The Baby Republic Of Brazil
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
THE PORTUGUESE HALF OF SOUTH AMERICA-AN ENORMOUS COUNTRY OF VAST RESOURCES-TRAVELS THROUGH WEST DEUTSCHLAND-THRIVING CITIES AND VAST PASTURES OWNED BY GERMANS-A VISIT TO THE DEATH HARBOUR OF SANTOS-HOW COFFEE IS LOADED FOR AMERICA-UP THE MOUNTAINS TO SAO PAULO, THE GREAT COFFEE METROPOLIS.
BRAZIL is the baby among the world's great republics, the biggest infant in the international animal show. It is less than ten years old as a republican government, and to what it will grow no one can tell. It has twenty-one States, some of which like Sao Paulo, where I now am, are growing so powerful that they may break off from the main body politic and become republics themselves. Each of the Brazilian States has its local politics and politicians. Its people are full of State pride, and the federal union has not the strength that it has in other South American countries.
Brazil is so vast and its sections are so far apart that without better railroad and telegraphic communications it will be impossible to manage it well from Rio de Janeiro. I have written something about Matto Grosso. That State is one-sixth the size of the United States. How long does the reader think it takes the federal officials to get to it from Rio de Janeiro ? It requires more than a month by steamboat ! The distance is 3,840 miles; for one must go round by Montevideo and up the Paraguay and other rivers to reach its capital, Cuyaba. It takes a month to go from Rio to Manaos, the capital of the chief province of the Amazon; and Para, at the mouth of the Amazon, is almost as far away from Rio as it is from the United States.
Brazil is the Russia of the South American continent. It is as extensive as the United States, without Alaska and our outlying possessions, and ranks fifth among the great countries of the world. It is longer from north to south than from Pittsburg to San Francisco, and wider from east to west than from New York to Salt Lake. It comprises about half of all the land of South America, and contains more than half its people.
We look upon South America as a Spanish continent. It would be just as proper to call it a Portuguese continent, for Brazil is Portuguese, and its 18,000,o00 people speak the Portuguese tongue. The Brazilians are in many respects different from other South Americans; they have a character and customs of their own, and they are now, for the first time, managing their country for themselves, and that after republican methods.
The country is far different, physically, from what I supposed it to be. Many of us look upon it as a vast lowland forest, with here and there a coffee plantation or a rubber grove, and all around the ghost of yellow fever. The real Brazil is an empire with soil and productions equal in variety to the United States, and a climate in many parts as salubrious as that of any part of our country. Brazil is by no means all flat. The Amazon valley is a great lowland plain about as wide as from New York to Cleveland, and as long as from Philadelphia to Denver, sloping gently from the Andes to the Atlantic. It is covered with forests, but much of it is healthful, and on the Amazon itself the weather is cool for a considerable part of the year.
South of the Amazon valley are highlands, some sterile and others afflicted with terrible droughts. Just below the Amazon they are having a drought now, and the ships of the Brazilian government are carrying the starving people to the rubber camps where they can get work. Below the highlands are other great plains varying from 900 to 3,o00 feet above the sea, and having a climate in which white men can live. On these plains there are rich farms, many parts of which need only a slight cultivation to make them produce abundantly.
The southern half of Brazil is the most healthful part of the country. There are regions there which are as healthful as any in the world. I am now half a mile above the sea, and this is the character of most of the land of this region. There are about 1,500,000 people in the State of Sao Paulo. The State of Minas Geraes, just above it, has 4,000,000 people, and just below is the well-settled State of Rio Grande do Sul.
Rio Grande do Sul is an agricultural province. It raises wheat and meat. It has vast pastures on which hundreds of thousands of cattle are feeding. It has beef factories in which more than $7,000,o00 worth of jerked beef was made last year. At the town of Pelotas alone 300,000 oxen are annually slaughtered, and there are factories there making soap, candles, and manure out of the refuse.
Rio Grande do Sul has a number of cities, in which are street railroads, colleges, and daily newspapers. In the capital, Rio Grande, there are five daily papers; in Porto Alegre six, and in Pelotas four. There are good banks conducted by Englishmen, but nearly all other businesses are managed by Germans. There are German stores, cigar factories, and breweries. About one-sixth of all the inhabitants are Germans, and on this account the country has been called West Deutschland. Of late a large number of Italians and Portuguese have come in, but the manufacturing and nearly all the export trade is still in the hands of the Germans, and they own, it is said, about one-fourth of the property. In a quarrel between Brazil and the Kaiser, this State might easily break away and demand German protection.
The climate of Rio Grande do Sul is about that of Washington city. In January, midsummer, the thermometer goes up as high as 100°, and in the winter month of July the ground is often covered with snow. North of Rio Grande do Sul are the States of Santa Catharina and Parana, both of which will some day be populated by Europeans. They are very similar to Rio Grande and have vast undeveloped areas.
Above these States lies Sao Paulo, one of the best provinces of Brazil, a region which furnishes nearly all the coffee consumed in the United States, and one of the richest countries in the world. Generally speaking, it occupies a high elevation, although there is a low strip of malarious land along the coast. Back of this is a range of mountains about 3,000 feet in altitude, and then a plateau, which slopes gently toward the west. The soil of the plateau is a rich red loam, producing all kinds of vegetables and fruits, and also coffee, corn, and grain. The lands along the coast are good for sugar; indeed, the first sugar in Brazil was raised near Santos. Of late, sugar-planting has been largely given up and the people are devoting themselves to raising coffee. Many of them have made fortunes, and, as a result, the capital city of Sao Paulo is now a town of rich men.
