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Portuguese fortifications in Brazil. The colonial
times memorial.
© Copyright by Victor Aquino, 2001, 2006
WEA Books & Publishing Inc.
Monroe, LA USA

All rights reserved. Inquires should be addressed directly
to World Editions of America, Books & Publishing Inc,
94 Elm St, Monroe, Louisiana 71201 USA


Between 1580 and 1640 communications
with the Metropolis were affected by the new
political orientation resultant from the union of
the Crowns of Spain and Portugal.

As has been pointed out in earlier
chapters the powerful Portuguese maritime
enterprise conquered strategic points while
avoiding inland exploration exactly because the
agent and dynamic force behind their presence
was the sea together with the versatility of the
Portuguese's trader who with his spirit of
innovation was able to compensate for the, at
that time, absence of mineral riches.

Consequently, the “caravelas” (Portuguese
men-of-war), and other types of sailing-ships
were the first means of communication of the
Portuguese colonial empire. The few points of
fortified support at the beginning of the Colony

were gradually reinforced by constructions
which also helped ultramarine communication.

The dynamic force behind future
commerce in the New World were the legends
about Andian and Mexican treasures told by
catechized or enslaved Brazilian indians. These
people joined with the Portuguese and produced
the versatile mameluco (half Indian, half
white), who knew the jungle. The legends
spread from the south and southeast to the
north-east of Brazil. In the north-east the
labour in intensive sugar-cane plantations and
the sugar-mills constantly required fresh
workers. From the ports of the region sugar
was sent to Portugal while other ships brought
from Africa new recruits for the flourishing
slave-trade so completing an economic cycle.

These operations were made possible
through efficient communications between the
captains of the ships and the ports, forts and
lighthouses, and also between Angola, Guinea
and Brazil through the dispatches of traders and
navigators. These proceedings generated news
not always confined to Portugal or Spanish

In this way ambitious navigators of other
nationalities, on their own account or in the
service of their kings, reached the Brazilian
coast, particularly south of Sao Vicente. Every
effort was made to lay hands on the Spanish

minerals which were well-guarded and
defended by the strictest of legislations.

So prevalent were the “merchant
adventurers” that soon the southern regions of
Brazil required the construction of forts: at
Santos, the fort of Santos in 1543; at Vertigo,
the Sao Joao de Vertigo Fortress, also in 1 543;
at Rio de Janeiro, the Gloria Battery, the
Fortress of Santa Cruz do Barras, and the Fort
of Sao Sebastiao during the period 1555 to

Generally speaking and by the standards
of the times, the north-east of Brazil was
prosperous but the capital, the city of Sao
Salvador, had little defense. Consequently, the
monarchy decided to fortify the Bahia territory
and constructed the Casa do Torre de Garcia
D'Avila on the Tatuapara Inlet (1551); the
Castelo dos Porfas de Sao Bento, the Castelo
dos Portas do Carmo and the Bateria em Palacio
in the centre of Salvador in the mid XVI


Despite being well-armed these works of
defense proved to be insecure at the time of
the first Dutch invasion in 1 625. On this
occasion the population and even the nuns from
the convent took port in a guerrilla type of
resistance which in 1 628 expelled the invaders
from the Captaincy of Bhatia de To-dos so
Santos of that time capital to the Colony. The
some invaders again tried their luck, in 1 630,
in the also rich Captaincy of Pernambuco.

Here they were more successful and had a
longer-lasting, more that 20 years, period of
dominance. Communications had always a
subversive and revolutionary stomp and took
advantage of the limited knowledge of the
Dutch about local customs and the Portuguese

The Dutch investment in culture and art in
the city of Recife demonstrates the conquerors
intention to stay. They, while having little
support from the population in general, did
hove a good relationship with the local powers
who produced and exported sugar a valuable
spice of that time.

The intelligence dispatches to and from
the headquarters of the West Indies Company
who co-ordinated the invasion, were kept
carefully and later transported to Holland. In
recent years several books hove clarified the
details of the permanence of the Dutch, who
were accustomed with rivers and sea and with
the ships with which they transported the riches
of other countries to their homeland.

For these purposes a well-constructed
communications network was established which
included the use of colored flogs as was already
being done by the English. The usefulness of
the forts was recognized by the Dutch who built
in Pernambuco the Brum Fort which was
invaluable for the support of their ships with

which communication was maintained through
code signals transmitted by the cannons of the
forts and of the ships.

