The march inland

Image: Anderson Antonangelo


Geographic displacements of institutions in the construction of the Brazilian national identity: from Christian churches to infantry battalions


Brazilian colonization, from the point of view of geographic thought, took place through two historical-geographical processes. The first of these was the sectioning of the national territory into Hereditary Captaincies, that is, into 15 horizontal strips of extensive strips of land, whose command was under a select group of managers (Donatários), chosen by the then Portuguese absolutist monarchy of the XNUMXth-XNUMXth century .

The second strategy, appropriated by the Portuguese Crown, can be considered as a strategy of multiple resources in order to modify what would be, in the future, the National Territory of Brazil. This resource was based on the use of Bandeirantismo, the Jesuit Missions and Livestock. These explorers represented the interests of one of the colonial mainstays of the time. The Bandeirantes, represented the monarchical leaders who had interests in guaranteeing the initial labor force in Brazil, that is, the capture of the indigenous people in order to serve as labor in the sugarcane plantations of the Northeast of the country. The second segment would represent a bifurcation of the interests of both the Portuguese King and the Catholic Church. To meet the monarchical interests, these had the function of describing and reporting what the New World was like, in its physical, human, social, cultural, economic characteristics, among others. From the perspective of the Church, these served for the Humanization and catechization of those considered pagans and savages in the eyes of the Bible and God. The last segment, symbolized the vision of the national elite in ascension and expansion in Brazil, in this case, the landowners of the sugar period. These gentlemen used cattle to supply their basic food needs, from meat to bovine leather. From the two points mentioned above, we need to explain another necessary and essential pillar, which we can call labor exploratory mechanisms directed at the economy. These mechanisms, in other words, would be the so-called slave labor, initiated by pre-Columbian peoples and continued by black people from Africa. For Prado Júnior (1979, p. 28), “America would make available to him, in immense deals, territories that only awaited the initiative and effort of Man”. In this view, it will provide the use and exploration of space in an expressive and wide way, both by different social and commercial segments, even if this has taken place along the coast and gradually penetrated the interior of Brazil.

According to Costa (2008, p.1): “American and especially Brazilian lands have always been seen by Europeans as a source of resources of great commercial value, a fact that explains the objectives of colonization and the entire process of occupation that took place here. settled down. Tropical America had a nature considered hostile to the colonizers because it had different characteristics from its original space. However, this hostility came to be considered a gift in that it provided a variety of natural resources conducive to exploitation”.

The Old World was going through countless crises in its medieval foundations. Catholic Christianity was declining in its power and credibility with the popular strata; the feuds, previously decentralized, gave rise to the formation of centralized and absolutist National States; Gold and silver were no longer abundant to meet the fierce demands of the Middle Ages; religious knowledge was progressively replaced by the scientific Renaissance of the 1453th and XNUMXth centuries. Thus, they needed to launch themselves into the unexpected and unexplored world of the Seven Seas, in search of alternative routes and lands unknown to the hitherto known world. This enabled the formation of new trade routes, as the main one had been interrupted by the taking of Constantinople, in XNUMX, by the Ottoman Empire. City that guaranteed commercial exchanges and connected the African, European, Middle East and Asia Minor Continent to China and the Hindus by the well-known Silk Road. Under the control of the Ottomans, the Route of Constantinople, disfavored the trade between these continents, forcing in this context, the search for advantageous to the bourgeois and monarchists of the Early Modern Age. In this circumstance of searching for such routes, America was found and subsequently, due to colonization, we had the constitution of the different countries that the three Americas have in the XNUMXst century, that is, those of Portuguese, Spanish, French and Anglo-Saxon origin .

The Catholic Church and the Army in the Portuguese Colony

To the detriment of the incapacity of predominance and effective occupation of Terras Brasis, with the purpose of appropriating and consolidating the Portuguese Empire in front of the other European powers of the beginning of Commercial Capitalism (XV-XVI), such insufficiencies, pressured this Empire to seek and apply measures for the conservation of its Territory. Among the strategies were: the occupation, through the development of economic activities aimed at export, hence the emergence of the Brazilian Economy Cycles (Pau-Brasil, Sugarcane, Gold, Coffee, among others) these organized in the famous economic archipelagos that were scattered and decentralized, structurally, in the different regions of the Colony.

