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Fazendas (Portuguese pronunciation: [fɐˈzẽdɐs], meaning "farms") were plantations found throughout Brazil; during the colonial period (16th - 18th centuries) they were concentrated primarily in the northeastern region, where sugar was produced, shifting during the 19th century to coffee production in the southeastern region. Fazenda now denotes any kind of farm.
Fazendas created major export commodities for Brazilian trade, but also led to intensification of slavery in Brazil. Coffee provided a new basis for agricultural expansion in southern Brazil. In the provinces of Rio de Janeiro and then São Paulo, coffee estates, or fazendas, began to spread toward the interior as new lands were opened. By 1850, coffee made up more than 50% of Brazil's exports, and more than half of world coffee production.
Along with the expansion of coffee growing came an intensification of slavery in Brazil, as the country's primary form of labor. More than 1.4 million Africans were forced to be slaves in Brazil in the last 50 years of the slave trade, and even after the trans-Atlantic slave trade ended, slavery continued until 1888.
Because of the increased profit from the trade of coffee, the years after 1850 saw considerable growth and prosperity in Brazil. Dom Pedro II proved to be an enlightened man of middle-class habits who was anxious to reign over a tranquil and progressive nation, even if that tranquility was based on slave labor.[clarification needed] Railroads, steamships and the telegraph were introduced to Brazil, all paid for by the money the fazendas supplied from their coffee crop. In growing cities such as Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, merchants, lawyers, a middle class, and an urban working class grew, once again paid for by the money coming from the fazendas.