Brazil was a colony of Portugal from 1500 to 1822. During these 300 years Brazilian economic activity was essentially based on agriculture and minerals. No industries nor universities were established by the colonizing Portuguese, in contrast to America colonized by Spain. Bound to Portugal throughout this period, Brazil saw great territorial expansion without the necessary development.
With independence in 1822, the Brazilian Empire began to advance creating the first industries, railroads and schools. On October 25, 1884, Emperor Pedro II created the first Dental courses in Brazil, one in the capital Rio de Janeiro and the other in Salvador, Bahia.
With the advent of the Republic (November 15, 1889), Brazil entered a new phase, opening its doors to immigrants because of the need for agriculture workers since slavery had been abolished in 1888. Italian, German, and Arabic immigrants arrived and in this century, immigrants from Japan, Ukraine, Poland, China and various other countries arrived. The Italian immigrants began the industrialization of São Paulo. Companies were created and Brazil began to produce basic goods. Hydroelectric plants began to utilize the great resource of numerous rivers.
Social reform in Brazil progressed only with the end of the old Republic and the beginning of the New State led by Getúlio Vargas (1930-1945).
In 1934, the government of São Paulo created the University of São Paulo with the objective of improving education for the society and diffusing education to Brazil as a whole. Today, the University of São Paulo is the largest in Brazil with five campuses in the State in the cities of São Paulo, Piracicaba, Pirassununga, Bauru and Ribeirão Preto.
With a return to democracy, the nation began once again to grow and in the period of President Kubistchek (1956-1960), attention was given to the interior of Brazil, with construction of highways linking Brazil from North to South and from East to West. Brasília was born in the center of the country and was called the capital of hope. In spite of high inflation, Brazil was euphoric and grew. Industry, hydroelectric plants and highways appeared throughout the country.
In 1964, Brazil passed through a period of social confusion and a military dictatorship was installed. It is difficult to judge this period since this was the dominant spirit of Latin America. Military dictatorships ruled in all of the neighboring countries. During this period, Brazil had great technological and industrial advances and many universities were created. The great drama of this period was the loss of individual liberty which greatly affected the Brazilian people.
When a new democracy was installed, Brazil had various presidents with modern policies. Brazilian ports were opened to international trade and relationships with neighboring countries (Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay) improved considerably and Mercosul was created.
The current President, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, is an intellectual who was a Full Professor of Sociology at the University of São Paulo. He has managed to reduce inflation to a level of 0.5% per month, which is a tremendous achievement as before monetary reform, Brazil was close to hyperinflation, reaching nearly 80% per month.
The current socio-political and economic challenge is to correct social and structural distortions in Brazil. Great political changes are necessary: social questions must be resolved such as distribution of income, improved conditions of health, education, urban violence, and drug traffic.
Profound changes in the Federal Constitution must be carried out, with a more just taxation, diminishing the “cost of Brazil” for production, inserting this country competitively in the world economy. A crucial problem which affects this Nation and is a collateral effect of the economic stabilization plan is high unemployment.
With a sociologist in the highest position of the Nation we hope that he has the sensitivity to put forth all of the urgent and necessary reforms that this Nation requires and which are part of our cultural heritage, and the research and work of all those who labor for Sociology.
It is true that great changes imply radical modification in all of society, with its members as participants of the renewal movement, insisting on and promoting deep reforms in all social segments.
The academic class, of which we are members, has an important role in the creation of a new Brazil. It is up to us as the center of intellectual excellence to question and discuss relevant national problems, taking them to the entire population. However, it is not only this. It is up to us to also present responsible and efficient solutions for the problems we detect. In other words, academics and the actual University must leave utopia and theory and advance to reality as the greatest end.