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Building Belo Horizonte and a Business Elite, 1890s–1940s

  • Marshall C. Eakin

Abstract

On a warm December day in 1897, the political leadership of Minas Gerais converged on the small hamlet of Belo Horizonte to inaugurate a new capital for Brazil’s most populous state. Foreshadowing the construction of Brasília six decades later, politicians and planners had transformed a rustic municipio of some 8,000 inhabitants into an enormous construction project. As with Brasília, those who promoted the move saw the new capital as a symbol and a catalyst. This planned city would symbolize the modernizing forces that were transforming Brazil and Minas Gerais as they entered the twentieth century. More important, the rationally designed political center would also serve as a catalyst in the economic growth and integration of the state. In short, a modern, planned city would provide Minas Gerais with the dynamic economic and political capital that it so badly needed.1

Keywords

State Government Cotton Textile Family Business Business Leader Business Community 
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Notes

  1. 1.
    “It was hoped that the new capital would effectively come to exercise the role of a center for political and economic integration for the ‘mineiro mosaic’.” Otavio Soares Dulci, Política e recuperação econômica em Minas Gerais (Belo Horizonte: Editora UFMG, 1999), 41.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Waldemar de Almeida Barbosa, A verdade sobre a história de Belo Horizonte (Belo Horizonte: FIMAC, 1985), 74. Vila Rica do Ouro Preto (as it was originally called) had arisen spontaneously as a gold mining camp in the rugged Serra do Espinhaço, and the city sprawled up and down the steep hillsides.Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    Commissão D’Estudo das Localidades Indicadas para a Nova Capital, Relatório (Rio de Janeiro: Imprensa Nacional, 1893); Maria Efigênia Lage de Resende, “Uma interpretação sobre a fundação de Belo Horizonte,” Revista Brasileira de Estudos Políticos 39 (1974): 7–69; Jeffry Adelman, “Urban Planning and Reality in Republican Brazil: Belo Horizonte, 1890–1930,” Ph.D. dissertation, Indiana University, 1974, chapter 1.Google Scholar
  4. 5.
    Commissão Constructora da Nova Capital, Revista geral dos trabalhos. I. Abril de 1895 and II. Fevereiro de 1896 (Rio de Janeiro: H. Lombaerts, 1895 and 1896). Good descriptions of the building of the capital are Adelman, “Urban Planning,” chapter 2, and eyewitness accounts by Alfredo Camarate reproduced in Revista do Arquivo Público Mineiro XXXVI (1985), 23–198.Google Scholar
  5. 6.
    The parish of Curral d’El Rei (founded 1748) became the district of Belo Horizonte in 1890. With the decision to move the capital, the state created the municipio of Belo Horizonte around the city. In 1901, the Cidade de Minas once again became the city of Belo Horizonte in the municipio of the same name. Waldemar de Almeida Barbosa, Dicionário histórico-geográfico de Minas Gerais (Belo Horizonte: Promoção-da-Família, 1971), 67–68; Paulo Kruger Corrêa Mourão, História de Beb Horizonte de 1897 a 1930 (Belo Horizonte: Imprensa Oficial, 1970), 9–11.Google Scholar
  6. 7.
    Abílio Barreto, Bello Horizonte: Memória histórica e descriptiva, 2a ed. (Bello Horizonte: Livraria Rex, 1936), 245.Google Scholar
  7. 16.
    Recenseamento geral do Brasil [1 de setembro de 1940]. série nacional. volume III censo econômico (Rio de Janeiro: IBGE, 1950), 185; and Armin K. Ludwig, Brazil: A Handbook of Historical Statistics (Boston: G. K. Hall, 1985), 55Google Scholar
  8. 17.
