University of São Paulo: Brazilian independence changed Portuguese emigration goals

In 1831, the Law of November 7th, also known as the Feijó Law , was enacted , which prohibited the trafficking of slaves in Brazil. The decree, related to British pressure to end slavery, contributed to the change in the labor market in the independent country.

The thesis The meanings of Portuguese emigration: discourses, diplomas and policies between Portugal and Brazil (1835-1914) , developed at the Faculty of Philosophy, Letters and Human Sciences (FFLCH) at USP, demonstrates how this change, which occurred after independence in 1822, changed the objectives of the Portuguese coming to Brazil.

“Portuguese emigration has a very spontaneous character because it comes from a sequence of relationships that already existed”, said Marina Simões Galvanese, the researcher who is developing the study. According to her, the arrival of the Portuguese was intensified, at first, by the arrival of the royal family in the country and the transfer of the metropolis, in 1808.

Portuguese, especially from the coastal region of the Azores, received monarchical incentives to populate the Tupiniquim territory. Others came to accompany family members who already lived in Brazilian territory. With the prohibition of the slave trade, however, they started to leave Portugal to compose the job market that was being formed.

“The slave trade at that time was under a lot of pressure. Brazil was being pressured by England to end this traffic. So there is a concern to bring in more Portuguese”, explained Marina.

With the need for labor, landowners began to devise strategies to ensure that people, not enslaved, remained working.

Photo: Personal archive
Marina Simões Galvanese, FFLCH researcher – Photo: personal archive
They then created “extra-economic mechanisms”, as the researcher named. They were related to subjecting immigrants to transport debts made to bring them to Brazil. They should fix the values ​​before leaving employers.

Portuguese emigrants awaiting shipment to Brazil at the beginning of the 20th century – Photo: Reproduction/Revista Esparsos da História Aug/2015
“Trafficking in white slavery”
The arrival of Portuguese to work displeased the authorities and the Portuguese elite, who started to use the term “white slavery trade” to name the new objectives of emigration. This idea contained in the expression ran from the 19th to the 20th century.

“Slavery was the obvious comparison they had available to demonstrate the discomfort they had with the fact that the Portuguese were no longer the colonizers. They were coming here to do work that, until then, was exclusively intended for the enslaved”, said Marina.

The use of the term is imprecise, according to the researcher. This is because the arrival of Portuguese people to work was very different from the slave trade.

Among the differences is the distinction by color, because despite the law that abolished the African traffic, for years black people in Brazil continued to be treated as enslaved; the immigrant Portuguese remained temporarily working in a compulsory manner, unlike the enslaved blacks. In addition, immigrants could ask for consular intervention for their rights.

With the discontent, then, the authorities in Portugal began to hinder emigration, which was mainly composed of poor Portuguese from the Azores region, an archipelago of islands.

Portuguese emigrants on their way to Brazil – Wikimedia Commons
For example, bills and ordinances were created with requirements that should be complied with by both emigrants and their transporters.

Emigrants, for example, were required to present passports that proved they were complying with country rules, such as reporting for military service. “You going into the army was terrible, because the military service was so long. You had brutal physical punishment, which the population called a ‘blood tax’. So it was very common for people to try at all costs to escape military service”, explained Marina.

The onslaught of the Portuguese authorities, however, was not effective, as in addition to the population starting to circumvent the rules, with the forgery of documents, for example, it was practically impossible to control the entire coast of the Azores, where many immigrants fled.

According to the researcher, the flow of Portuguese emigration only diminished in mid-1914, when the First World War broke out. “ It was no longer possible to cross the Atlantic, so this flow is drastically reduced. It will only be resumed after the war,” he stated.

The researcher and the research
Marina Galvanese is a doctoral student in Social History and graduated in History from USP. His master’s degree was carried out at the University of Coimbra, in Portugal. His dissertation, which also explored Portuguese emigration, provided important bases for the development of his doctoral thesis. However, it remained to look at the Brazilian side of history.

“When I started the research, I started to see that I needed to look more to Brazil, because ‘these guys are coming here’, that makes all the difference”, he said.

After a period of teaching history, Marina managed to develop the final part of her thesis with a grant from Capes (Coordination for the Improvement of Higher Education Personnel), linked to the Ministry of Education.

“ Its great virtue is knowing how to dialogue, at the same time, the literature on emigration policies in Brazil and Portugal with an impressive wealth of documents”, said Marina’s advisor, professor Francisco Carlos Palomanes Martinho, from the Department of Social History at the FFLCH-USP.

“This study brings new and important insights into Portuguese emigration to Brazil. And more: as this is an extended period (1834-1914), it perceives the continuities and discontinuities of emigration policies in different governments, between their respective monarchies and republics”, stated the professor.

The thesis Os Sentidos da Emigração Portuguesa will be defended, that is, presented to an evaluation panel on November 23, 2021.

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