The Paulistas, as the people of Sao Paulo are called, have al-ways been the best of the Brazilians. They were among the first settlers, showing their enterprise at the outset as kidnappers in stealing Indians and making them work. It is estimated that they captured 2,000,000 Indians in three centuries. Later on, they distinguished themselves in other ways. They have now the best railroads in Brazil, the most modern improvements, and the best government. The State obtains its revenue from an export tax, and, as the coffee exports run into many millions a year, it has a large revenue.
Sâo Paulo is the largest city in southern Brazil, and one of the richest cities in South America. It is the coffee metropolis of the country, being connected by rail with the coffee-growing districts and also with the great coffee port of Santos, on the Atlantic. I came from Montevideo to Santos in a Royal Mail steamer and thence here on the railroad. am housed in a good hotel and my surroundings are pleasant. Sao Paulo is one of the best towns on the continent; it is wide-a-wake and has many good buildings and fine stores, showing that the people spend freely of their money.
Let us walk out on the streets. It is early morning and the children are just going to school; among them are some bright-faced little girls, without hats, and little boys with hats and bare legs; they are trudging along over the cobblestone streets, with their school-books on their backs. Here come the street cars! They are painted red and are drawn by mules. What a lot of them there are ! They go along a-train, one car following the other until they are beyond the business streets, when they separate so as to reach the various sections of the suburbs. Some of the cars are loaded with freight. A man with a basket cannot get into a first-class car, and people returning from market have to use the freight cars. There comes a car loaded with newspapers, for Sao Paulo has half-a-dozen dailies. We find newsboys selling papers on every corner. The negroes, we notice also, are numerous; there are more here than there are in Washington. There come three coloured men now! — labourers on their way to work. Hear them talk as they pass! This one is laughing; his "yah ! yah ! yah ! " is just like the laugh of one of our dark-skinned Americans, but the language of the conversation is Portuguese, and though we have heard the words we cannot see the joke. We go out into the suburbs. The houses on the edge of the city are as fine as our own. We visit the public buildings and find them also equal to those of the State capitals in our country, and I doubt if we have a college building which will compare with the Normal School of Sâo Paulo.
It was by way of Santos that I came to Sâo Paulo, passing through its malarious harbour, and spending some time in one of the unhealthiest cities in the world. Santos is seldom free from yellow fever, and at times even the sailors in the harbour are decimated by it. Some captains do not allow their men to go ashore while in port, and one steamship company has purchased an island near by, on which its sailors are housed while the ships are being loaded. The city, however, is beautifully situated. It lies right under the mountains, at the end of a winding water-way, about which our ship twisted this way and that as it sailed in from the Atlantic. The water was of a bilious green. Low hills and islands, covered with thick woods, rose in front of us, and smoky forbidding clouds hung over Santos like a pall. All nature was gloomy, and the surroundings made me feel as if I were in a valley of death. The air was soft, moist, and warm. Our steamer moved slowly in, rising and falling with the tide, the engine making a muffled sound on the soft still air. As we came nearer we could see coloured buildings lining the shore. Some were shaded by palm trees, their long fan-like leaves hanging listlessly and despairingly down. Closer still, and we reached a forest of masts. The harbour was filled with them, and among them were ships from Norway, England, Italy, and the United States. All were loading coffee, and we could see scores of negroes carrying great bags of the bean from the shore to the ships. The ships were anchored along a granite wharf, and the men walked up on planks carrying the coffee. On the other side of the wharf were long warehouses, whence came the coffee to the steamers.
We cast anchor some distance from the shore, and I arranged with a barefooted Portuguese to carry my luggage from the ship to the customhouse, thence to the station. We rode in his little boat up through the harbour. The water was like glass. It was of a steel-blue colour, and from it came a smell like that from a barrel of water grown sour by being left out of doors in the sun. As we sailed, the boatman put his fingers to his nose and remarked : "Yellow fever "; upon which I showed him some silver and urged him to hasten. He did so, and we finally reached the landing-place.
I spent some time in Santos wandering about its narrow streets. Its buildings are like those of a Dutch town; they are high, and are painted in all the colours of the rainbow. The city, though it has only 25,000 inhabitants, is a business one and does a vast trade. It is visited regularly by 20 lines of ocean steamers; and among others by coffee ships from New York, for the bulk of the exports is of coffee. You see this as you walk through the streets: you go by warehouses filled with coffee; there is a smell of coffee in the air, and there are many large rooms in which half-naked negroes are shovelling coffee-beans into bags. There are rooms in which men and women are sorting coffee, singing at their work, and there are others still in which they are sewing up the bags for shipment.
There are cafés everywhere. I entered one and asked for a cup of coffee, wishing to drink it in this great coffee port. It was brought me by a white-aproned waiter and served without cream in a little porcelain cup not bigger than an egg-cup. I drank it; it was as black as ink, as strong as lye, and as hot as liquid-fire, but still very good and exceedingly cheap, for it cost me only one cent.
From Santos I came to Sao Paulo, the coffee metropolis, being carried over the mountains on one of the best railroads in Brazil. The railroad has a monopoly of the coffee transportation from Sao Paulo to Santos, and it carries so much coffee that it pays dividends sometimes of 5o per cent per annum. The train shoots out of Santos over the lowlands to the foot of the mountains. It climbs these by a series of cables moved by stationary steam-engines rising by three inclined planes to the plateau, about 3,000 feet above Santos. Here an ordinary locomotive is again fastened to the train and a ride of 3o or more miles brings one to Sao Paulo.