    Despite an extensive literature on economic history, the history of business, and more specifically, of entrepreneurs, has been barely explored in Latin America. Aside from hagiographic or amateurish studies, scholarly works on entrepreneurs and business are few, and the field of business history has only recently begun to take shape. In the case of Brazil, the list of books on specific firms is very short, and studies of entrepreneurs, equally so. Some recent examples are: Roderick J. Barman, “Business and Government in Imperial Brazil: The Experience of Viscount Maua,” Journal of Latin American Studies 13:2 (November 1981): 239–264; Sergio de Oliveira Birchal, Entrepreneurship in Nineteenth-Century Brazil: The Formation of a Business Environment (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1999); Jorge Caldeira, Mauá: empresário do Império (São Paulo: Companhia das Letras, 1995); Elizabeth Anne Cobbs, The Rich Neighbor Policy: Rockefeller and Kaiser in Brazil (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1992); Marshall C Eakin, British Enterprise in Brazil: The St. John d’el Rey Mining Company and the Morro Velho Gold Mine, 1830–1960 (Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press, 1989); Maria Bárbara Levy, História da Bolsa de Valores do Rio de Janeiro (Rio de Janeiro: Instituto Brasileiro de Mercado de Capitais, 1977); Duncan Mc-Dowall, The Light: Brazilian Traction, Light and Power Company Limited, 1899–1945 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1988); Eugene Ridings, Business Interest Groups in Nineteenth-Century Brazil (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1994); Elisabeth von de Weid and Anna Marta Rodrigues Bastos, O fio da meada: estratégia de expansão de uma indústria têxtil: Companhia América Fabril, 1878–1930 (Rio de Janeiro: FCRB-CNI, 1986).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 19.
    See, for example, Luis Aureliano Gama de Andrade, “Technocracy and Development: The Case of Minas Gerais,” Ph.D. dissertation, University of Michigan, 1980; Clélio Campolina Diniz, Estado e capital estrangeiro na in-dustrialização mineira (Belo Horizonte: UFMG/PROED, 1981); Frances Hagopian, Traditional Politics and Regime Change in Brazil (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1996); Superintendência de Desenvolvimento da Região Metropolitana (PLAMBEL), Secretaria de Estado do Planejamento e Coordenação Geral, Governor do Estado de Minas Gerais, “O Processo de desenvolvimento de Belo Horizonte: 1897–1970,” (Belo Horizonte: PLAMBEL, 1979).Google Scholar
  10. 20.
    See, for example, Ian Roxborough, Theories of Underdevelopment (London: Macmillan, 1979); and Robert A. Packenham, The Dependency Movement: Scholarship and Politics in Development Studies (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1992).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 21.
    Some recent dissertations by mineiro scholars have looked at the business community for small periods of time. See, for example, Evantina Pereira Vieira, “Minas Gerais: a dominação burguesa—conflitos políticos e formas de organização (1927–1940),” Ph.D. dissertation, Universidade de São Paulo, 1985; Ignácio José Godinho Delgado, “Burguesia e estado—o caso de Minas Gerais: a estratégia de um revés,” MA. thesis, Departamento de Ciência Política, UFMG, 1989; Maria Auxiliadora Faria, “‘A Política da Gieba’: as classes conservadoras mineiras: discurso e prática na Primeira República,” Ph.D. dissertation, Universidade de São Paulo, 1992. Heloisa Starling, Os senhores das Gerais: os novos inconfidentes e o golpe militar de 1964, 5a. ed.(Petrópolis: Vozes, 1986) looks at the business community during the 1960s.Google Scholar
  12. 25.
    One thousand mil-reis equalled one conto (1,000$). In 1936, 86 mil-reis equalled 1 pound sterling. Annibal Villanova Villela and Wilson Suzigan, Política do governo e crescimento da economia brasileira, 1889–1945 (Rio de Janeiro: IPEA/INPES, 1973), 425.Google Scholar
  13. 28.
    As one article explained it, the ACM “exercised influence and always participated in the development of the state’s economy, and, consequently, attracted the respect and recognition of public officials, and tacitly became a collaborator in municipal and state administrations through suggestions that were of interest to the productive forces of the state.” Sayão de Faria and Ribeiro Filho, Revista Social Trabalhista, 361. For numerous examples of commercial associations in imperial Brazil, see Eugene Ridings, Business Interest Groups in Nineteenth-Century Brazil (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 37.
    Associação Comercial de Minas, Estatutos de fundação (Cidade de Minas: Imprensa Official, 1901).Google Scholar
