Brazil explained in 100 images

Enjoy this tour of 150 years of Brazilian history through photography and other iconography.


Slaves carry lady in litter in the (then) province of São Paulo, circa 1860.

Brazilian official and an inprisioned Paraguaian soldier, circa 1865. Note that the soldier is barefoot, as most of the army from Paraguay during the war.


An exercise of the Brazilian Navy in 1870


Score of Il Guarany, opera in Italian by Carlos Gomes, that had its premier, with huge success, in La Scala theatre, in Milan, in 1870
Rita Bandeira de Melo Franco, 19th century


Canela Indians. 19th century.


Eugen Keller and his nanny in Pernambuco. 19th century.


Emperor Pedro II (the second and last monarch) in 1887


The originals of Lei Áurea (Golden Law), signed in 1888 by Princess Izabel, then Brazil’s regent. It abolished slavery in the country.
Rio, 1889, the year the country became a Republic.

Italian immigrants arriving in São Paulo in 1890. Today, 60% of all paulistanos descend at least partially from Italians.
Padre Cícero, priest, landowner and political leader of Juazeiro, in the state of Ceará, circa 1891. Padim Ciço, as he is also known, has a huge following even today, despite his poor relationship with the Vatican.
Revolta da Armada/ Navy Revolt in 1894. A mutiny against president Floriano Peixoto. Image by Juan Gutierrez
Survivors of the massacre of Canudos, a rebellious community in Ceará state defeated by the federal troops in 1897. The best report about this episode was written by writer Euclides da Cunha, that wrote “Os Sertões”, considered one of the best books ever published in the country.
Photo by Marc Ferrez, the main Brazilian photographer in the 19th century. This image was probably taken in Rio in the last years of the century.
Eduardo Ribeiro avenue, in Manaus. Circa 1900. It displays all the riches produced during the Rubber Cycle, when the Amazon became, for a short while, Brazil’s Little Paris.


Photo montage made in 1901 by Valerio Rodrigues Vieira. Note that all the individuals in this image, including the pictures on the wall and the statue, portrait the author.


Epidemiologist Oswaldo Cruz, arguably the main promoter of vaccination and the adoption of hygienic procedures in the country. Circa early 20th century.


A 1905 high quality counterfeit banknote of 200 thousand réis, the currency at the time.


Santos Dumont tests his first heavier than air airplane, the 14 Bis, with the help of a donkey and steel cables. Circa 1906


Salesian nuns and their Bororo indian students. 1908


The Kasato Maru brings to the country the first group of Japanese immigrants, in 1908


Revolta da Chibata, in 1910. A naval mutiny in Rio against physical punishments that was compared to the Potemkin revolt, in Russia. Here, the leader João Cândido (smiling at the left of the guy in a suit) and other sailors are seen with some reporters.


Brazilian far west was, in fact, in the far south. Guerra do Contestado, a conflict between landowners and settlers (1912-1916) in the Southern states of Paraná and Santa Catarina and also Argentina


One of the Rondon Expeditions, organized by marshal Cândido Rondon to contact isolated Indian groups, in 1912.


The Minas Geraes battlship, between 1910 and 1915. US Library of Congress via Flickr Commons.

An early color image of Rio by Marc Ferrez in 1915


Ticket for a soccer match between Flamengo, from Rio, and a team from Pará, in the Amazon, in 1916.


Funeral of anarchist José Martinez, killed by the police in São Paulo, 1917.


The high society of Porto Alegre (capital of Rio Grande do Sul state) used to have tea at Confeitaria Rocco, in 1920.


18 of Copacabana Fort Revolt, in 1922. First of a series of protests against the traditional elites, organized by the young officers in the 20s, asking for elections to be more democratic, among other things. Photo by Zenóbio da Costa, published in O Malho magazine.


A corso, typical street Carnival celebration of the early 20th century. This picture was taken in Ourinhos, state of São Paulo, in 1928.


O Abaporu (The Eating Man, in Tupi-Guarani) is the 1928 painting by Tarsila do Amaral that inspired Brazilian Modernism and the Antropofagist Movement.


The Revolution of 1930 was a coup against president Washington Luis by general Getúlio Vargas, seen in the middle of the picture in military outfit and bare head. It is the beginning of the ascension of Vargas, one of the essential figures in Brazilian history


Cristo Redentor – this Art Déco statue is arguably the one image that foreigners associate immediately to Rio and Brazil. It was opened in 1931.


The federal government decided, in 1931, to burn giant amounts of coffee to force its price up. The previous 1929 world financial crisis compromised the main Brazilian product for export at the time.


