Urbanization in Brazil

The main characteristic of Brazilian urbanization is the continuous and accelerated increase in the urban population compared to the decrease in the rural population.

Urbanization in colonial Brazil

Century XVI

Urbanization in the country began in 1532 with the foundation of Vila de São Vicente, on the coast of the current state of São Paulo . The first city created in the country was Salvador, in 1549.

The first cities, founded during the colonial period, were intended to be a support base for the colonization effort promoted by the Portuguese metropolis. In other words, more than an urbanization phenomenon, this was a process of creating cities for the consolidation of Portuguese geopolitical power in South America.

XVIII century

There was an urbanization surge during the mining cycle , which led to the transfer of the capital of Salvador to Rio de Janeiro and the displacement of the Brazilian productive axis from the Northeast (sugar) to the Southeast.

According to themotorcyclers, Brazilian economic growth started to be more internalized.

Urbanization in the period of Independence and the 19th century

With the country’s independence, the mercantile role of our cities was strengthened. The interests of capitalist reproduction with the expansion of industrial production capacity, from England and developing in Europe, demanded consumer markets. We continue to export, but the import trade has expanded.

At the end of the 19th century, the phenomenon of urbanization accelerates along with a population growth of more than 40% in 15 years.

Mining activity has developed in tandem with the phenomenon of urbanization, has boosted the regional economy in the Southeast, effected an interiorization of the settlement of the territory based on a markedly urban and complementary rural dynamic.

This formed the basis for the consolidation of the Southeast region and its economic and territorial dynamism, which would lead to the formation of the urbanization-industrialization triangle on the São Paulo – Belo Horizonte – Rio de Janeiro axis.

Urbanization in Brazil in the 20th century

The urbanization process in the country had two important moments in the 20th century: the pre and post periods of the 1940-1950 decades.

Before 1940-1950 , the political and administrative functions, mainly of the federative units, had a significant weight. This was because until the end of World War II the Brazilian economic base was markedly agricultural. Agriculture had a great influence on public institutions in the country.

After 1940-1950 , the economic dynamics took on a more significant weight and imposed new challenges on urban areas in Brazil. This was due to the industrialization and modernization of agricultural production from the 1950s.

The urbanization profile that was built for Brazil in this period, was reinforced with the JK government – Juscelino Kubitschek – which, with the slogan “50 years in 5”, promoted the industrialization and modernization of the country’s economy, in addition to transferring the federal capital for the Central Plateau with the construction of Brasilia .

The military governments, after 1964, continued to provide favorable conditions for foreign investments in the country – through the installation of industrial units linked to transnational economic conglomerates – such as the automobile industries of São Paulo’s ABC.

In the years following World War II, liberal policies emerged in underdeveloped countries, which facilitated the association between international and national capital. This association offered foreign capital guarantees for the installation of industries, characterizing the developmental policies of JK and the military governments , until the 1970s.

However, the transition from an agrarian economy focused on the foreign market to an urban and industrial economy has led to a significant displacement of workers from the countryside to the cities ( rural exodus ).

With that, the workers started to be hired temporarily. In other words, the field worker is no longer necessarily a rural dweller, but an increasingly urban one.

Consequences of the rural exodus

As of 1950, the transfer of large contingents of the rural population to the city created problems that, in Brazil today, are characteristic of urban areas in which this process occurred quickly. Among them are:

  • Increase in precarious forms of housing, such as tenements and slums.
  • Increase in unemployment and consequent decrease in wages, since urban economic activities are not able to absorb the huge population.
  • Increase in underemployment, as the city is unable to generate formal jobs for everyone. The need to survive causes people to perform tasks such as street vendors, flannels, etc.
  • Increasing marginalization, with the increase in drug use, violence and delinquency.
  • Infrastructure collapse: the transportation, supply, electricity, health and education systems do not serve the entire population.

Since the 1990s, the numbers of these migratory movements have remained stable.

Urbanization in Brazil in the 21st century

From the end of the twentieth century (approximately 1985) to the present day, there is a period of recession in urbanization processes in Brazil. This is due to the oil crises (1973, 1979 and 1985), the increase in the Brazilian external debt and the country’s insertion in the globalized economy. This process led to an increase in unemployment in the cities and slowed the rural exodus.

Cities in Brazil today are no longer just a space for commercial political power and a space for industrial production and consumption. Today’s cities are the place for the financial reproduction of capital; the place where ideas and information circulate. It is the place where they live, educate and prepare themselves, where those who integrate urban-industrial Brazil as a work force circulate.

Urbanization in Brazil