Cruzeiro: the money used by the Candangos (Brasilia’s construction workers)

Small sample of banknotes and coins that circulated in Brasilia at the time of its construction.

By Museu de Valores do Banco Central do Brasil

By visiting this virtual exhibition, part of the numismatic collection of the Money Museum of Brazilian Central Bank, from the historic time of the construction of Brasília will be shown. Visitors will take a walk through the early period of the city, getting to know the circulating medium of the time, interspersed with news of economic daily life, published in the first issues of the newspaper Correio Braziliense.

Conterrâneos Velhos de Guerra - Vladimir Carvalho (1991) (1991) by Vladimir CarvalhoMuseu de Valores do Banco Central do Brasil

“ ... You will have a better life"

Conterrâneos Velhos de Guerra - Vladimir Carvalho (1991) (1991) by Vladimir CarvalhoMuseu de Valores do Banco Central do Brasil

“ ... you came here thinking about staying, right?" 

Candango, according to the dictionary, is "a name given to the ordinary laborers who worked on the construction of Brasilia".
In these short excerpts from Vladimir de Carvalho's Old Countrymen of War (Conterrâneos Velhos de Guerra), it is noted that the main attraction for the Candangos migrating to Brasília was the possibility of getting work and earning money to improve their lives. What money did the Candangos who worked on the future federal capital receive?

Moeda de 10 centavos de cruzeiro Moeda de 10 centavos de cruzeiro (reverso), Tesouro Nacional, 1960, From the collection of: Museu de Valores do Banco Central do Brasil
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Moeda de 20 centavos de cruzeiro Moeda de 20 centavos de cruzeiro (reverso), Tesouro Nacional, 1960, From the collection of: Museu de Valores do Banco Central do Brasil
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Moeda de 50 centavos de cruzeiro Moeda de 50 centavos de cruzeiro (anverso), From the collection of: Museu de Valores do Banco Central do Brasil
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Moeda de 1 cruzeiro Moeda de 1 cruzeiro (reverso), Tesouro Nacional, 1960, From the collection of: Museu de Valores do Banco Central do Brasil
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Moeda de 2 cruzeiros Moeda de 2 cruzeiros (reverso), Tesouro Nacional, 1960, From the collection of: Museu de Valores do Banco Central do Brasil
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Moeda de 2 cruzeiros Moeda de 2 cruzeiros (anverso), From the collection of: Museu de Valores do Banco Central do Brasil
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The money used in that period was the cruzeiro, which had been introduced in 1942, and was Brazil's currency until 1967. The coins then in circulation were these, all with the coat of arms of the Republic on their obverse.

And what could the Candangos buy with these coins?

Jornal Correio Braziliense - 21 de abril de 1960 (1960)Museu de Valores do Banco Central do Brasil

Edition No. 1 of the Correio Braziliense, April 21st, 1960

Commemorative edition for the transfer of the federal capital to Brasília

Small change

According to the newspaper report, the cheapest product in town was a box of matches (Cr$ 3.00), followed by an average cup of coffee (Cr$ 5.00).

To buy one of these products, the Candangos could also use bills, such as those of one, two, and five cruzeiros.

Cédula de 1 cruzeiro, Tesouro Nacional, 1955, From the collection of: Museu de Valores do Banco Central do Brasil
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Cédula de 2 cruzeiros, Tesouro Nacional, 1958, From the collection of: Museu de Valores do Banco Central do Brasil
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Cédula de 5 cruzeiros, Tesouro Nacional, 1959, From the collection of: Museu de Valores do Banco Central do Brasil
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What other products were used by the Candangos and were around at the time?

Jornal Correio Braziliense - 21 de abril de 1960 (1960)Museu de Valores do Banco Central do Brasil

Edition No. 1 of the Correio Braziliense, April 21st, 1960

 

Milk supply

The possibility of milk shortages occupied a lot of space in the newspaper, in an attempt to guarantee the product’s availability to the population of the new capital. According to reports, in the Pilot Project (Plano Piloto), milk in bulk was sold from Cr$ 16.00 to Cr$ 20.00.

