Portuguese Colonization

The Beginning of Portuguese Colonization


Some of the earliest colonists recorded in Brazil are Joo Ramalho and Diogo Álvares Correia. At this time, the Portuguese wanted to secure its highly profitable Portuguese Empire in Asia. Because of this, they didn’t do much to protect the newly discovered lands in the Americas from foreign intruders. Because of this, many pirates began dealing in pau brasil (a Brazilian timber tree) with the Amerindians. This situation made Portugal nervous so, in the 1530s, they started to encourage the colonization of Brazil. They did this mainly for defensive reasons. Permanent settlement did not begin until 1532. The towns of Cananéia (1531), So Vicente (1532), Porto Seguro (1534) and Iguape (1538) were established during that period.


In the middle of the 16th century, large amounts of Portuguese colonists were settling mostly along the coastal regions of Brazil. Many cities were also founded at this time. These include including Salvador (1549), So Paulo (1554) and Rio de Janeiro (1565). In spite of the majority of Portuguese that settled willingly, some forced to degredados (convict exile). These criminals were exiled for a wide range of crimes. Some of which included common theft, attempted murder and adultery.


Portuguese Settlers of Jewish Origins


In the 17th century, most of the Portuguese settlers in Brazil moved to the northeastern part of the country. They did this to begin the first sugar plantations. Some of the new settlers were New Christians. New Christians were descendants of Portuguese Jews who had been persuaded to convert to Catholicism and remained in Portugal. Some colonists of Jewish origin were accused of following Judaism and condemned by the Inquisition. This meant they were either expelled from Brazil and arrested or killed in Portugal. Others were able to hide their Jewish origin and lived amongst the Brazilian population.


Between 1579 and 1620, 32% of the owners of cane sugar mills (engenhos) in Pernambuco were of Jewish descent (Brazil relied heavily on sugarcane at this time). The Jewish Portuguese colonists mainly settled in Brazil during the colonial period. The Portuguese typically settled alone, while the Jews were known to bring their entire families to Brazil. It was common for them to mix with Amerindians and Black slaves.


The 16th and 17th Centuries


From 1565 through 1567, a ten year-old French colony called France Antarctique was destroyed by Mem de Sá (a Portuguese colonial official and the third Governor General of Brazil). He then founded the city of Rio de Janeiro on March 1567 with his nephew, Estácio de Sá. Between 1630 and 1654, Holland controlled part of Brazil’s Northeast region. Their capital was in Recife. In 1649, The Portuguese won a large victory against the Netherlands in the Second Battle of Guararapes. In 1654, Holland surrendered and gave back control of Brazilian land to the Portuguese.

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