Acre is one of the 27 states of Brazil. It is situated in the southwest of the Northern Region, bordering Amazonas to the north, Rondônia to the east, Bolivia to the southeast and the Ucayali Region of Peru to the south and west. It occupies an area of 152,581.4 km2, being slightly smaller than Tunisia.
This state is the western extreme of the North Region of Brazil, with a one hour time difference from Brasília (DF). In it is located the last Brazilian population to see the sun rise, on the Serra da Moa, on the Peruvian border. The intense extractive activity, which reached its height in the 20th century, attracted Brazilians from many regions to the state. From the mixture of sulista, paulista, nordestino, and indigenous traditions arose a diverse cuisine, which unites sun-dried meat (carne-de-sol) with Arapaima (pirarucu), a typical fish of the region. Such dishes are seasoned with tucupi, a sauce made from manioc.
Fluvial transport, concentrated on the Juruá and Moa rivers, in the western part of the state, and the Tarauacá and Envira Rivers in the northwest, is the principal form of circulation, especially between November and June, when the rain leaves the BR-364 impassable, which connects Rio Branco to Cruzeiro do Sul.
Until the beginning of the 20th century Acre belonged to Bolivia. However, since the beginning of the 19th century, a large part of its population were Brazilians who exploited rubber tree groves and who, in practice, achieved the creation of an independent territory.
In 1899, Bolivians tried to gain control of the area, but Brazilians revolted and there were border confrontations, generating the episode which became known as the Acre Revolution (Revolução Acreana).
On November 17, 1903, with the signing over and sale in the Treaty of Petrópolis, Brazil received final possession of the region. Acre was then integrated into Brazil as a territory divided into three departments. The territory became Brazilian sovereignty in exchange for the payment of two million pounds sterling, land taken from Mato Grosso and in accordance with the construction of the Madeira-Mamoré railway.
Having been united in 1920, on June 15, 1962 it was elevated to the category of state, being the first to be governed by a woman, the teacher Iolanda Fleming.
During the Second World War, the rubber tree groves of Malaya were taken by the Japanese, and Acre thus left a great mark on western and world history, helping to change the course of the war in favour of the allies. This was thanks to the Rubber Soldiers, natives mostly of the Ceará plantation. It was perhaps due to Acre and its decisive contribution to the allied victory, that Brazil received North American resources to form the National Steel Company (Companhia Siderúrgica Nacional), and thus aid in the industrialization of the Central-south, which was until such time mostly stagnant, and which did not yet possess basic heavy industries.
On April 4 of 2008, Acre won a judicial debate with the state of Amazonas in relation to the dispute surrounding the Cunha Gomes Line, which culminated in the annex of part of the municipalities of Envira, Guajará, Boca do Acre, Pauini, Eirunepé and Ipixuna. The territorial redefinition consolidated the incorporation of 1.2 million hectares of the Liberdade, Gregório, and Mogno forest complex to the territory of Acre, which corresponds to 11,583.87 km2.
Since the 1970s, numerous geoglyphs have been discovered on deforested land in Acre dating between 0–1250 AD, leading to claims about Pre-Columbian civilizations. The BBC's Unnatural Histories claimed that the Amazon rainforest, rather than being a pristine wilderness, has been shaped by man for at least 11,000 years through practices such as forest gardening. Alceu Ranzi, a Brazilian geographer, is accredited with first discovering the geoglyphs whilst flying over Acre.
During the 17th century, Portuguese penetrations had already reached many of the maximum ends of Brazil. The expansion of the geographic horizon to the west was an inevitable consequence, reaching lands of Spanish possession; a fact which became a topic of the Treaties of Madrid (1750) and Santo Ildefonso (1777). Both of the treaties, based on the explorations of Manuel Félix de Leme of the Guaporé and Madeira drainage basins, established the riverbeds of the Mamoré and Guaporé to their maximum western limits on the left bank of the Javari as a dividing line between the respective areas in question.
The settlement of the zone, stimulated by the creation of the new Royal Captainship of Mato Grosso (1751), occurred in the direction of the frontier, causing several important centers to emerge: Vila Bela (1752) on the banks of the Guaporé, Vila Maria (1778) on the Paraguay River, and Casalvasco (1783). Until the mid-19th century, a systematic settling of the area was not thought of. At that time, the great virgin source of rubber found there would attract commercial interest, provoking its colonization.
