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PEDRO ÁLVARES CABRAL
Navigator, 1476 (?) - 1520 (?)
by Fernando Correia da Silva
Translated by John D. Godinho
SECOND EXPEDITION TO INDIA
Cabral, in command of the Second Expedition to India, sets sail from Lisbon.
Cabral is a
warrior and a nobleman, but is only the second in the line of succession.
Honors? Only those
obtained due to his qualities and through his own efforts, not by birth.
King John II had already given him an annuity for good military
services rendered to the Crown. Now
King Manuel I names him captain major, the commander-in-chief, of the
second expedition to India: 13 ships, 1,500 men.
He will have to subdue the Zamorim of Calicut, who had so badly
treated Vasco da Gama during the first expedition.
His mission includes laying the cornerstone of the Portuguese
Empire in the Orient.
quite well that the world is full of war and treachery; that what is
denied because of hatred, is granted because of fear.
He also knows that the strong
are pursued by the Fates and by strokes of misfortune. Pedro Álvares
Cabral faces it all; he is of
one mind - rather break than
circumstance at the Church of Santa Maria, in Belém; a pontifical mass
for Cabral and his men. On
March 9, they set off from Lisbon. Some time before, the king had told
Cabral about the lands that lay west of the Great Sea, across from África.
"Find them, if at all possible," the king said.
Perhaps they were the reason for the insistence of King John II on
moving the north-south division line of the Treaty of Tordesillas from 100
to 370 leagues west of the Cape Verde Islands.
well-known figures travelling with Cabral:
Pero Vaz de Caminha, the king's chronicler;
Bartolomeu Dias, first to round the Cape of Good Hope, Bartolomeu's
brother, Diogo Dias, and Nicolau Coelho, one of the skippers in Vasco da
one: off the Cape Verde
Islands, Cabral finds that one of the ships is missing.
It will never be seen again. There
were 13, now there are 12.
Off the coast of
Guinea, they start sailing against the wind (1).
Americo Vespucci (2) does not understand the maneuver and
Portuguese know nothing about sailing"...Let him grumble; the Italian
is a worthy seaman, he has the right to grumble...Blown by southeasterly
trade winds, the ships are pushed toward the West.
The winds will then turn south-west and bring the fleet back to the
coast of Africa, but in a latitude quite a bit farther south.
Thus, the fleet will trace a wide arc in the Great Sea, below the
But Cabral is in for some big surprises, in spite of his willingness to sail and face the world in the name of his king.
|VERA CRUZ (3)|
Cabral discovers Brazil and is captivated by the innocence of the natives.
21. Last Sunday was Easter
Sunday. The sea is strewn with long weeds.
The lands mentioned by the king cannot be far away.
April 22. In the morning, flocks of birds fly overhead going toward the
West. Vasco da Gama had seen them, too.
In mid-afternoon, away in the distance, they sight land:
a large mountain, very high and round;
then flat land, with great groves of trees.
Cabral named the mountain Monte Pascoal and the land Terra de Vera
Cruz (The Land of the True Cross). Night
falls and Cabral decides to cast anchor at six leagues from shore.
April 23. They advance and drop anchor about half a league from the
mouth of the river. They
notice seven or eight men on the beach.
Cabral sends Nicolau Coelho ashore to reconnoiter the river. When his skiff reaches the shore, some twenty dark-complected
men run toward him. They are
all naked, without anything to cover their shame. With bows and arrows
drawn, they seem to be ready for battle.
Nicolau Coelho makes a sign to them that they should lay down their
bows and they do.
Cabral wonders: who are these people who respond to a sign in such a docile
manner? Are they pure and innocent or astute and malicious? It can't
be purity and innocence. It
must be maliciousness, of course. We have to be on guard.
The noise of the
breaking surf is loud. The
sailors and the natives can hardly hear each other.
But Nicolau makes them presents of two hats, one red and one black.
In return, he receives a string of minute seashells and a headdress
of bird feathers set in a tuft of red feathers like those of a parrot.
It is already dusk, the tide is getting quite strong and Nicolau
rows back to the ship.
This evening the
wind is blowing hard out of the southeast with squalls of rain.
Cabral decides to order the fleet to lift anchor and sail north in
search of a safe harbor and notices a number of men on the beach, perhaps
sixty or seventy, running and making gestures. What are they up to?
April 24. They find a safe and landlocked harbor and cast anchor before
sundown. The captain major call this place Porto Seguro (Safe Harbor).
He then sends his pilot, Afonso Lopes, out in a skiff to take
soundings of the harbor, advising him never to let his guard down, never
to be caught unawares. The
pilot, a clever man, manages, in a friendly and gentle manner, to take
back to the ship two of the young men who were running on the beach.
