History - Fortaleza, From past to present
It was the year 1500: The first European who set foot on shore of
present day Fortalezawas Vicente Pinzón from Spain. However, according to the Treaty of Tordesillas, which settled the division of non-European territories between Spain and Portugal, the land came in Portuguese hands.
Fortress Schoonenborch, the oldest structure in present day Fortaleza
|Colonisation of Fortaleza started slowly and unorganized, which gave the Dutch a chance to occupy parts of north-eastern Brasil.
In 1649, the Dutch West India Company inaugurated a stronghold in Fortaleza, called Fort Schoonenborch, in order to defend its trade route and interests in northern Brazil.
Not even 5 years later, they already had to hand it over to the Portuguese after the
capitulation in Pernambuco, 800 km/ 500 miles south-eastwards.
The Portuguese called the fortress Fortaleza de Nossa Senhora da Assunção and it is still in use today. For almost two centuries, the town of Fortaleza was nothing more than a sleepy fishing village build around the fortress. Things changed after Brazilian independence in 1822, when
Fortaleza became a convenient portfor trade to Europe. Main products shipped from Fortaleza were cotton for England and coffee beans for France.
Fortaleza grew and got a significant European atmosphere. During the 70s and 80s of the 19th century, a spark of enlightenment touched Fortaleza, with several progressive initiatives and an active emancipation movement. Fortaleza also became a forerunner of abolishing slavery.
The city of Fortaleza played a significant role in World War II.
In 1942, the Washington Accords were closed between Brazil and the USA.
In exchange of considerable loans, the Americans got large stakes in the Brazilian economy and permission to build military bases on Brazilian soil.
In the context of this arrangement, suddenly there was a high demand for rubber, needed for the American war industry.
The Washington Accords - Vargas and Roosevelt
As the rubber plantations of the Amazon had been neglected for decades (markets had shifted to Asia), a large workforce had to be recruited and to be send into the Amazon immediately.
|The organisation responsible for propaganda, recruitment, training and transportation of these Rubber Soldiers, SEMTA, was based in Fortaleza.
Many poor peasants from the Sertão were semi-forced to leave for the Amazon. They were promised that they could return to their villages after the war, but this never happened.
The whole operation got Brazil involved in WWII but it had a significant impact on the
Brazilian economy. Nevertheless, almost half of the 60,000 labouring Brazilian soldiers died of bad circumstances and disease.
Only in 1988 these labourers were recognised as real soldiers of WWII and got small pensions.
In the second half of the 20th century, more and more immigrants from the dry inland arrived in Fortaleza, attracted by the economic expansion of the city.
Fortaleza today is the major industrial centre of Northeastern Brazil, with
tourismas an increasingly important line of business. One third of the Ceara population live in Fortaleza, many of them in favelas (shanty towns), with the suburb of Pirambu as one of the largest in the country.
At the end of the 20th century, significant upgrading was carried out making the city of Fortaleza ready for the next millennium.
More on the history of Brazil