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Espírito Santo

Espírito Santo

Espírito Santo, a small mountainous state (1993 metropolitan population 3,412,746) located on the coast of Brazil, northeast of Rio de Janeiro, whose capital is Vitória. The original Indian inhabitants were the Papanazes, who were forced out by the Goaytacazes and the Tupiniquins. The first Europeans to settle in the area were a band of Portuguese who accompanied the Donatário Vasco Fernandes Coutinho in 1535. The captaincy of the state had been granted to Coutinho by the Portuguese crown to honor his services in India. He founded Vila Velha, the first capital of the captaincy of Espírito Santo, from which the state gets its name.

The early history of Espírito Santo was marked by frequent warfare against the Indians, the English, and the French. Coutinho's successor, D. Simom de Castello-Branco, was murdered by Tamayo Indians. In 1592 the state was attacked by the English pirate Thomas Cavendish, who was successfully defeated by the Portuguese and their Indian allies. Some sugar plantations flourished in the seventeenth century, when the Dutch also invaded the captaincy.

The first gold extracted from Minas Gerais was displayed in Espírito Santo in 1695. This gold arrived via the Rio Doce as a gift to the Capitão Mor from Antônio Rodriguez Arzam. Henceforth, Espírito Santo would be linked to Minas Gerais via trade, first to the goldfields of the eighteenth century and then to the iron ore deposits of the twentieth century. It is the country's second-largest exporter of ore.

The year 1830 marked the beginning of the national government's colonization efforts in the state. Immigrants who have settled in Espírito Santo include Germans, Italians, and Poles. These immigrants shaped the primarily agricultural nature of the state, whose people, nicknamed capixabas, cultivate coffee and rice. In 1991 Albuino Azeredo was the first black to become governor of the state. During the late 1990s and the early twenty-first century, Espirito Santo experienced a crime wave requiring federal intervention. Its numerous ports that export products to Europe have made it an attractive location for drug traffickers.

See alsoMinas Gerais; Mining: Colonial Brazil.


Robert Southey, History of Brazil, 3 vols. (1819; repr. 1969); Brazil A/Z: Enciclopédia alfabética em um único volume (1988).

Additional Bibliography

Aguiar, Maciel di. Brincantes & quilombolas. São Mateus, Brazil: Memorial, 2005.

Bittencourt, Gabriel Augusto de Mello. Café e modernização: O Espírito Santo no século XIX. Rio de Janeiro: Livraria Editora Cátedra, 1987.

Novaes, Maria Stella de. História do Espírito Santo. Vitória, Brazil: Fundo Editorial do Espírito Santo, 1968.

Osório, Carloa; Adriana Bravin; and Leonor de Araujo Santanna. Negros do Espírito Santo. São Paulo: Escrituras, 1999.

Rocha, Haroldo Corrêa, and Angela Maria Morandi. Cafeicultura e grande indústria: A transição no Espírito Santo, 1955–1985. Vitória, Brazil: Fundação Ceciliano Abel de Almeida, 1999.

Souza Filho, Hildo M. de. The Adoption of Sustainable Agricultural Technologies: A Case Study in the State of Espírito Santo, Brazil. Brookfield, U.K.: Ashgate, 1997.

                                    Sheila L. Hooker

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