In 1932, president Getúlio Vargas had to face a popular uprising in São Paulo state – a response to his coup d’état, two years earlier. This poster invites paulistas to fight – they did, massively, but lost the so-called Revolução Constitucionalista.


Scenes of the battles during the 1932 Constitutionalist Revolution.


Monteiro Lobato, saint patron of Brazilian child literature, surrounded by his main characters in a caricature by Belmonte. Circa 30s.


Alzira Soriano
Alzira Soriano, mayor of Lajes, Rio Grande do Norte state, in 1929. She was the first Brazilian woman elected to an executive position – but was thrown away because she opposed president Getúlio Vargas. Three years later women were allowed to vote.


Workers prepare to lear the jungle in Fordlândia, property of American mogul Henry Ford, in the state of Pará, in de Amazon, in 1934.
Workers prepare to lear the jungle in Fordlândia, property of American mogul Henry Ford, in the state of Pará, in de Amazon, in 1934. Photo by the Henry Ford Foundation, Flickr.

Luís Carlos Prestes, communist leader, is arrested in 1937 by his nemesis, Getúlio Vargas


Sexy beachwear since 1937


Virgulino Ferreira, known as Lampião was the leader of cangaceiros, violent outlaws that terrorized the Northeastern region in the 20s and 30s. 

Soprano Bidú Sayão starred at the New York Metropolitan Opera from 1937 to 1952.


Lampião, his men and his companion Maria Bonita were killed and beheaded by the Army in 1938.
Lampião, his men and his companion Maria Bonita were killed and beheaded by the Army in 1938. Their heads were exposed in the stairs leading to the entry of a church in the state of Alagoas.


Carmen Miranda
Carmen Miranda in “The Gang is All Here”, with Betty Grable, John Payne and Cesar Romero, released in 1944.


Military parade on September 7th, the national holiday, in 1943.


Presidents Getúlio Vargas (Brazil) and Franklin Roosevelt (USA) meeting in 1943 sealed the (reluctant) Brazilian alliance with the Allies during the Second World War.


1944. Brazilian soldiers that fought with the Allies in WWII. Standing up on the left, with an impressive moustache, war correspondent and famous short stories writer Rubem Braga.


Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos with his counterpart Aaron Copland (left) and Oscar Correia, US diplomat, at the Waldorf Astoria, in New York, in 1945.
Frevo dance in Recife, 1947. Image by the great French-Baiano photographer Pierre Verger.


Emilinha Borba (the brunette) and Marlene were the two queens of radio in the late forties and fifties. They were said to have a bitter rivalry, which was probably just some sort of marketing strategy. Their many fans would choose one side and stick with it.


Marta Rocha
Marta Rocha is not elected Miss Universe in 1954 because she has 2 inches two many in her hips . She becomes the most famous beauty pageant contestant of all times in the country.


Getúlio Vargas suicides
President Getúlio Vargas’ suicide reported by daily Última Hora, in 1954.

O Amigo da Onça, do cartunista Péricles, na popularíssima revista O Cruzeiro, durante os anos 50. O personagem invariavelmente sacaneia alguém se se faz de desentendido.


Considered by most the greatest Brazilian writer of the 20th century, João Guimarães Rosa published in 1956 his almost untranslatable “Grande Sertão: Veredas” (The Devil to Pay in the Backlands).


Oscarito and Grande Otelo, the duo of comic artists that marked the golden days of Atlântida, the main Brazilian film producer in the 50s. Here they perform in “De Pernas pro ar”, 1957.


1958 – Brazil wins its first World Cup. In this photo, standing up, Feola, Djalma Santos, Zito, Bellini, Nilton Santos, Orlando and Gilmar. Crunching: Garrincha, Didi, (a very young) Pelé, Vavá, Zagalo and trainer Paulo Amaral.


Singer Angela Maria in the cover of mega-popular magazine O Cruzeiro in 1959.


School in the rural area of Verê, state of Paraná, circa 1959. Check the very typical wooden construction, a structure highly influenced by Italian immigrants


João Gilberto releases the first Bossa Nova record in 1959.


1960. Pelé scores 2 goals in the victory of Brazil over Swedish Malmö (1X7)


Construction of Brasília, the country’s planned capital that was inaugurated in 1960.


Glória Menezes and Tarcísio Meira, the most famous couple of actors of Brazilian television, starred the first daily soap opera in 1963: “2-5499 Ocupado”. Gloria’s character is in jail, where she works as a phone operator. Tarcísio falls in love when he hears her voice, not knowing that she is a prisoner.


Roberto Carlos, the Brazilian king of ie-ie-ie, releases one of his early successes, “O Calhambeque”/The Jalopy, in 1965.


