Brazil exotic? Discover the surprisingly Dutch roots of the South American country more famous for its soccer and samba!
For the majority of Dutch people, Brazil is an exotic, far-flung country that has little in common with Holland. Yet, thanks to the Dutch colonisation of Brazil back in the seventeenth century, Brazil has much closer ties to the Netherlands than you might think…
The origins of Dutch Brazil
Long before Europeans first set foot in South America, Brazil was inhabited by a variety of indigenous tribes, including the Guaraní, Tupi and Ge peoples. This only started to change after Portuguese explorer, Pedro Álvares Cabral, landed at Porto Seguro in 1500 and began to establish sugar plantations along the coast in a process of colonisation.
Following the conquest of the Spanish treasure fleet in 1628, famous Dutch admiral and West Indian Company Commander, Piet Hein, set his sights on securing Portuguese assets in Brazil. In 1630 an expeditionary force was dispatched to Brazil, where it quickly captured the northern coastline and renamed the area to “Nieuw-Holland” (“Nova Holanda” or New “Holland”). Field Marshal Johan Maurits of Nassau-Siegen was promptly tasked with establishing law and order in Dutch Brazil and he quickly founded the capital, Mauritsstad, set up the Brazilian guilder and installed a religious freedom that for many of Amsterdam’s Jews was reason enough to emigrate.
Dutch traces in modern-day Brazil
The Dutch colonists nevertheless remained a minority in Nieuw-Holland, partly because the majority were not Catholic. There were an increasing number of uprisings in the colony, which culminated in the downfall of Dutch rule in Brazil in 1654. Most Dutch colonists left not long after, yet they left behind them many traces of Dutch rule, such as typical Dutch buildings (see photo) and Dutch place names, including Olinda and Mauritiopolis. And both Dutch and Brazilian museums still boast a wealth of paintings made by Dutch artists (including Frans Post and Albert Eckhout) who lived in Brazil during this time.
Prefer to read this article in Dutch? Then why not visit our sister blog, Heimwee.info, specifically intended for Dutch emigrants abroad?