The Candangos could use these Cr$ 10 or Cr$ 20 bills, to buy this product.

Cédula de 10 cruzeiros, Tesouro Nacional, 1960, From the collection of: Museu de Valores do Banco Central do Brasil
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Cédula de 20 cruzeiros, Tesouro Nacional, 1960, From the collection of: Museu de Valores do Banco Central do Brasil
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Jornal Correio Braziliense - 22 de abril de 1960 (1960)Museu de Valores do Banco Central do Brasil

Edition No. 2 of the Correio Braziliense, 22 April 1960

Price of tangerines

Also,Ponkan tangerines were sold for a similar price, from Cr$15.00 to Cr$20.00 per unit, according to this report in the Correio Braziliense. 

However, to have a meal in a restaurant, the Candangos had to spend a little more of their salary, which would cost them a lot of money.

Jornal Correio Braziliense - 24 de abril de 1960 (1960)Museu de Valores do Banco Central do Brasil

Edition No. 4 of the Correio Braziliense, 24 April 1960

Heavy use of Brasilia's restaurants

According to the article, it cost Cr$ 150.00 for a pasta dish in a Free City restaurant, and Cr$ 220.00 for a normal meal.

For this, the Candangos would have to use the bills we have just seen or some of slightly higher denominations.

Cédula de 50 cruzeiros, Tesouro Nacional, 1961, From the collection of: Museu de Valores do Banco Central do Brasil
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Cédula de 100 cruzeiros, Tesouro Nacional, 1960, From the collection of: Museu de Valores do Banco Central do Brasil
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Cédula de 200 cruzeiros, Tesouro Nacional, 1960, From the collection of: Museu de Valores do Banco Central do Brasil
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And how much did a Candango receive for his work?
Although the minimum wage at the time was Cr$ 6000 (Decree No. 45106-A, 1958), the hourly wage of the Candangos varied according to their skills and whether they worked during the day or at night:
• Carpenter: Cr$ 18.00 or 21.60
• Various senior categories (electrician, foreman, overseer): Cr$ 20.00 or 24.00
• Unskilled laborer: Cr$ 10.00 or 12.00
• Lubricator: Cr$ 15.00 or 18.00
• Guard: Cr$ 10.00 or 12.00
• Driver: Cr$ 25.00 or 30.00

(JÚNIOR 2008)

Jornal Correio Braziliense - 26 de abril de 1960 (1960)Museu de Valores do Banco Central do Brasil

Edition No. 5 of the Correio Braziliense, April 26th, 1960

Lower prices for basic needs

In this edition of the newspaper, the news that food prices had been reduced by 30% in the city was highlighted, presenting "the prices of articles of basic necessity for the consumption of the population currently in Brasilia as the lowest in the whole country”.

Daily movement in the Novacap supermarket

On the same page, movement in the Novacap supermarket was also news (photo on left). In those days, when there were no card payments like today, the Candangos came to spend large sums of money …

... paying for their purchases with higher-denomination bills ...

Cédula de 500 cruzeiros, Tesouro Nacional, 1960, From the collection of: Museu de Valores do Banco Central do Brasil
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Cédula de 1.000 cruzeiros, Tesouro Nacional, 1961, From the collection of: Museu de Valores do Banco Central do Brasil
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The relationship between the Candangos and the newly established financial institutions in the capital was also written about in the press.

Jornal Correio Braziliense - 28 de abril de 1960 (1960)Museu de Valores do Banco Central do Brasil

Edition No. 7 of the Correio Braziliense, April 28, 1960

17,000 workers have money deposited at the Caixa Econômica Bank

In this issue, attention was drawn to the number of workers who are customers of Caixa Econômica Federal. 

Average deposits

According to the news, the average deposit was Cr$ 14,000.

