turned.  In 1624, the Dutch invaded Brazil because of the high numbers seen in Brazil’s economic reports.  They saw where the money was being made, so they invaded an ill-prepared Brazil.  By 1635 the entire Northern part of Brazil now belonged to the Dutch.  They hit the Brazilians where it hurt by closing the majority of their sugar factories by the end of 1635.

In 1640, the Portuguese were no longer controlled by the Spanish and in turn increased the sense of pride felt by Brazilians.  Although the Dutch did gain control of a large part of Brazil, the colony remained majority Portuguese.  In 1645, a war for liberation took place in Bahia, the furthest south that Dutch rule reached.  In 1654, Brazilians decided to expel all Dutch settlers after contemplating treating them nicely.  When it was discovered that Brazil had wealth of natural minerals in 1675, the sugar industry declined, although still prevalent, it picked up again around 1820.  (1)

(1) Deerr, Noël. The History of Sugar. London: Chapman and Hall, 1949. Print.


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