PEREIRA, Duarte Pacheco (?-1531/3)
Born in the mid fifteenth century, in the city of Lisbon, Duarte Pacheco Pereira was one of the most notable protagonists of Portuguese expansion, due to his voyages of discovery and his military feats in the Far East, and to his work Esmeraldo de situ orbis, which sums up his vast knowledge of geography and cosmography.
Duarte Pacheco Pereira was of noble descent, even though both his grandfather, Gonçalo Pacheco, treasurer of the House of Ceuta and one of the richest tradesmen in Lisbon at that time, and his father, João Pacheco, were of illegitimate birth.
After his father?s death, when fighting the Moors, he entered the service of the Crown, and was a knight of the House of King John II. It was in the king?s service that he began his experience as a navigator, commanding voyages of exploration along the west coast of Africa. In 1488, according to sources, Duarte Pacheco Pereira, after being taken ill on the island of Príncipe following one of his expeditions, was rescued by Bartolomeu Dias, who was on his return voyage after rounding the Cape of Good Hope.
In 1490 he was a member of the King?s personal guard and in 1494 he was among the representatives chosen by the King to renegotiate the limitations set by the Treaty of Tordesillas, This honour is a sign of his nautical and cosmographic experience, the fruit of the Atlantic voyages he commanded, although little is known about them. However, one of the most widely discussed passages in the Esmeraldo indicates that he participated in an expedition sent by King Manuel to the South Atlantic, in 1498, where a huge land mass was sighted, which was possibly Brazil.
Some sources also indicate that he was part of the fleet of Pedro Álvares Cabral in 1500, even though he was not in command of any vessel.
There is no doubt that he sailed with the fleet that headed for the coast of Malabar in 1503 under the joint command of Afonso de Albuquerque and his cousin Francisco de Albuquerque. Duarte Pacheco Pereira was the captain of one of the ships in the fleet of Francisco de Albuquerque, which was the first to reach India. When they arrived at the port of Kochi, which had been occupied by the rival troops of Samorim de Calecut, the Portuguese, after a short battle, succeeded in driving out the enemy and returning the city to their allies, and they also began to build a fortress there.
Having loaded the ships for the return journey to Portugal, it was decided to leave behind a small military unit to help defend Kochi from the constant attacks from Calicut. Hence Duarte Pacheco Pereira was ordered to stay in the East in command of two caravels.
Throughout 1504, Duarte Pacheco Pereira led the Portuguese and Kochi troops, taking advantage of the lie of the land and of their superior artillery to repel the attacks of the Samorim troops, which were greater in number. Furthermore, after this victory, in which his role as leader is greatly enhanced in the sources, he took his caravels to the south to go to the aid of the trading station in Collam which was under attack from local Moslems; he stayed there until the fleet of commodore Lopo Soares de Albergaria arrived, in September, 1504, and together they successfully fought off the enemy Moslems.
Having travelled back to Portugal with the fleet, Duarte Pacheco Pereira enjoyed higher social status, thanks to his military feats in the Orient.
In the years following his return to Portugal, he was busy writing the Esmeraldo de Situ Orbis, although he left the work unfinished in order to serve the Crown overseas, in 1509. He was sent to the Atlantic to hunt down French pirates who were a threat to Portuguese shipping. In 1510 he was captain of the fleet in the Straits of Gibraltar, and the following year he commanded a fleet to go to the aid of the besieged stronghold of Tangiers.
During this period, in which he was given increasingly important and prestigious missions, Duarte Pacheco Pereira married Antónia de Albuquerque, a relative of Afonso de Albuquerque and the grand-daughter of Duarte Galvão, one of the chief exponents of the idea of a Manueline empire. The marriage, which probably took place in 1512, again demonstrates the prominent status he had gained.
In 1519, Duarte Pacheco Pereira returned to Africa as he was appointed as captain of the fortress of São Jorge da Mina, when King Manuel?s policy was ti strengthen royal power in overseas territories. However, on the death of the king, in 1521, Duarte Pacheco Pereira?s glowing career came to a sudden end.
Due to the new political set-up, the result of King John III?s succession to the throne, he fell out of favour, and was imprisoned on his return to the realm, in 1522, detained without charge and his possessions were confiscated. Even though he was soon acquitted and set free, he never regained his former prestige. His problems with the monarchy continued, forcing him to fight for the return of his estate and for the timely payment of the annual pension to which he was entitled. Under these circumstances, Duarte Pacheco Pereira indicated his willingness to enter the services of the Emperor Charles V, although this never came to pass.
He spent his last years in Portugal, and the date of his death is unknown, although it was probably between 1531 and 1533.
If, in his time, Duarte Pacheco Pereira was chiefly known for his military feats, glorified by chroniclers and praised by poets like Luís de Camões, his work Esmeraldo de situ orbis was equally important for his biography. The work, which was interrupted in 1508 and which remained unfinished, was not published until 1892, when it gained recognised importance as a nautical and geographical reference, a cosmographic treatise and historical account, a summary of the knowledge that Duarte Pacheco Pereira acquired during his life.
MOTA, Avelino Teixeira da, ?Duarte Pacheco Pereira, capitão e governador de S. Jorge da Mina?, in Mare Liberum, nº I, 1990. MURTEIRA, André, ?A Carreira de Duarte Pacheco Pereira?, in Descobridores do Brasil ? Exploradores do Atlântico e Construtores da Índia, João Paulo Oliveira e Costa (coord.), Lisboa, SHIP, 2000, pp. 299-329.
Author: José Ferreira
Translated by: Kathleen Calado