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Back in the Day: Brazil declares its independence

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Back in the Day: Brazil declares its independence


September 7, 1822. Portugal’s Prince Pedro de Alcântara defies the Portuguese court and declares Brazil’s independence. The colonisation of Brazil began in earnest during the 1530s, when Portuguese merchants began importing slaves from Africa to meet booming sugar exports to Europe. A new influx of skilled Portuguese workers came when gold replaced sugar as Brazil’s main economic driver at the end of the 17th century. In 1808, when France’s Napoleon I invaded Portugal, the Portuguese royal family fled to Rio de Janeiro, which became for a while Portugal’s de facto capital. When King João VI returned to Europe in 1821, he left his son Pedro de Alcântara as Prince Regent of a sovereign Brazil. But when the Portuguese court tried to withdraw Brazilian sovereignty and re-establish a colony, Pedro defected to the cause of Brazilian nationalists. He declared “Independence or death” on the banks of the Ipiranga River on September 7. Brazil’s independence was only recognised by Portugal in August 1825 after a 22-month war but is celebrated by Brazilians on the anniversary of the declaration made by Pedro, who was later proclaimed Emperor of Brazil.

Also on September 7: Russian and Napoleonic forces fight the Battle of Borodino (1812); Desmond Tutu becomes the first black head of South Africa’s Anglican Church (1986); American rapper Tupac Shakur is shot and killed in Las Vegas (1996).

Born on September 7: Queen Elizabeth I of England (1533), Buddy Holly (1936), Gloria Gaynor (1949).

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