Portuguese competence in slave-trading
was so highly developed that in order to
increase the productivity of their mines the
Spanish, through a contract called “assiento”
(permission), authorized the Portuguese to
deliver slaves to Spanish America even
although their ports were closed and defended
against other shipping.

These operations involved
communications and circulation of news
essential for profit-making in the commerce of
products and human beings. The Portuguese
competence in the slave-trading business was
such that the Dutch, when they conquered
Pernambuco and took over north-east Brazil,
also occupied the source of supply of Negro
labour in which was Angola in Africa.

The cultivation of agricultural products for
export, especially sugar, began in the early
years of the XVI century in the north-east of
Brazil and as a subsistence crop in the south of
the country. The small production in Sao Paulo
was part of on economic scene in which other
crops were necessary

The principal activity of the men from
Portugal was agriculture adapted to the
necessity for long voyages and which served as

a bose for hard-earned prosperity while
attracting the envy of other notions interested
in the easy extraction of precious dyewoods.
Some of these were also suitable for naval
construction and the making of canvas for soils.

Not only D. Jiao Ill, the king of Portugal,
who decided to face up to the difficulties,
stimulating colonization in Brazil and peopling it
for the defense and prosperity of the land, but
also Felipe I (Felipe II of Spain) decided at a
later dote to give a new direction to the
happenings in Brazil.

The communication of these decisions was
mode by royal dispatches sent to the Colony
where their content was read aloud in the
towns and villages by the criers of the local


Dreams of penetration into the inland
areas entertained by Portuguese of all types,
from laymen to clerics, aroused the urge of the
inhabitants of the Colony to discover overland
routes to the Andes and the mineral rich
mountain ranges close to bedazzling cities like
Sao Luis de Potosi in Peru.

These cities attracted intense Spanish
immigration so much so that lows hold to be
laid down by not only kings but also religious
orders in order to inhibit the use of the many

ways found by the Portuguese and other traders
of getting round the royal prohibitions.

At the time of the frequent attacks by
pirates, the church-bells sounded the alarm of
danger to the local inhabitants. Even along the
extensive coastline there was a lock of
structured communication in colonial Brazil with
the exception of strategic points at which, in the
XVIII century, regular troops were stationed.

Communication with more distant regions
was maintained in a military manner principally
after there was greater knowledge of the routes
used by the trail blazers, the “bandeirantes”
(flog-Carrying pioneers), from Sao Paulo.

These explorers left signals on the frees to
indicate trails already followed so facilitating
penetration by others. Defense came from the
laying down of a system of decrees which led to
the recruiting and training of the common
citizen for specific military missions.

Especially resistant horses and mules
were gradually introduced to form the basic
structure of overland communications. Horses
were used by messengers and the mules for the
transport of merchandise and equipment.

Oxen-drawn wagons were also used in
this, for the times, complex system of
communications and transport, and the goods

being frequently destined to the ports while the
instructions were verbal and direct.

A large part of the population of Sao Paulo
and further south spoke little Portuguese until
the XVIII century when by royal decree the use
of Tupi-Guarani, the dominant Indian language
in the region, was prohibited. Indian women
whether as slaves in the homes or as “informal”
wives passed on to their children “curumins”
(boys), the Guarani language that even Jesuit
priests encouraged in their zeal to catechize the
indigenous natives.

The non-catechized Indians spoke
different varieties of Guarani and further to the
north there were tribes whose languages were
not understood by other Indians. Members of
these tribes were called “linguas-travadas”
(tongue-tied) or “barbaros” (barbarians), by the

It can be deduced that communication
between the indians was oral and regional. It
has to be recognized that the so-called “lingua
geral” (the general language) was the work of
anxious Jesuit priests trying to make
themselves understood by the future subjects
of Christianity.

The only Tupi-Guarani grammar is for
many specialists in indigenous subjects a work
of fiction which however served as a guide for

Between the Jesuits and the indigenous
sheep they coveted. Visual communication
became a useful tool in the New World and was
employed in the religious theatre and the
presentations put on for the purposes of
indoctrination by the Jesuits.


