Rio Grande do Sul

views updated

Rio Grande do Sul

Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil's southernmost state, fifth largest in population (2005 population, 10,854,343), fourth in industrial production. Long remote from the national center of power and a recurrent source of instability, Rio Grande do Sol has had a disproportionate impact on Brazilian history due to its strategic position bordering Uruguay and Argentina, its influence as headquarters of the powerful Third Army, and the exceptional list of national leaders it has produced, including seven presidents.

The state's historical development has been shaped by strong regionalism, an economy dependent on Brazil's internal market, and divisions between its pastoral south, linked by geography and customs to the Río de la Plata, and its agricultural center and northern plateau. Spanish Jesuits first settled its northwest, founding the Sete Povos missions in 1687. With the first Portuguese settlement in 1737, it became a contested border zone between Spanish and Portuguese empires. The captaincy of Rio Grande do São Pedro was created in 1760; the captaincy-general of Rio Grande do Sul in 1807. Caught up in the continual strife of the La Plata region, its inhabitants, often called gaúchos, formed strong military traditions. They proclaimed an independent republic in the Farroupilha Revolt (1835–1845), the longest of the regional revolts that threatened the unity of the empire during the regency.

In the late nineteenth century, German and Italian immigrants spread small family farms across the northern plateau, challenging the dominance of the southern cattle economy. During the Old Republic, the state was distinctive in its positivist constitution, authoritarian presidential structure, and strong two-party system. The region was plunged into bloody civil war in 1893 by the Federalist Revolt (1893), the first serious threat to the republic, but by 1910 Rio Grande do Sul had taken its place beside Minas Gerais and São Paulo as one of the three dominant states and coarbiter of presidential successions. In the 1920s it was a focus of tenente revolts.

Rio Grande do Sul took a leading part in the 1930 revolution that put its governor, Getúlio Vargas, in the presidency and began a period of major Riograndense influence in national politics. Its support of Vargas condemned the 1932 Paulista Revolt to failure, and it played a critical role in securing the succession of gaúcho João Goulart to the presidency in 1961. Once the traditional breadbasket of the country, land shortages and soil exhaustion weakened the state economy, accelerating out-migration and land conflict. Diversification in telecommunications and energy has yielded new growth in the industrial sector, which accounts for more than 40 percent of the state's economy.

See alsoFarroupilha Revolt; Minas Gerais; Río de la Plata; São Paulo (State).


Joseph L. Love, Rio Grande do Sul and Brazilian Regionalism, 1882–1930 (1971).

Carlos E. Cortés, Gaúcho Politics in Brazil (1974).

Additional Bibliography

Baiocchi, Gianpaolo. Militants and Citizens: The Politics of Participatory Democracy in Porto Alegre. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2005.

Bell, Stephen. Campanha gaúcha: A Brazilian Ranching System, 1850–1920. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1998.

César, Guilhermino. História do Rio Grande do Sul. Pôrto Alegre, Brazil: Editôra Globo, 1970.

Chasteen, John Charles. Heroes on Horseback: A Life and Times of the Last Gaucho Caudillos. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1995.

Conde d'Eu, Gastão de Orléans, and Max Fleiuss. Viagem militar ao Rio Grande do Sul (agosto a novembro de 1865). São Paulo: Companhia editora nacional, 1936.

Kittleson, Roger Alan. The Practice of Politics in Postcolonial Brazil: Porto Alegre, 1845–1895. Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2006.

Koonings, Kees. Industrialization, Industrialists, and Regional Development in Brazil: Rio Grande do Sul in Comparative Perspective. Amsterdam: Thela Publishers, 1994.

Oliven, Ruben George. Tradition Matters: Modern Gaúcho Identity in Brazil. New York: Columbia University Press, 1996.

Wright, Angus Lindsay, and Wendy Wolford. To Inherit the Earth: The Landless Movement and the Struggle for a New Brazil. Oakland, CA: Food First Books, 2003.

                                             Joan Bak