The men are received with much joy and feasting.
Cabral is still
astonished by it all. The
world is made of war and treachery. How
can these natives be so trusting? They
must be up to something; astuteness
is their shield and cruelty their spear.
they are dark, somewhat reddish, with fine features and well-turned noses. They go naked without any covering at all and they show their
private parts with the same innocence that they show their faces.
Both men have their lower lips pierced and through them they wear
pieces of white bone as thick as a cotton spindle.
Their hair is smooth and they shave it high above the ears.
One of them wears a type of wig made of bird feathers, going from
temple to temple but running behind his head, covering the back of his
neck as well as his ears. They
come on board but make no sign of courtesy not even to the captain major.
One of them catches sight of the gold necklace round the captain's
neck and begins to make signs with his hand
toward the land and then to the collar as if to say that there is
gold on that shore. That is
what the Portuguese think, because they wish it to be so; they do not consider the possibility that the native wants to
take the collar with him when he goes ashore...Cabral shows them a parrot
that he had brought from Africa. The
natives take the bird and point to the land as if to say that there are
parrots there too. Then the
sailors bring out a sheep, but the natives pay no attention to it.
Then they bring out a chicken, but the natives are uneasy and
afraid to touch it. Afterwards, the natives are given bread, boiled fish,
honey, dried figs and wine served in a cup.
They hardly eat or drink any of what is presented and if they taste
something they immediately throw it away.
They are given water in a jar, but they take some of it to wash out
their mouths and do not drink it. Then,
the two stretch themselves out on the deck, flat on their backs, without
taking the slightest care to cover their private parts, which were not
circumcised. The captain
major orders that they be covered with a blanket;
they make no objection and lie at rest and sleep.
How can there be another world so different from the one the captain knows and has lived in? Without war, nor treachery, nor betrayals? Is it possible to have fraternity among men living in a communion of interests? Is there, still, on Earth the paradise once lost by Adam and Eve through the Serpent's evil?
PARADISE ON EARTH
The captain major orders Nicolau Coelho, Pero Vaz de Caminha and
Bartolomeu Dias to set the two young men ashore. When the boat reaches the
beach many men gather around, screaming and shouting, but always in
friendly fashion. There
are also some girls, very young and gentle, their long black hair
cascading down their backs and their privates so plump and tight that
there cannot be any reason for shame.
On Low Sunday,
the captain major requests Frei Henrique to say mass on a small island
located at the entrance to the harbor.
The mass is heard with great devotion, with Cabral holding the
banner of the Order of Christ which he had brought from Belém. During the
mass many of the natives come closer to the island
in small canoes made of hollowed-out logs. Some of them join the
sailors and start blowing horns or a sort of trumpet, while the others
start leaping and dancing.
Portuguese go inland and come to a place up the river where they find palm
trees that are not very tall. They gather and eat very good palm sprouts.
Diogo Dias, who is a charming and lighthearted man, takes with him a pipe
player and starts to dance with all those people, men and women, taking
them by the hand, and they are very amused and laugh a lot at the sound of
is no sign of war, no sign of betrayal or treachery; not even a sign of
fear. The captain major's
suspicions begin to waver.
Friday, he decides that they visit the cross they had put up close to a
tree by the riverbed. He
orders them all to kneel and kiss the cross. As they do so, they make
gestures to the natives who are watching to do the same.
The natives kneel and imitate the strangers.
the captain major the innocence of these people is such that, if it were
possible to understand them and make ourselves understood, they would be
converted to Christianity in no time.
It seems they have no religion at all.
The convicts who are to remain behind will learn their language and
the captain major has no doubts that these good and simple people will
soon become Christians, once we can communicate.
He believes there is a reason why Our Lord, who gave them such
strong bodies and good faces, brought them together with Christians on
Friday, May 1. The crews are going downriver, following the priests and
chanting as in a procession, when seventy or eighty natives start to help
them carry the cross and plant it close to the mouth of the river.
Arriving at the beach, Frei Henrique begins to say mass and all the
natives kneel just like the Portuguese.
And when it is time for the preaching of the Gospel, the Portuguese
stand up and are followed by the natives.
The Christians lift up their hands and so do the natives.
And when Frei Henrique raises the Host, the mariners kneel once
again accompanied by the natives. The
captain major is now convinced that the innocence of these people is such
that even Adam's innocence would not surpass it.
land must be immense; there are no boundaries to be seen. It is all very
beautiful flat coastland. The
forests, with their many colored birds, run toward the interior as far as
the eye can see. Some of the
tree trunks are reddish, like burning embers (4).
