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Did Portugal take our gold? Discover the real fate of the Brazilian treasure!

Written by Alisson Ficher
Published 16/06/2024 às 21:15
Portugal took our gold! Discover the real fate of the Brazilian treasure! (Image: reproduction)
Portugal took our gold! Discover the real fate of the Brazilian treasure! (Image: reproduction)

When Brazilians and Portuguese meet in discussions on social media, a recurring theme is the gold taken by Portugal from Brazil. This provocation brings up a historical question: after all, where did all that gold go?

Recently, Flávio Dino, who is minister of Federal Supreme Court (STF), commented on a case of xenophobia against a Brazilian woman in Portugal. At the time, he stated that he would even agree for the Portuguese to repatriate all Brazilian immigrants living there.

However, he highlighted: this, as long as they return “along with Ouro Preto’s gold”. “And then everything is fine, we are even,” he said when commenting on the case of a Brazilian woman who was offended at Porto airport, in Portugal. At the time, a Portuguese woman shouted at her to “go back to her homeland”. The same woman also accused Brazilians of “invading Portugal”.

This speech by the minister joins a series of memes and provocations posted by Brazilians on social media on the topic. But what actually happened to the gold taken from Brazil during Portuguese colonization? To tell this story, the team at Click Oil and Gas was based on a report published by the “BBC News Brasil” channel.

The Gold Cycle

Before the start of the Gold Cycle, at the beginning of the 18th century, there was already gold exploration in Brazil, albeit initially. Historical records point to the Paranaguá region, in Paraná, a few decades earlier, and to deposits in São Paulo since the 16th century.

However, it was with the discoveries in Minas Gerais, at the end of the 17th century, that gold became the main product extracted in the colony, replacing sugar cane.

To this day, the exact amount of gold removed from Brazil is unclear, as many records were lost, such as in the Lisbon Customs fire in 1764, and smuggling was common to escape the fifth taxation, the 20% royal tax.

However, according to historian Virgílio Noya Pinto, in his book “O Ouro Brasileiro e Comércio Anglo-Português”, it is estimated that production in the 876.629th century was XNUMX kilos. Another estimate, now made by geologist Pandiá Calógeras, stipulates that the quantity was 948.105 kilos, including Bahia.

The fate of the precious metal

In an interview with the aforementioned vehicle, historian Leonardo Marques, who is a professor at Federal Fluminense University (UFF), reported that it is impossible to know exactly how much gold was taken to Portugal, but the estimates are based on records of the metal's arrival in Europe, a major destination for the raw material.

However, one question: does it make sense to talk about Brazil's disadvantage and Portugal's benefit, considering that at the time both were part of the same empire?

For Leonardo Marques, the discussion about colonial heritage is valid. “At that time, there was no separation between Brazil and Portugal. But the human and environmental effects of mining are felt here to this day,” he says.

The Portuguese gold hunger

As the article on the “BBC News Brasil” channel explains, gold exploration in Brazil emerged at a time of global economic crisis, with a shortage of precious metals on the market following the euphoria of silver mines in Spanish America. Portugal, after the Iberian Union and losses of warehouses to the Dutch, faced competition in sugar production in the Caribbean.

The encouragement of the Portuguese crown to search for gold transformed Portuguese America. In the 85th century, the Americas accounted for XNUMX% of world gold production. Minas Gerais was the main hub for this exploration, with profound impacts on the colony's society and economy.

The path of Brazilian gold

The Portuguese colonists, using enslaved labor, explored the mines and used the gold in local commerce and in Portugal. The crown charged 20% of the gold extracted, part of which financed public works in Portugal, such as the Mafra National Palace.

Much of the gold ended up in England, due to unequal trade agreements between Portugal and Great Britain, such as the Treaty of Methuen of 1703. Portugal exchanged gold for British manufactured goods, essential for the Industrial Revolution.

The consequences in Brazil

The Gold Cycle changed the economy and society of the colony, with economic interiorization and a new economic hub in the center-south. The slave trade increased significantly to meet the demand for work in the mines.

In this sense, Leonardo Marques highlights that many of Brazil's current problems result from this logic of exploitation. “A hierarchical, slave-owning society was formed, with environmental and social impacts that persist to this day,” he said, also highlighting that the “return our gold” meme raises a greater discussion about global influences on the history and development of Brazil.

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Alisson Ficher

Journalist graduated since 2017 and working in the field since 2015, with six years of experience in printed magazines and more than 12 thousand online publications. Specialist in topics such as politics, jobs, economics, courses and others. If you have any questions or suggestions for an agenda regarding any of the topics covered on the site, please get in touch.

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