Three-time winner at Wimbledon, Maria Esther Bueno was the queen of the world tennis courts between the late fifties and the early sixties


Cacilda Becker, that many consider the best Brazilian actress of all times.


1968. First flight of the Bandeirante, the most successful airplane built by Embraer, the public company that became one of the biggest aircraft builders in the world.


General Emílio Garrastazu Médici, whose government marked the hardcore years of military dictatorship at the end of the 60s and the beginning of the 70s.


Political prisoners that were exchanged in 1969 for the American embassador, Charles Elbrick, that had been kidnapped by militants of MR-8 and ALN, two groups that were fighting the military dictatorship.


Carlos alberto Torres lifts the 1970 World Cup trophy.


Sticker extremely popular during the iron years of the military dictatorship. It says: “Brazil, Love it or Leave it”


Full-mouthed and irreverent actress Leila Diniz displaying her pregnancy at Ipanema beach in Rio, in 1971, caused a big scandal and still remains the main symbol of the women’s liberation movement in Brazil.


Raul Seixas, beloved rock composer and singer, one of the main Brazilian symbols of counterculture and hippie/junkie way-of-life. He left a legion of followers and impersonators.


“Os Trapalhões” (The Goofies) was the most successful comedy group of Brazilian TV history. From top left, clockwise: Mussum, Zacarias, Didi and Dedé. Led by Renato Aragão (Didi), an anti-hero and a trickster, they also produced 24 movies watched by 120 million people.


Chacrinha, the psychedelic king of Brazilian TV, and his voluptuous chacretes in the seventies.


The first Brazilian car fueled by sugar cane alcohol, in 1975. Pró-álcool, the official program to promote the use of this alternative fuel, was developed after the early seventies oil crisis.


Journalist Vladimir Herzog was killed in 1975 after a torture session promoted in the midst of political repression. According to official sources, he committed suicide in jail.


Serra Pelada gold rush attracted at least 100 thousand men to the state of Pará, in the Amazon, in the early eighties.


This is one of the most memorable covers ever published by a Brazilian diary. Brazil lost the 1982 World Cup, in Barcelona. Jornal da Tarde, now extinct, known for its innovative design, chose to publish this image in its cover, without a title or comments. The whole country new what it was all about.


Brazilian-Argentinian Itaipu dam, the biggest in the world in terms of generation capacity – even bigger than the Three Gorges Dam, in China. It began to operate in 1984.


Movimento dos Trabalhadores Sem-Terra (MST), the landless workers movement, was founded in 1984 to promote land reform. Today, it has around 1.6 million members. Photo by Fotos Gov/BA, via Flickr.


The million-people-rally in São Paulo, in 1984, here in the cover, once again, of daily Jornal da Tarde. A huge popular movement demanded direct elections to bury the dictatorial years. Nevertheless, direct elections only happened five years later. Unfortunately the image is black-and-white, otherwise you would see most tee shirts were yellow, the convened protest color.


Roque Santeiro, the most successful soap opera of Brazilian TV, was exhibited in 1985, after being banned for 10 years due to military censorship.The over-the-board style of Viúva Porcina, the main female character, interpreted by Regina Duarte, became extremely popular at the time. The story even named a huge shanty town in Angola.


In 1986, president José Sarney asked the population to control the retail’s activities on his behalf, to denounce shops that raised their prices, which was forbidden by the government.


Loved by his readers, hated by literary critics, Paulo Coelho published esoteric best-seller “The Alchemist” in 1988. It sold 65 million copies since, a world record.


Aclaimed rubber tapper and Amazon activist Chico Mendes was killed in 1988 by land owners.


Pedro Collor details in an interview to Veja magazine a series of corruption crimes (and even sorcery episodes) involving his estranged brother, president Fernando Collor de Mello. This is the beginning of a political process that leads to Collor’s impeachment.


Just like Americans and President Kennedy, most Brazilians remember where they were when they learned that Ayrton Senna, the three-time Formula 1 champion, died. He crashed against a guard-rail during the San Marino Gran Prix, in 1994.


Photo taken in 1998 by Noel Villas Bôas, from a very famous clan of anthropologists. It depicts the Kuarup, an Indian ceremony frequent in the National Park of Xingu, the main indigenous reservation in the country, conceived by the Villas-Boas.


central do brasil
“Central do Brasil” (Central Station), film directed by Walter Salles in 1998. It is considered one of the first great movies of the Brazilian film renaissance, that began a little over 10 years ago.


President Luis Inácio Lula da Silva and vice-president José Alencar during the ceremony marking the beginning of his second presidential mandate, in 2007.