The economic politics of the empire, directed towards agricultural exportation activities based on coffee, did not permit the utilization and incorporation of the territories of the extreme west. From this negligence it happened that in Cândido Mendes de Almeida's Atlas of the Empire of Brazil (1868), a model of its time, the Acre River and its principal tributaries did not appear, being completely unknown to geographers.
Notwithstanding such politics, some few armed bands of Brazilian explorers exploited the rural and unpopulated region, not knowing whether they pertained to Brazil, Peru, or Bolivia. Hence, still in the mid 19th century, fed by the drive which the search for rubber occasioned, solicited as it was on the international market, various expeditions searched out the area seeking to facilitate the installation of colonists. At that time, João Rodrigues Cametá initiated the conquest of the Purús River; Manuel Urbano da Encarnação, an Indian with an extensive knowledge of the region, reached the Acre River, traveling up it as far as the vicinity of the Xapuri; and João da Cunha Correia reached the drainage basin of the upper Tarauacá. All this clearing took place, for the most part, on Bolivian land.
Exploitative activities, the industrial importance of the rubber reserves, and the penetration of Brazilian colonists in the region raised the attention of Bolivia, which solicited a better fixation of boundaries. After much failed negotiation, in 1867 the Treaty of Ayacucho was signed, which recognized the colonial uti possidetis. A border was established parallel to the confluence of the Beni and Mamoré Rivers running eastward to the headwaters of the Javari River, even though the source of this river was not yet known.
As the price of rubber rose in the market, the demand for it grew, and the race to the Amazon increased. Plantations multiplied in this manner in the valleys of the Acre, Purús, and farther west, the Tarauacá: in one year (1873-1874), in the drainage basin of the Purús, the population rose from around one thousand to four thousand inhabitants. On the other hand, the imperial government, already sensitive to the resulting offerings of rubber, considered the entire valley of the Purús to be Brazilian.
Also, in the second half of the 19th century, disturbances were registered in the demographic and geo-economic balance of the empire, with the coffee boom in the south channeling financial resources and workers, in detriment to the northeast. The growing impoverishment of that region stimulated migratory waves to the states of Rio de Janeiro, Minas Gerais, and São Paulo. The movement of population became particularly active during the prolonged drought of the northeastern interior, from 1877 to 1880, expelling hundreds of Cearenses, who headed for the rubber plantations in search of work.
The advance of Cearense migration proceeded to the banks of the Juruá and accelerated the occupation of land which Bolivia would later reclaim. The great fluvial river beds and their tributary systems were then intensely trafficked by small ship fleets of varied transport, transporting colonists, goods, and supply material to the most isolated nuclei. The governments of Amazonas and Pará quickly instituted the establishment of supply houses, which financed various types of operations, guaranteed credit, and promoted the commercial incentive of the rubber tree groves.
The rubber race assumed proportions similar to those of the search for gold veins in the 18th century. The results were equal. The situation drew the attention of the government to the economic utilization of an almost completely unknown area, besides permitting -as in a colony- the patrimonial incorporation of new regions, on the basis of penetration movements by private enterprise.
In 1890, a Bolivian official, José Manuel Pando, alerted his government to the fact that in the drainage basin of the Juruá there were more than three hundred rubber plantations, with the occupation by Brazilians taking root more and more rapidly on Bolivian soil. The Brazilian penetration had advanced in depth west from the 64th meridian to beyond the 72nd, in an extension of one thousand kilometers, even though the borders had already been fixed above the confluence of the Beni and Mamoré Rivers according to the Treaty of 1867.
In 1895 a new commission for the settlement of demarcation was created. The Brazilian representative, Gregório Taumaturgo de Azevedo, resigned after verifying that the ratification of the Treaty of 1867 would harm the rubber gatherers which were installed there. In 1899, the Bolivians established an administrative post in Puerto Alonso, exacting taxes and customs duties upon Brazilian activities. The following year, Brazil accepted the sovereignty of Bolivia in the zone, when it officially recognized the old boundaries at the confluence of the Beni and Mamoré.
The rubber gatherers, distant from the diplomatic process, judged their interests to have been cheated, and initiated insurrection movements. In the same year that Bolivia implanted administration in Puerto Alonso (1899), two serious contestations occurred.
In April, a Cearense lawyer, José carvalho, led an armed movement, which culminated in the expulsion of the Bolivian authorities. Shortly thereafter, Bolivia began negotiations with an Anglo-American trust, the Bolivian Syndicate, in order to promote, with exceptional force (exacting of taxes, armed force), the political and economic incorporation of Acre into its territory. The governor of Amazonas, Ramalho Júnior, informed of the agreement by a functionary of the Bolivian consulate in Belém, Luis Gálvez Rodríguez de Arias, sent military contingents forward to occupy Puerto Alonso. Gálvez proclaimed the independence of Acre, in the form of a republic, becoming its president with the acquiescence of the rubber gatherers. Under protests from Bolivia, President Campos Sales abolished the ephemeral republic (March 1900).
