Portrait of Irineu Evangelista de Sousa, Viscount of Mauá.
Irineu Evangelista de Sousa (the Viscount of Mauá, 1813–1889) was a Brazilian entrepreneur, industrialist, banker and politician. Born to a family of small estancieiros (ranchers), Mauá became one of the world's richest men; by 1867, his wealth was larger than the annual budget of the Brazilian Empire. He was called the Rothschild of the South American continent by the New York Times in 1871. He received the titles of baron (1854) and visconde com grandeza (viscount with greatness) (1874) of Mauá. A pioneer in several areas of the economy of Brazil, one of his greatest achievements was to start the construction of the Mauá Railroad, the first railroad in Brazil.
At his peak, Mauá controlled eight of the country's ten largest companies (the remaining two were state-owned); his banking interests stretched over to Britain, France, the United States and Argentina. Mauá also founded the first bank in Uruguay (Banco Mauá Y Cia).
Mauá, who established the modern Banco do Brasil, is credited with financing much of the Brazilian economy activity in the 19th century, particularly in coffee plantation, and with the construction of the first railroads, shipyard and cast iron metalwork in the country. Mauá commissioned the first telegraphic submarine cable connecting South America to Europe, developed commercial transportation via steamboats on rivers Amazon and Guaíba, and installed the first gas-fueled street lights in the city of Rio de Janeiro, then Brazil's capital. His fortunes turned around with the decay of the Empire after the Paraguayan War, however, and, by the time he died, Mauá had lost most of his wealth.