As Zonas pioneiras do Brasil


  • Leo Waibel
  • Walter Alberto Egler


Fronteiras e pioneiros, Colonização, Geografia da população, Geografia econômica


                The author, Prof. LEO WAIBEL, studies past and present pioneer zones in Brazil, comparing their distribution to the one observed in the United States of America, and discussing the problems involved in economic planning for the brazilian west.

                The author describes the area economically occupied and emphasizes that it is small in relation to the large extension of the country; on account of these characteristics, the country possesses the last disposable land reserves in the West.

                The author defines, then, the expression "pioneer zone", a strip of land relatively wide which stands between the virgin forest and the civilized zone, and within which agriculture and peopling caused a rush or boom.

                Only dynamic pioneer zones are dealt with on account of their similarity to the ones observed In the American middle-west.

                Examining historic brazilian pioneer zones, the author concludes they appeared durlng the second half of the XVIII th. century when an expansion of cotton cultivation was noted; sugar cane, without causing the establishment of pioneer zones, caused an increase in the number of sugar mills and of the population of the lower Paraíba valley during the period between 1750 and 1820.

                During the XIX th. century coffee was brought to the central-eastern part of Brazil; this area presented ideal natural and economic conditions for coffee and this situation caused coffee plantations to expand towards the interior, inducing the advance of classic pioneer fringes.

                These fringes were the following: the pioneer zone of the depression of the Paraíba Valley, which attained its peak during the second halt of the XIX th. century and where the agricultural system (shifting cultivation) was substituted by the capitalist plantation system; the central zone of the State of São Paulo, where coffee appeared during the same epoch as In the Paraíba as a consequence of the construction of the railroad; the São Carlos-Ribeirão Prêto zone, where terra rossa occurs, also benefited from the construction of two railroads, Mojiana and Paulista, and their numerous ramification.

                The Botucatu zone, localized on Triassic terrain with occasional occurrences of terra rossa, was initially occupied by farmers; only after the beginning of the present century did coffee expand In this zone.

                While the pioneer zones of central-eastern Brazil developed, new zones appeared to the north.

                In the State of Rio Grande do Sul a first zone developed after 1824; the German immigrants spreaded on the foothills and on the slopes of the plateau. Another zone appeared in 1890, on the northeastern plateau of the State.

                In Santa Catarina, a first pioneer zone appeared in the valley of the Itajaí river on account of private enterprlse, where the Colônia de Blumenau was founded in 1850. Still another zone appeared during the First World War, occupying parts of the Interior plateau, its expansion facilitated by the construction of the railroad connecting São Paulo and Rio Grande.

                The author distinguishes five pioneer zones In Brazil, in our days: 1 - the Xapecó-Pato Branco region to the northeast of Santa Catarina and southwest of Paraná; 2 - the north of Paraná; 3 - the west of São Paulo; 4 - the so called Mato Grosso of Goiás; 5 - the region to the north of the Doce river, in the States of Espírito Santo and Minas Gerais.

                With the exception of the one in Goiás, the expansion of these zones begun during the First World War. All have natural, economic and social differences but present some common characteristics.

                Comparing brazilian pioneer zones with their american similar, the author refers initially to the area covered by the two countries and then to the fact that the peopling was made, in both cases, by European colonists which origin was the Atlantic littoral of Europe, and who moved west. The processes of occupation of the land are different not only because of political, histories and social differences but also because of the natural conditions which prevailed in each country. The march of the occupation in the United States was actually a "march to the west" due to the homogeneity of natural conditions: since 1880 colonists moved west like a great army o f settlers.

                The same did not happen In Brazil; the peoples stayed too long within the forests of the coast and the advance towards the hinterland was made either by small groups or by isolated elements. This situation caused the occupation to be made by "jumps" from one point to another and explains the presence of a large number of "caboclos" in the interior.

                Analyzing the economic structure of the pioneer zones in the two countries, the author states that there is a certain similarity among the agricultural systems used by the first settlers, i.e., the rotation of land. It is not possible to establish the duration of this first phase In the United States; in Brazil it still occurs. As a consequence, a large extension of the Interior, with few exceptions, ls scarcely occupied by a population whose intellectual and economical levels are very low.

                The valorization and colonization or the States of Mato Grosso and Goiás now represent and concentrate the hopes of many brazilians but from what is known about the natural conditions which prevail in that region, the adaptation of European immigrants is considered difficult if not impossible.

                It would represent a higher interest if the occupation of eastern Brazil expanded itself and if local markets and Industrial centers were established in the east before any attempt is made to move west.

                It is the author's opinion that the future of Brazil lies in the east rather than in the west and that the problem is to "make a stand" in the east before marching west.