Brasília and the West Feature


A Bit of History

The occupation of the center-west of Brazil did not keep up with the pace of occupation in the other regions. It was not until the discovery of gold in the mid-18th century in the states of Mato Grosso and Goiás that the first prominent urban centers were established in the region: Cuiabá (1727), Vila Boa (1739), and Santíssima Trindade (1752). The roads opened by the first bandeirantes (explorers) in the 1820s—probably following the trails of the Indian tribes who lived in the area, the Macro-jê or Tapuias—were used by approximately 6,000 people at the time. The region was an important economic hub 250 years before the construction of Brasília.

Between 1906 and 1910 the government-sponsored Rondon Expedition set out to explore and map an area the size of France. Explorers faced some indigenous Xavantes tribes in the area of the Araguaia River, who attacked to defend their territory. Colonization of the center-west was intensified in the '50s, with the construction of Brasília and the new integration roads, together with the increase in agricultural practices in the region.

The creation of Brasília began long before its construction in 1956. The idea of moving the capital to the countryside was first voiced in the 18th century, allegedly by the Portuguese Marquis of Pombal. Several sites were proposed, in different central states. A team was commissioned to study the climatic conditions of inland Brazil and demarcate an area for the future capital. The team's final report was submitted in 1894, but it wasn't until 1946 that the plan of moving the capital to the Central Plateau became a reality with the advent of a new Constitution. President Juscelino Kubitschek ordered the construction of Brasília in 1956.

The mystic part of the history of Brasília revolves around bishop Dom Bosco and the prophetic dream he had in the 19th century, 75 years before the construction of the city. Dom Bosco dreamed about Brasília being the "promised land, flowing with milk and honey and inconceivable riches" between parallels 15 and 20. Dom Bosco's dream was used as one of the mottos to justify the moving of the capital to the interior of the country.

Brasília was unveiled in 1960. In 1987 UNESCO declared the city a World Heritage Site. Since its founding, Brasília has seen important political and social changes, such as the enactment of the current Brazilian Constitution in 1988 (the first after the military dictatorship stepped down) and rallies against former President Fernando Collor de Mello, the only Brazilian president to be impeached, in 1992.

View all features


Trip Finder

Fodor's Brazil 2014

View Details
Travel Deals