Financial education

Also on this same page, attention was drawn to the need for workers to organize their finances and deposit their money in the bank, to protect it against loss or theft. The section to the right reports on the loss of Cr$ 10,800.00 as a result of a fire.

For Osvaldo Freitas Cunha, the donor identified in the newspaper report, 2 bills with the highest face value, Cr$ 5000, and some others already presented in this exhibition were enough to cover what was lost in a fire by João Gonçalves de Brito.

Cédula de 5.000 cruzeiros, Tesouro Nacional, 1963, From the collection of: Museu de Valores do Banco Central do Brasil
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The first images of Brasília, by Jean Manzon

Behind the monuments, grandiose buildings, and huge blocks, there was a newly resident population, doing their daily shopping and earning money to make their dreams come true.
It is estimated that around 64,000 people lived in the Federal District in 1959, a number that has never stopped growing since then. Without their help, the capital of Brazil would not exist.
This exhibition offers a visual depiction of the daily economic life of these brave pioneers.

Credits: Story

Bibliographic references

17,000 workers have money deposited in the Caixa Econômica Bank (savings bank). CORREIO BRAZILIENSE, Brasilia, Year 1, No. 7, April 28, 1960. Page 8. Available here. Accessed on: Feb 25, 2021.

Milk supply in Brasilia. CORREIO BRAZILIENSE, Brasilia, Year 1, No. 1, April 21, 1960. Page 107. Available here. Accessed on: Feb 25, 2021.
Prices of goods in Brasilia are down by about 30%. CORREIO BRAZILIENSE, Brasilia, Year 1, No. 5, April 26, 1960. Page 8. Available here. Accessed on: Feb 25, 2021.
Brasilia defeats those who saw it as just a place to make easy money. CORREIO BRAZILIENSE, Brasília, Year 1, No. 2, April 22, 1960. Page 8. Available here. Accessed on: Feb 25, 2021. 
Due to a warning, the Caixa Economica Bank has delayed a rush of depositors. CORREIO BRAZILIENSE, Brasilia, Year 1, No. 1, April 21, 1960. Page 66. Available here. Accessed on: Feb 25, 2021.
CANDANGO. In: Dicionário Brasileiro da Língua Portuguesa (Brazilian Dictionary of the Portuguese Language). Published by Melhoramentos, 2021. Available here. Accessed on: Feb 25, 2021. 
The 1959 census shows the population of the Candangos who built Brasilia. AGENCIA BRASIL NATIONAL PUBLIC NEWS AGENCY. Brasilia, Apr 21, 2010. Available here. Accessed on: Feb 25, 2021.
JÚNIOR, Reinaldo de Lima Reis. CITY, WORK AND MEMORY: THE CONSTRUCTION WORKERS OF BRASILIA (1956-1960). Pontifical Catholic University of Minas Gerais. Dissertation presented to the Graduate Program in Social Sciences. 2008. Available here. Accessed on: Feb 25, 2021.
Much use of restaurants in Brasilia. CORREIO BRAZILIENSE, Brasília, Year 1, No. 4, April 24, 1960. Page 8. Available here.

Video references
THE FIRST images of Brasília. Jean Manzon. 1956/57. Available here. Accessed on: Feb 25, 2021.
Old Countrymen of War (Conterrâneos Velhos de Guerra). Vladimir Carvalho. 1992. Available here. Accessed on: Feb 25, 2021.

Image
credits: Numismatic collection of the Money Museum of Brazilian Central Bank (Museu de Valores do Banco Central do Brasil); Federal District Public archive; D.A. Press Content.
Exhibition design and research: Carmela Fonseca and Denir Miranda
Selection of contents and mounting the exhibition: Carmela Fonseca
Data processing: Lauro Koichi Yamamoto
Texts: Carmela Fonseca
Brought to you by: Central Bank of Brazil | Department of Citizens’ Financial Awareness | Museum of Money
Support: Friends of the Money Museum of Brazilian Central Bank (AAMV
  

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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