Baron of rio branco

For other uses, see Rio Branco (disambiguation).

José Paranhos, Baron of Rio Branco
The Baron of Rio Branco in 1898
Minister of Foreign Affairs of Brazil
In office
Preceded by Olinto de Magalhães
Succeeded by Lauro Müller
Personal details
Born (1845-04-20)20 April 1845
Rio de Janeiro City, Rio de Janeiro, Brazilian Empire
Died 10 February 1912(1912-02-10) (aged 66)
Rio de Janeiro City, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Political party Conservative Party (Brazil)
Occupation Diplomat
Religion Roman Catholic

José Maria da Silva Paranhos, Jr., Baron of Rio Branco (April 20, 1845 – February 10, 1912) was a Brazilian diplomat, geographer, historian, monarchist, politician and professor, considered to be the "father of Brazilian diplomacy". He was the son of famous statesman José Maria da Silva Paranhos, Sr.. The Baron of Rio Branco was a member of the Brazilian Academy of Letters, occupying its 34th chair from 1898 until his death in 1912.


In 1889, Emperor Pedro II of Brazil granted him the Brazilian nobility title Baron of Rio Branco (Barão do Rio Branco), a few days before the Proclamation of the Republic. Rio Branco nonetheless continued to use the title throughout his life, despite governmental prohibition, because of his monarchist beliefs and in respect for his father. Being a monarchist, however, was no impediment for his success as a diplomat: the Baron of Rio Branco reached the heights of his career during the Republic, when he acted as Minister of Foreign Affairs for 10 years and settled all of Brazil's remaining border disputes by peaceful means.

Career history and legacy

Rio Branco began his political career as a congressman in the House of Commons. From 1876 on, he was the Brazilian Consul General in Liverpool, England. He was also the Brazilian Ambassador in Berlin in the beginning of the 20th century.

Rio Branco's most important legacy to Brazil was his successful effort, as Minister of Foreign Affairs, in defining the country's borders with all of its neighbours. He was appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs in 1902 and retained office until 1912, under four different Presidents, a feat unequalled in Brazilian history.

Before and during his term, he negotiated territorial disputes between Brazil and some of its neighbours and consolidated the borders of modern Brazil. He is considered one of the most prominent Brazilian statesmen ever, as his proverbial work capacity, knowledge and skills were essential for the successful outcome of difficult boundary disputes, some of which submitted to international arbitration – such as with Argentina and France –, as well as for incorporating new territory (the state of Acre, originally Bolivian).

As a mediator he negotiated and settled disputes between the United States and many European countries. On those occasions, he never abandoned his belief in diplomacy as the means to handle international matters, thus helping establish Brazil's reputation as a peace-loving nation.

Treaty of Petrópolis (with Bolivia)

In 1903 Rio Branco signed the Treaty of Petrópolis with Bolivia, putting an end to the dispute involving the present Brazilian state of Acre. The region was settled mostly by native Brazilians, but the Bolivian government had come close to leasing this rubber-rich area to American private entrepreneurs. Today, the state's capital bears the name Rio Branco in his honor.


In 1909, Rio Branco was encouraged to run for the Presidency, but he declined, as he could not envisage consensus around his name. He was very popular, however, among the people, at the time of his death, to the point of paralysing Carnival – another unparalleled feat in Brazilian history – on the day he died (February 10), when official mourning was declared.

As a writer he wrote many books, dealing mostly with the history of Brazil, and was awarded prizes and occupied the 34th seat of the Brazilian Academy of Literature.

Brazil's diplomacy academy (Instituto Rio Branco) is named after the Baron. Rio Branco is portrayed on the fifty centavos coin of the Brazilian real currency.

See also

Further reading

LINS, Álvaro. Rio Branco (O Barão do Rio Branco): biografia pessoal e história política. São Paulo: Editora Alfa-Omega, 1996. 516p.

Preuss, Ori. Bridging the Island: Brazilians' Views of Spanish America and Themselves. Madrid: Iberoamericana, 2011.

External links

  • Relatório apresentado ao Presidente da República dos Estados Unidos do Brasil pelo Ministro de Estado das Relações Exteriores, compreendendo o período decorrido de 28 de maio de 1902 a 31 de agosto de 1903
Academic offices
Preceded by
João Manuel Pereira da Silva (founder)
Brazilian Academy of Letters - Occupant of the 34th chair
1898 — 1912
Succeeded by
Lauro Müller
Titles of nobility of the Brazilian Empire
Preceded by
New creation
Baron of Rio Branco
Succeeded by
None (title abolished)

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