  15. 53.
    See, for example, Alisson Mascarenhas Vaz, Cia. Cedro e Cachoeira: história de uma empresa familiar, 1883–1987 (Belo Horizonte: Cia. de Fiação e Tecidos Cedro e Cachoeira S. A., 1990).Google Scholar
  16. 54.
  17. 57.
    Very little research has been done on banking in Minas Gerais. The most important study is Fernando Nogueira da Costa, “Bancos em Minas Gerais (1889–1964),” Ph.D. dissertation, Universidade Estadual de Campinas, 1978.Google Scholar
  18. 58.
    Two pioneering studies of Brazilian banking and finance are Gail D. Triner, Banking and Economic Delvelopment: Brazil, 1889–1930 (New York: Pal-grave, 2000); and, Anne Gerard Hanley, “Capital Markets in the Coffee Economy: Financial Institutions and Economic Change in São Paulo, Brazil, 1850–1905,” Ph.D. dissertation, Stanford University, 1995.Google Scholar
  19. 61.
    Naomi R. Lamoreaux, “Banks, Kinship, and Economic Development: The New England Case,” Journal of Economic History 46:3 (September 1986): 647.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 62.
    See, for example, Noel Maurer, “Banks and Entrepreneurs in Porfirian Mexico: Inside Exploitation or Sound Business Strategy?” Journal of Latin American Studies 31:2 (May 1999): 331–61; and Lamoreaux, “Banks, Kinship, and Economic Development,” 647–67; Lynne Zucker, “Production of Trust: Institutional Sources of Economic Structure, 1940–1920,” in Research in Organizational Behavior, v. 8 (1986), Barry M. Staw and L. L. Cummings, editors, 53–111.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. 65.
    The information in this paragraph and the next come from Antônio Lopes Sá, Origens de um banco centendrio (Belo Horizonte: Credireal, 1989); Fernando Nogueira da Costa, “Bancos em Minas Gerais (1889–1964),” Ph.D. dissertation, Universidade Estadual de Campinas, 1978; Cláudio Bastos, Ininstituições financeiras de Minas (1819–1995) (Belo Horizonte: Embalat Editora, 1997); Dulci, Recuperação e política econômica, 49–50; Faria, “‘A Política da Gieba’,” 340–5.Google Scholar
  22. 70.
    Maria Auxiliadora Faria, “‘A política da gleba’: as classes conservadoras mineiras: discurso e prática na Primeira República,” Ph.D. diss., Universidade de São Paulo, 1992; Evantina Pereira Vieira, “Minas Gerais: a dominação burguesa—conflitos políticoos e formas de organização (1927–1940),” Ph.D. diss., Universidade de São Paulo, 1985; Ignácio José Godinho Delgado, “Bur-guesia e estado: o caso de Minas Gerais: a estrategia de um revés,” M.A. thesis, Political Science, Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, 1989; Otavio Soares Dulci, Política e recuperação econômica em Minas Gerais (Belo Horizonte: Editora UFMG, 1999); Heloísa Maria Murgel Starling, Os senhores das Gerais: os novos inconfidentes e o golpe militar de 1964, 5a. ed. (Petrópolis: Vozes, 1986).Google Scholar
  23. 73.
    The absolute figures in cruzeiros are: Belo Horizonte (2,188,821,000), Rio de Janeiro (29,520,640,000), São Paulo (38, 804,327,000). Anuário estatístico do Brasil (Rio de Janeiro: Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatística, 1953), 330.Google Scholar
  24. 74.
    Dean, The Industrialization of São Paulo; and Cano, Desequilíbrios regionais; Joseph L. Love, São Paulo in the Brazilian Federation, 1889–1937 (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1980).Google Scholar
  25. 76.
    Ako Okochi and Shigeaki Yasuoka, eds., Family Business in the Era of Industrial Growth (Tokyo: University of Tokyo Press, n.d.), esp. 1–32 and 171–206. See also, Leslie Hannah, The Rise of the Corporate Economy, 2nd ed. (London: Methuen, 1983).Google Scholar
  26. 77.
    Two examples of other studies of business communities in Latin America are: Alex M. Saragoza, The Monterrey Elite and the Mexican State, 1880–1940 (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1988) and Carlos Dávila L. de Guevara, El empresariado colombiano: una perspectiva histórica (Bogotá: Pontificia Universidad Javeriana, 1986).Google Scholar

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© Marshall C. Eakin 2001

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  • Marshall C. Eakin

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