The discovery of Brazil was an episode in the creation of a Portuguese commercial empire, which in less than 100 years of extension, reached four continents. The Portuguese have established West African coast stations since the beginning of the 15th century.
In 1499 Vasco da Gama returned to Lisbon from his time-honored trip. The following year King Manuel I sent a new expedition to India of thirteen ships and 1,200 men. The command was given to a reliable courtier, named Pedro Álvares Cabral , who was still in his thirties.
Who discovered Brazil
After a solemn Mass with the king’s presence in Lisbon, the fleet left the Tagus estuary in early March and sailed south-west past the African coast before turning to the Atlantic for the benefit of the winds and currents. Apparently more to the west than intended, Cabral’s ships crossed the Atlantic at their narrowest point and accidentally hit Brazil .
This is generally accepted history, however, although there are reports that Portuguese travelers secretly arrived on the South American coast before the landing of Cabral.
Discovery Day of Brazil
Cabral’s men spotted the hunchback of Monte Pascoal on the coast and sailed north for three days to find land, near what is now Porto Seguro. A reconnaissance team landed on April 21, and the main landing was made the following day, when Cabral formally called the Island of Vera Cruz for Portugal, erected a cross and performed a Christian service to mark the occasion. (The territory fell to Portugal in any way, under the Treaty of Tordesilhas of 1494.)
The local indigenous population, who still lived in the Stone Age as hunter-gatherers and fishermen, went out to see their white visitors. What they thought of them is not in the record, but the official scribe of the expedition, Pero Vaz da Caminha, made an account of Portuguese reactions in a letter to D. Manuel, which has been called the birth certificate of Brazil . He portrayed a land of growing fertility and populated by bare savages.
The male warriors painted their bodies vividly in red and black. The women were attractive and one had colored her buttocks and black thighs, leaving the rest of her body unadorned. “Another,” he wrote, “had both knees and calves painted, but his private parts were so innocently exposed that there was no shame there.”
After staying another eight days, Cabral sailed back across the Atlantic to cross the Cape of Good Hope and reach Calicut on the west coast of India. Behind him, he left two exiled criminals, who possessed the native women and were the parents of the first half – breeds of the Brazilian population, who in turn, would be much more numerous the Indians.
The Postuguese Colonization
A later expedition of 1501 under the command of Gonzalo Coelho, with Amerigo Vespucci as chronicler, explored about 3,000 kilometers of the Brazilian coast and paved the way for the later Portuguese colonization.
Cabral, however, received no further employment. He retired in dudgeon on his estate until his death in 1520.