IV. The Early Modern Period, 1500–1800 > H. Latin America, 1500–1800 > 9. Portuguese America, 1500–1815
  The Encyclopedia of World History.  2001.
9. Portuguese America, 1500–1815
In the era of colonial expansion, Portugal's main orientation was to maintain and exploit trade posts in Africa and India, where slave trade and commerce in exotic goods produced high profits. Attention shifted to Brazil only because of French and Dutch attempts to gain territories there.  1
Although no Black Legend has been popularized about Portuguese colonization, the extermination and enslavement of the native population equaled the exploits of Spanish conquerors. Native peoples in Brazil were organized mainly in tribes with no centralized structures and were engaged in constant warfare. The Portuguese intervened in these conflicts to escalate them as a means of obtaining Indian slaves. Indian enslavement continued practically unchecked throughout the colonial period, and a demographic catastrophe of unknown dimensions occurred, aggravated by warfare and disease.  2
Under Manuel the Fortunate (1495–1521), Portuguese merchants established some trading posts, bartering tools and metal artifacts for Brazil wood gathered by natives.  3
John III (1521–57) undertook systematic colonization to counter French activities in Portuguese possessions. The king promoted private investment in colonization.  4
Martin Affonso de Souza as captain-major of a colonizing expedition founded São Vicente and introduced sugarcane cultivation.  5
The crown established the donatários, a system of feudal hereditary captaincies with nearly sovereign authority, but they did little to advance colonization. A more centralized administration with a governor-general at its head was established. Sugarcane cultivation expanded and Indian enslavement assumed wider proportions. Although African slaves were also used, their price was high in comparison to that of Indian slaves.  6
Thomé de Souza, the first governor-general, founded São Salvador (Bahia) as seat of the government and established a colony. São Paulo was founded shortly after midcentury.  7
Jesuits undertook the conversion of the natives and established mission villages in Bahia.  8
The bishopric of Bahia, subordinate to the archbishop of Lisbon, was erected.  9
With the intention of creating an “Antarctic France,” Nicolás Durand de Villegagnon founded a colony on the Bay of Rio de Janeiro.  10
Mem de Sá (1558–72) led Portuguese to destroy the French colony and founded the city of Rio de Janeiro. He promoted enslavement of unfriendly Indians.  11
The crown issued decrees against enslavement of Indians, which colonists disregarded. Expansion of sugar mills led to an increase in the African slave trade and to further Indian enslavement, affecting even Indian cultures allied with the Portuguese.  12
Dutch privateers attacked Recife. Attacks repeated in 1595, 1604, 1616, and 1623.  13
French attacked Paraíba. Portuguese built a fort, which became the city of Natal.  14
The Encyclopedia of World History, Sixth edition. Peter N. Stearns, general editor. Copyright © 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Maps by Mary Reilly, copyright 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.