The development of these productive activities enabled the emergence of different elites as a result of this decentralization, two facts. The first, the demand for colonial independence in relation to Portugal, having as a resolution the Independence of Brazil in 1822 by D. Pedro 1. The second fact, was the so-called Period of Revolts of the Brazilian Empire, to quote: A Cabanagem no Pará; the Farroupilhas, in Rio Grande do Sul, the Confederation of Ecuador in the Northeast, among others. These separatist revolutionary movements occurred because of the intention of fragmenting the Empire and guaranteeing the emergence of new independent countries. As a result, the regency government adopted the following retaliations: It proclaimed the Majority Coup of D. Pedro II in order to unify and centralize the country's politics; then launched harsh repressions against national elites by military and legal means; together with this, another strategy referred to unification beyond politics, but also geographic, structural, linguistic and social as a whole. Therefore, Dom Pedro II and his advisers expanded the power of the Institutions as an act of transformation and territorial centralization of Brazil. These institutions would have the role of symbolically representing the interests of the National State. These institutions would be: Banco do Brasil, the Post Office, the Newspapers, the Catholic Church and the Army in its holistic perspective. In addition, the national monarchists would also favor other segments such as the officialization of a national language, in this case, Portuguese; the institutionalization of a national currency, a flag and an official religion. The objectives would be to formally and peacefully integrate the National Empire. Among the conditions, the ones that stood out the most were the Church and the Army.

Compared to the other divisions, for what reasons were the Army and the Church the most benefited and consolidated? In this questioning, we need to carry out a historical and political retrospective in the construction and colonization of the American continent. This expansion refers to the successive stimuli given by the monarchical power preceding the years of unification and formation of absolute states, in which the support of the Catholic Church and the Army were essential in the successful conquest of their Iberian kings, both Isabel de Castela like Ferdinand of Aragon. These institutions, in addition to providing social, political and geopolitical support, were important in financing the unparalleled Military Campaigns in the Kingdoms of Spain and Portugal, together with the consolidation of subsidies that stimulated the beginning of Naval Navigations in the XNUMXth-XNUMXth centuries.

The return and compensation of investments were established, privileges were established that would predominate the initial 200 years of the Colonization of the Portuguese and Spanish Americas, ranging from the right to catechize the Pre-Columbian peoples, the right to monopolize and make Catholicism official as the official religion of both monarchies; or even, the constitutionalization of the Church as an institution that would facilitate the unity of these colonies and these would be the eyes and ears of the King in his colonial extensions. The second segment had as organization and benefits, in this case, the Military Groups, formed by the Feudal Nobles (Sovereignty and Vassalage), had for their services rendered the crowns, the rights to the long extensions of land, or in some cases, the formation of bureaucratic and public positions, to mention, for example, those of Hereditary Captaincies, those of municipal Auditor, indirectly elected Deputies, Judges, diplomats, among others. Such positions were conditioned to the High Military Rank and their most faithful allies. Low-level military personnel, such as Soldiers, Captains and Colonels, were left with the positions of delegates and enforcers of order and the peace of the Colonies, avoiding movements of rebellion and independence revolutions in these regions.


The methodological processes underlie the bases of any scientific works. In this, we are methodologically based on bibliographical readings, both geographical and historical, based on the spatial and temporal construction of the National Territory of Brazil. Another point used in the construction and writing of the work is in the referential and bibliographic nature, referring to articles that deal with the National Identity and the processes that led to its construction, that is, that of Brazil. In a practical sense, the research is basic and theoretical, presenting a plausible discussion of the conditions referring to Geography and History in their basic Epistemology. In this way, we represent the author's opinion and explain the founding bases, we were explicitly careful to address the discussion surrounding the article. Under the results, it showed us that the weight and influences of the institutions were significant and visible enough to influence the dynamics and contemporary characteristics seen in the XNUMXst century, in the economic, political, social and cultural aspects. Such foundations guide the conditions and movements that led either by the Army or by the Catholic Church at the beginning of the Republic in its Positivist foundations and subsequent Neopositivists seen in the politics of the Bullet, the Bull and the Bible.

Final considerations

Therefore, considering the points addressed, we reached the objectives and positions outlined in this work. Having dealt with how these institutions influenced the formation and consolidation of Brazilian nationality and customs in the Americas, especially in Latin America, with which their actions were more expressive. In the future perspectives for this article, we seek to deepen it in writing and in scientific and geographic bases, under an intellectual construct base and foundation of the Epistemology of the Geographical School of Brazil.

*Francisco Leandro da Costa Soares is majoring in Geography at IFCE-Campus crateus


COSTA, RRD “Paraná: The occupation of space and the mechanisms of land appropriation as elements that generate agrarian conflicts”. PDE, Paraná, v. 1, no. 1, p. 1-30, Sep./2007. Available at:

PRADO JUNIOR, Caio. Formation of contemporary Brazil – colony. São Paulo: Brasiliense, 1979.

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