The climate is very good and temperate.
The water springs are endless.
If the land is worked well, all crops will flourish here, due to
the water supply. But to Cabral, the best fruit, the main seed, will be
the salvation of its people who, so gently, live in a natural state.
The captain major
orders Pero Vaz de Caminha to write the news about the discovery.
Then he orders Gaspar de Lemos to take the letter to the king and
Gaspar takes his ship on the way back to Lisbon.
In the beginning there were 13, now there are only 11.
On May 2, Cabral and his fleet leave Vera Cruz.
Two convicts stay behind to learn the language of the people.
They are joined by two cabin boys who, of their own volition, fail
to show up for embarkation. They
are captivated by the native girls, their long black hair cascading down
their backs, their privates so plump and tight that there cannot be any
reason for shame.
The captain major leaves Paradise contaminated by innocence. It is a deep and dangerous infection eating away at the driving forces of the warrior, who will now have to face the wars and treacheries of Hell.
THE GATES OF HELL
Cabral reaches the Indian Ocean and is well received in Malindi.
To punish the Zamorin, Cabral shells Calicut.
Near the Cape of
Good Hope, the ships are thrust by strong southwesterly winds;
four ships are lost, taken by the sudden storm.
Among them is the ship captained by Bartolomeu Dias, the discoverer
of the Cape, a stormy cape indeed. It
is the second stroke of misfortune. They are now arriving at the Gates of
Hell. First there were 13, now there are 7.
Port of Sofala,
July 16. Of the 13 ships in
the fleet there are now only 6. The ship of Diogo Dias (5)
, Bartolomeu's brother, is missing. This
is the third stroke of bad luck.
With the ships in
total disrepair and a number of mates dead, the remaining crews are
disheartened. The captain
major tries to build up their morale:
"Stand your ground, nobody caves in, nobody gives up, nobody
turns back - rather break
than yield. We have a mission
to accomplish." They
repair the ships and, once again, set out to sea.
they sail along the east coast of Africa, they sight two ships: one
escapes and manages to reach the shore;
the other is boarded and taken.
Cabral learns that the ship's commander is Foteima, uncle of the
king of Malindi, so he returns the ship and treats Foteima with great
respect and esteem, something which greatly surprises the Moor.
Later, they will be well received in Mozambique, perhaps because
the populace is afraid of the newcomers, perhaps because of Foteima's
influence. The Portuguese
take up fresh water, repair their ships and, once again, set off on their
Manuel had recommended that they set up a trading post in Kilwa, a kingdom
actively engaged in Sofala's
gold trade. But the king is
negotiating with the reigning sheikh.
The captain major would prefer to do them battle, but the number of
men under his command is already too small to face the upcoming conflicts
with the the Zamorim of Calicut. So
they sail without establishing the trading post.
Malindi, the Portuguese are well received, just as they were during Vasco
da Gama's visit. The sheik
appoints two pilots to take them to India and the fleet is off once again,
on August 7. A few days later,
August 23, they stop over in the small island of
Angediva for fresh water and supplies.
The local population is very friendly.
But the captain major worries about what is in store for him and
they reach Calicut on September 13. Ahead
are hard negotiations in an atmosphere of distrust. Cabral meets with the Zamorim on an elaborately carved
canopied platform erected close to the harbor. But not before he demands
that six men of substance be sent aboard as hostages.
They are to guarantee the safety of the Portuguese who remain on
land. The meeting reaches no
conclusions and the fearful hostages throw themselves into the sea.
Three of them manage to get away but the others are recaptured.
An uneasy peace is rapidly becoming open war.
Cabral calls a meeting seeking counsel from his captains. They are of the opinion that the fleet should be placed in a
position ready to fire. And
the captain major, while threatening the Moors and the Zamorim, misses and
longs for the innocence of the people of Vera Cruz...The infection is
taking its toll, eating away at the warrior's disposition to fight.
yields; he sends a message
requesting another meeting with Cabral.
The two leaders meet and the Zamorim agrees to let the Portuguese
use some buildings by the waterfront to put up their trading post. As
manager of the post representing King Manuel, Aires Correia takes control
of the buildings. Frei
Henrique is to remain with him and attempt to convert the infidels.
All together, there will be about 60 men.
Will the Portuguese trading post do well in Calicut ?
The captain major hopes so, but he has his doubts.
He notices that lots of people come in to look at the merchandise,
but nobody comes in to barter,
to buy or to sell. This is
part of the sly practices of the Moors, who control the local commerce...
The Zamorim has a
retinue of sorcerers who can charm snakes by playing the flute, but he,
himself, has the charm of the Serpent, with its treachery and tricks.