Bolivians, reinstated in the region, suffered, still in 1900, the assault of the so-called Floriano Peixoto expedition or "expedition of the poets", thus called, for being constituted for the most part of intellectual bohemians from Manaus. The conflict did not have great consequences, since, following brief fighting in the area surrounding Puerto Alonso, the expedition was completely scattered.
Ultimately, the Bolivian government signed a contract with the Bolivian Syndicate (July 1901). The Brazilian congress, shocked by the arbitrariness of the act, took measures, canceling commercial accords and navigation between the two countries, and suspending the right of travel to Bolivia.
At the same time, Brazilians organized an armed assault of great size on the conflicted area. The operations were led by a former student of the Military School of Rio Grande do Sul (Escola Militar do Rio Grande do Sul), José Plácido de Castro. The rubber gatherers occupied the village of Xapuri in Alto Acre (August 1902), apprehending the Bolivian authorities. Finally, Plácido de Castro's forces besieged Puerto Alonso, proclaiming the Independent State of Acre, after the capitulation of Bolivian troops (February 1903).
To Plácido de Castro, proclaimed governor of the new Independent State of Acre, it was left to discuss the question of borders in the diplomatic sphere. The Baron of Rio Branco, who had just assumed the role of minister of foreign relations, immediately opened channels which were meant to have put an end to the question.
The simplest problem, with the Bolivian Syndicate, was resolved by means of the compensation of one hundred ten thousand pounds to renounce the contract (February 1903). Next, commercial relations were reestablished with Bolivia, while a part of the territory on the upper Purús and Juruá, militarily occupied (March 1903) was declared litigious. From the subsequent talks, it followed that Bolivia would cede an area of 142,800 km2, in exchange for two million pounds sterling, paid in two installments. Brazil committed to the construction of a Madeira-Mamoré Railway, connecting Porto Velho to Guajará-Mirim, at the confluence of the Beni and the Madeira. Such were the principal stipulations of the Treaty of Petrópolis (November 17, 1903), through which Brazil acquired the future territory, now state of Acre.
There remained the question of Peru, which also claimed sovereignty over the entire territory of Acre and part of the state of Amazonas, in light of colonial titles. After armed conflicts between Brazilians and Peruvians on the upper Purús and Juruá, a joint administration was established in those regions (1904). The studies for the fixation of borders proceeded until the end of 1909, when a treaty was signed which completed the political integration of Acre into Brazilian territory.
Development from territory to statehood
The evolution of Acre appears to be a typical phenomenon of modern penetration in the history of Brazil, accompanied by important contributions to the economic projection of the country. Exercising a prominent role in national exports until 1913, when rubber was introduced to European and North American markets, Acre enjoyed a period of great prosperity: at the start of the 20th century, in a period of less than ten years, it boasted more than 50,000 inhabitants.
It may be asserted that all the endeavors towards the integration of Acre into Brazilian life correspond to the parallel efforts of the federal government, from 1946 on, to the effect of recuperating the economy of the Amazon, including it in regional development projects.
Attending to the judicial arrangements of the Treaty of Petrópolis, President Rodrigues Alves sanctioned the law which created the Territory of Acre (1904), further dividing it into three departments: Alto Acre, Alto Purús, and Alto Juruá, the latter being separated to form Alto Tarauacá (1912). The departmental administration was exercised until 1921 by mayors appointed by the President of Brazil. At that time the arrangements were altered, passing the administration to a governor. The second Constitution of Brazil (1934) conceded to Acre the right to elect representatives to the National Congress of Brazil.
In the 1960s, the second cycle of efforts to accelerate the progress of the Amazon area was begun with the Superintendency of the Development of the Amazon (Superintendência do Desenvolvimento da Amazônia or SUDAM, 1966). Better networking of regional sub-sectors within the state was sought out, thus connecting the branch lines of the Transamazônica, which connected Rio Branco and Brasiléia, on the upper course of the Acre River, and Cruzeiro do Sul, on the banks of the Juruá, crossing the valleys of the Purús and the Tarauacá. Planning politics developed, therefore, destined to correct the demographic, economic, and political distortions of national integration.