The beginning of the XVII century marked
the peak of Portuguese penetration and the
conquest of innumerable territories amongst
which the mines called Sao Paulo were of
special importance.

These were taken over by the Portuguese
and with this the Captaincy of Sao Paulo and
the mines formed a single unit to which people
from Sao Paulo were not welcome during the
government of the tyrannical Francisco de

Sousa who, although Portuguese was loyal to
Spanish projects.

In this same movement to inland areas
not only were new mines discovered in Goyas
by the pioneers from Sao Paulo but also
settlements were founded which profited from
the mining activities.

At the beginning of the XVIII century,
navigation on previously unknown rivers such
as the Araguaia and the Tocantins and the
penetration of unexplored territories brought
more ample configuration to the Captaincy of
Goyas which come to provide alternative means
of communication for the shipment not only of
gold but also of jerked beef from the vast
ranges in the area.

Commercial correspondence between the
Old and New Worlds were sources of
information and important as forms of frequent
communication. They are valuable sources of
information for the evaluation of colonial life
principally in the more dynamic economic

In colonial times communication was
either oral or hand-written and through which
people in an independent form fixed and made
material their messages in order to avoid

The printing press which reproduced
writing was invented as a result of observation
and use of a wine press. Movable cast-iron
type, paper, ink, calligraphy and xylography
were employed. In these books had their

In the XV Century Coster and Gutenberg
using wood engravings improved the system of
typography. The printing press enabled the
same text, and ideas, to be reproduced many
times. In this way a greater number of people
were able to obtain enlightenment and reflect
on the happenings of their time so amplifying
their personal and social knowledge.

Consequently, individuals became
potential threats and dangers in the eyes of
instituted authority. For this reason many books
written during the XVI. and XVII. Centuries
were never printed as they were not liberated
by the censors of the Church, the tribunals of
the Inquisition, and the Crown.

England, France, and Holland adopted the
new technology with great enthusiasm so much
so that knowledge acquired in these countries
was rapidly divulged. The same was true in
several other European countries which went on
to develop new technical inventions.

Portugal and Spain, on the other hand,
were late in recognizing the multiplying effect of
printed messages as at this time their priority

and focus of attention, was directed towards
progress and development of navigation,
nautical studies and the discoveries at which
they were masters and in which rapid
expansion was being made. As a result,
Portuguese seamen were always very highly
considered by the navies of other countries.

Notwithstanding, censure was a real
obstacle to the Iberian peninsula when the era
of the printing press began.

The Portuguese monarch was kept
informed on a continuous basis of overseas
events through letters sent by his official
correspondents in the townships or on-board
ship where they were, in fact, members of the

Communications were always essential,
especially after the great discoveries and
Portugal was one of the first European countries
to use them for news about the colonies.

In fact, through Letters and Decrees
carried by ships, or by authorized on-board
messengers, the Portuguese authorities co-
ordinated the administrative and cultural
activities of the various strategic points which
they controlled.

It is to be noted that Spain operated in a
similar fashion with its overseas possessions.


The XVIII Century with its perturbing
literature and its new scientific, philosophical
and religious concepts was, or so the Iberians
thought, most unsettling for good order in the
colonies. Pamphlets became the weapons of
sedition and revolts based on foreign ideas from
France and even North America.

The right to argue and discuss, obtained
with great difficulty by Portuguese men-of-
letters, did not flourish with the same force in
the colonies. In Brazil the press was established

much later and it was only in the XIX century
with the arrival of Infant D. Jiao, the future D.
Joao VI, in the American dominion that there
took place what the historians call “inversao
colonial” (colonial inversion).

Part of this inversion was the
establishment of the Court in Brazil and the
transport of about ten thousand books, by
English ships, to Rio de Janeiro. These events
characterized the new importance given to Rio
de Janeiro, home of the royal family and their
cultural possessions.

The establishment of the Royal Press, in
conjunction with other so-called civilizing
measures, brought to journalism objectives
other than the communication of birthdays and
the astrological tables of the members of the

Hostile forces against the constituted
authorities began to publish pamphlets in order
to expound their ideas and oppositional
stances. These aspects of communication,
however, were merely incipient when the
Marques de Pombal, as minister of D. José Ill,
began to take vanguard measures and came to
be considered a “despota esclarecido” (the
enlightened despot) together with other
European political leaders.