Aires Correia falls for his fabrications and so does the captain major.
They have both been rendered gullible by the infection of innocence
contracted in Vera Cruz. The
Zamorim tells them that there is a ship coming from Ceylon loaded with
spices and an elephant. It
belongs to the Zamorim's rivals, the merchants of Mecca. The Portuguese
should capture the ship, he says, and offer him the elephant. And so the
ship is captured. But there
are no spices; the Portuguese
find only seven elephants and discover that the ship does not belong to
the merchants of Mecca but to the merchants of Cochin, whose king is a
friend of the Portuguese and to whom they will have to present their
apologies and make reparation.
Portuguese abandon Calicut and head for Cochin.
They are well received by the king who, nevertheless, is uneasy
because of the incident with the ship carrying the elephants. Cabral apologizes, makes reparation for the ship and gives a
complete explanation of what happened.
He manages to gain the king's trust.
In fact, the king wishes to be emancipated from Calicut's influence,
so this alliance with the Zamorim's enemies fits well within his plans.
On the other hand, the Portuguese find that, with the king on their
side, it is easier to establish friendly relations with the kingdoms of
Coulon and Cananor. In Cochin
and Craganor, in only twenty days, they load their ships with pepper and
other spices. They then head
for Cananor to complete their cargo with a load of ginger.
On January 16, 1501, they sail away from India; travelling with
them are the ambassadors of those kingdoms, who now present themselves as
friends of Portugal.
South of Malindi one more tragedy: another ship is lost. And the captain major, as he medidates on all of these misfortunes, as he prays to exorcise all this evil, yearns for the innocence of the people of Vera Cruz...
|A BELATED REWARD|
Upon being granted a belated annuity by the crown, Cabral expresses fear for the Indians of Brazil.
The fields of
Santarém, on the Tagus River. Along
one of the riverbanks, two horsemen ride in the direction of Pedro Álvares
Cabral. He recognizes one of
them as his vassal. The other,
judging by his attire, must be one of King Manuel's squires.
They dismount and greet him. Cabral acknowledges their greeting,
politely. The king sends a
message that he go to the palace. Why this invitation to a man so long
forgotten by the Court?
confides that the King wishes to grant him an annuity.
annuity? Now, in 1515, when all of his feats were accomplished in 1500?
Why should the King remember him now, after all these years?
than never", whispers the squire. It is a reward for having
discovered the Terras de Vera Cruz. The Governor of the St. Vicente
District, Martim Afonso de Sousa, wrote a letter to the King praising the
natural great wealth that seems to exist there.
Cabral dismisses them; they
leave. He prefers to be alone and ponder this matter.
The natural wealth that seems to
exist there...Immeasurable ambition, that's all it is...And when the news spreads about
Vera Cruz, other nations will be just as ambitious.
But neither the Portuguese, nor the others, will pay any attention
to the most precious of its riches - the innocence of the people who live
there in a natural state. Under
the spell of such innocence, how
could he have avoided the maliciousness of the Zamorim?
lost 6 of his 13 ships. The
King was displeased. But when
the ships came in and filled the warehouses at Ribeira with all types of
spices, the King readily forgot Cabral's disastrous journey.
Boundless greed, that's all it is...
organized a third expedition to India in 1502.
He even approached Cabral but demanded that he share command with
someone else. The insult was too great; his star would be tarnished.
So he refused and withdrew from the limelight.
He was forgotten. But
now the king remembers him, once again. And now, once again, Cabral
remembers all he lived through: the trip to Paradise, the journey through
A royal annuity? So be it! But even now Cabral fears that Martim Afonso de Sousa, or others acting in his behalf, will attempt to enslave those people whose very innocence has captured him.
1518, Pedro Álvares Cabral receives a second annuity for the discovery of
the Terra de Vera Cruz, which so many benefits is bringing to the Crown.
He will die around 1520 and will be buried in Santarém, in the
Church of Our Lady of Graça. In a common grave.
(1) V. biography of Vasco da Gama. - (2) Amerigo Vespucci will later recount the many adventures lived by him in the New World, which will become known as the Land of Amerigo or, simply, America. - (3) The author follows closely the letter written by Pero Vaz de Caminha to King Manuel I. - (4) This is the origin of the name Brasil, eventually given to Terras de Vera Cruz. - (5) Diogo Dias, whose ship became separated from the fleet, is able to reach the Orient, alone, discovering Madagascar in the process. Finally, he manages to return to Portugal safely.
de Albuquerque, navigator, statesman and founder of the Portuguese Empire
in the Orient.