Land Structure in Brazil

Land Structure in Brazil

In Brazil’s history, there is a recurring discussion about the land tenure structure, characterizing it as excluding and generating profound socioeconomic inequalities .

In the initial decades of colonization, the Portuguese Crown, in the figure of Dom João III, saw the need to “patrol” the conquered lands, starting from the coast, through an effective occupation process.

In this way, the hereditary captaincies were established , fifteen tracts of land parallel to the equatorial line, from the coast to the meridian of Tordesillas, administered by the captains-donatários, members of the gentry, merchants and bureaucrats, coming from Portugal.

Upon receiving the donated land, the captains-donataries took possession, but did not acquire ownership of the land, and could not sell or share their captaincy. However, they enjoyed economic (tax collection) and administrative powers, among which stood out the monopoly of justice, the formation of militias and the donation of sesmarias.

The allotments donation was assigning captains of the addressees , which is relevant to the understanding of the Brazilian agrarian structure , as they were “a land extension virgin whose property was donated to a sesmeiro with the obligation – rarely fulfilled – to cultivate it within five years and to pay the tribute due to the Crown. There were immense sesmarias throughout the colony, with ill-defined limits, such as that of Brás Cubas, which included part of the current municipalities of Santos, Cubatão and São Bernardo ”.

Thus, the concentration of land , which is still very present in our territory, is configured , in which it is noticeable the existence of a relatively small number of large properties, which, however, occupy a significant portion of the land, in contrast to the large number of small and medium properties.

The Land Law

The concentration of land in the country has advanced over time. Nowadays, Brazil is still one of the worst countries in this regard, embodied in a very high Gini Index, above 0.8 . This index, also used to measure income concentration, ranges from 0 to 1, where zero exposes an equal distribution of land among all people in a region and 1 represents the opposite, a condition in which a single person would control all the lands of an area.

In the middle of the 19th century, the establishment of the Land Law contributed to the process of land concentration , which was already quite accentuated in Brazil.

With the abolition of the inter- Atlantic slave trade , with the imposition of the Eusébio de Queiróz Law, approved on September 4, 1850, there was a need to seek alternatives to the substitution of slave labor of African origin.

Thus, the prospect of a more intense opening to immigration arose as a way to supply the need for labor. However, imbued with a strong elitist and, in a way, xenophobic nature, the Land Law , instituted only two weeks after the Eusébio de Queiróz Law, on September 18, established that public lands should be sold , and no longer donated, at high prices, which greatly restricted the possibility of future immigrants acquiring land in the country.

Under the auspices of regularizing the issue of land tenure and obliging the registration of properties, the Land Law practically made access to rural property practically unviable, causing a greater degree of land concentration.

Land Structure in Brazil