TAVARES, António Raposo
As a bandeirante [17th century explorer of Brazil?s interior land], he was the leader of the ?Bandeira dos Limites? which connected São Paulo to Belém do Pará between 1648 and 1651. He was born in Beja around 1598 and died in São Paulo in 1658. The son of Fernão Vieira Tavares, superintendent of the Fazenda, and of Francisca Pinheiro da Costa Bravo, Raposo Tavares went to Brazil with his father who, in 1618, was appointed representative of the count of Monsanto in the São Vicente captaincy. In 1622, he settled in São Paulo, where he married Beatriz Furtado de Mendonça, and was appointed company captain.
His activity as bandeirante must have started in 1627, the year in which most probably he led an expedition to the sertão [hinterland] with Paulo do Amaral.
The following year Tavares organised a bandeira against the Jesuit missions in Guairá territory (in the Paraguay region), which counted on the participation of members from the São Paulo municipality and the town?s militia. Since 1610 that Spanish Jesuits in Guairá had been creating Indian Reductions aiming at the creation of the Province of Paraguay, particularly in 1627 and 1628, to such an extent as to alarm the authorities of São Paulo. Guairá was a frontier region and, when expanding, the Jesuits threatened occupying the inner region of the captaincy of São Vicente and, consequently, surrounding São Paulo, a town somewhat isolated from the remaining Brazilian towns and depending from the hinterland. So, the inhabitants of São Paulo were keen on stopping them not only due to the usual purposes of the bandeiras (imprisonment of enemy Indians, search for precious metals), but also because of the town?s political sovereignty and ensuing economic subsistence.
As the leader of this bandiera, which left São Paulo in August 1628 and returned in 1629, Tavares struck a decisive blow against the Guairá reductions and their influence in the region. In following years, due to several repressive actions carried out by his lieutenants, the Guairá reductions went into decay and the inhabitants of the towns of Vila Rica e Ciudad Real ended up abandoning the region in 1632.
Back to São Paulo, António Tavares held offices as magistrate, and became judge of the village and then judge of the captaincy of São Vicente, by appointment of the count of Monsanto, which can be understood as an official sanction of the 1628-1629 bandeira. Still in 1633, embodying the conflict between the spiritual and the temporal jurisdictions, he took part in the raid to the college and church of the Jesuit hamlet of Maruí, close to São Paulo, which resulted in the expulsion of the priests. As a reaction, the Jesuits excommunicated him and the governor-general deposed him as judge; later, defending the supremacy of civil life, the judge-general of the South offered him his office back.
In 1636 he left as captain-major of a bandeira to the province of the Tape (State of Rio Grande do Sul nowadays), a region bordering Uruguay where the Spanish Jesuits had settled after leaving Guairá. They were, thus, still a danger to the captaincy, although farther away from it, and to the economy of São Paulo, since the bandeirantes used to do commerce with the Indians.
The bandeira that António Raposo Tavares led lasted about a year and destroyed the advanced line of the Tape reductions. In 1637, other two bandeiras from São Paulo to the Tape took place and destroyed the Uruguay reductions and, when reaching the River Plate, put an end to the cycle of bandeiras that led to imprisonment.
As a reply to this bandeira by Raposo, the Jesuits sent father António Ruiz de Montoya to King Philip IV in order to obtain the condemnation of the São Paulo bandeiras. Yet, Raposo was not condemned and even joined the group of southern men to take part in the expedition to Bahia to, again, fight off the Dutch who tried to take over the capital in 1639. After the naval battle, he joined the land expedition led by Luís Barbalho, having returned to São Paulo soon after that, where he was in charge of organizing the help regiment to Bahia.
When the town acclaimed King João IV, on 3rd April 1641, the name of António Raposo Tavares was second on the acclamation edict. In April 1642, he was appointed by the aldermen and inhabitants of Parnaíba (São Paulo) their representative and it was as such that he travelled to the Kingdom ? possibly due to the administration of the Indians ? where he remained until 1647.
In 1647 he was back in Brazil and in charge of a metropolitan bandiera for which the King appointed him field marshal. The bandeira aimed at finding precious metals, new lands and rivers that could unite the south of Paraguay to the north of the Amazon, and possibly at attacking the reductions of Itatim (southwest of Mato Grosso nowadays) and some Spanish towns.
The bandeira had Portuguese-Brazilian men and Tupi Indians (as was common with the São Paulo bandeiras in general, due to the large number of Tupi Indians living there) and left São Paulo divided into two armies. The largest one, led by Raposo, probably left by the end of 1647, and the other, led by António Pereira de Azevedo, in the beginning of 1648. From São Paulo they went to the Paraguay River. Between May and August 1649 the expedition crossed the hills of the Chiquitano system, and then explored the eastern slopes of the Andes mountain range. In the spring of 1650 they returned through Guapaí River, taking the course of the Mamoré and Madeira Rivers and finally of the Amazon River, reaching the mouth of the Gurupá in February 1651. The bandeira missed its purpose of finding mines of precious metals, but succeeded in driving away the Itatim Jesuits and discovering the connection of the Madeira River (thus confirming Pedro Teixeira?s findings, who had explored the Amazon River in 1637) and in defining the future boundaries of inland Brazil.
He returned to São Paulo. Until he died, documental references position him in Lisbon in September 1655.
CORTESÃO, Jaime, Raposo Tavares e a Formação Territorial do Brasil, 2 vols., Lisboa, Portugália Editora, 1966. MAURO, Frédéric (coord.), O Império Lusobrasileiro (1620-1750), vol. VII da Nova História da Expansão Portuguesa (direcção de Joel Serrão e A. H. de Oliveira Marques), Lisboa, Editorial Presença, 1991.
Author: Pedro Cerdeira
Translated by: Maria das Mercês Pacheco