FIGUEIRA, Luís, S.J. (1574/6 - 1643)
Founder of the Jesuit Missionary of Maranhão (1574/6-1643).
A native of Almodóvar, where he was born at an unknown date between 1574 and 1576, Luís Figueira entered the college of the Holy Spirit in Évora as a novitiate on January 22, 1592. This was a veritable school for missionaries, open to the reality of life overseas and run by the neo-Thomists of the Jus Gentium. Having completed his intellectual training, he left for Bahia in 1602, the start of a new phase in his life and, unbeknown to him, in the life of northern Brazil.
In 1607-1608, and in the company of 60 natives, he undertook the famous expedition to Maranhão. He was accompanied by Father Francisco Pinto, who was already known for his missionary work in Rio Grande. After previous expeditions into the north, the most noteworthy of which had been led by Pero Coelho de Sousa, this foray into Maranhão was of a peaceful nature. The main objective was to establish the mission of the Company in that region, without a military guard. This was a bold move, which put the lives of the two missionaries at risk, given the many dangers of the wild habitat, the unknown nations of natives and the presence of the French, determined to settle down in the region.
In the account he left - the Recounting the Mission of Maranhão, dated March 26, 1609 - Luís Figueira describes in detail the phases of that experience, the contacts with the natives and the innumerable difficulties they faced. The most important and useful data recounted by this missionary pertains to the natives of Ceará, who kept themselves hidden in the beginning and only let their guard down after verifying that the missionaries were not accompanied by whites. A month after encountering the Jaguariguares, they discovered another tribe that was fleeing the Portuguese. Their principal was hospitable and welcomed them, in a place where they set up a cross. They then proceeded with the expedition inland, preoccupied in having the natives inform them of the presence of the French. The trail was long and difficult, through waterlogged pathways; after two moths they reached the village of Ibiapaba, where they were well received and the chief of the natives graced them with cooked manioc and palmetto. They then went to the village of Jurupariaçu, or of the principal Great Devil, where they were informed of the presence of the French and of the hostility of various indigenous nations. They sent emissaries with gifts for these peoples, who sent the messengers away empty handed, to relay the message that the priests themselves should take the gifts to them. After staying in the village four months, they decided to proceed with their journey to Maranhão, when the attacks broke out. Indeed, the emissaries were burned by the Cararijús, who spared but one to serve as a guide. Due to the delay of the messengers, the priests were planning on a hasty return, when the above-mentioned natives, instigated by the French, killed Francisco Pinto on January 10, 1608. Luís Figueira was able to take refuge in the forest. Once the attack was over, he buried his companion and, on either side, the two Indians who had tried to defend him. He also transported the tacape (the stick used to kill him) to the college in Bahia, where it was venerated for a long time as a relic.
After innumerable sacrifices, he rejoiced when the Jesuit Father Gaspar de Samperes finally went for him, with a boat and soldiers. He was taken to Rio Grande do Norte and then left for Pernambuco. In 1610, he became the prefect of studies of the college of Olinda. He made his solemn profession on September 21 of the following year and was named rector in 1612. When Brazilian authorities asked for his opinion about the best way to proceed in the north, he advised them that conquest was the only way to proceed with the mission. In the text Difficulties of the Maranhão Mission, written in Bahia on August 26, 1609, he furnishes relevant data about the extension of the territory, its native inhabitants, and the difficulties of the roads, which presented many threats, including the presence of the French, whose expulsion was mandatory.
When Martim Soares Moreno erected the Fort of Saint Sebastian on the estuary of Ceará in 1611, military action was decided and, in 1604, Jerónimo de Albuquerque built the Fort of Our Lady of the Rosary in the same captaincy. Conquest is accelerated with the news of the creation of the French colony of Saint Louis, which came under the command of Alexadre de Moura, Jerónimo de Albuquerque and Diogo de Campos Moreno at the end of 1614. Tropes proceeded to Pará, establishing the city of Belém in the beginning of 1616.
Franciscan and Carmelite clergy accompanied the soldiers as chaplains, along with two Jesuit priests (Manuel Gomes and Diogo Nunes); occupied with his duties as rector, Luís Figueira remained in Pernambuco. The expedition to Ibiapaba had affected him deeply, however, and would continue to mold his destiny. It had forged a pronounced missionary tendency, and had also afforded him important linguistic knowledge. With the publication of The Art of the Brazilian Language in 1621, he was recognized as an authority.
Luís Figueira was chosen to found the mission in Maranhão in 1622, after he had offered his services in 1609, when he invoked the inefficacy of evangelization without conquest and observed that "?if someone of the company be so charged, I have more right to the enterprise and offer myself to be the first on whom the fury of the struggle might fall."
In the same year of 1622, therefore, he arrived in São Luís, with Father Benedito Amodei. Adversity soon followed, when the inhabitants made every effort to keep the Jesuits away from the natives. As a result, the Franciscans were given vast authority, in the person of Father Cristóvao de Lisboa, who arrived in 1625 as superior of the monstrance, with full ecclesiastic power over the natives and colonists, commissioned by the Holy Office.
The Jesuits began their ministry during these first years, establishing a presence that was based in Maranhão, at the college of Our Lady of the Light in São Luís and in Pará, at the college of Saint Alexander in Belém. Opinion would turn against the Franciscans due to the jurisdiction they held over the natives and the courageous defense their freedom; in 1636 most of these monks would return to the reign. Taking full advantage of the opportunity, Luís Figueira paved the way so that he and his institute would be given full powers. In 1637, he presented the text Memorial to the lands and people of Maranhao and Grao-Para & River of the Amazon. As a result, temporal and spiritual governance of the natives was bestowed on the Jesuits by the royal charter dated July 25, 1638, while a prelature was created that was to be administered by the superior of the Company. While the measure dictating the jurisdiction of the diocese did not take effect due to the embargo of the bishop of Brazil, Don Pedro da Silva Sampaio, and of the Conscience and Orders Commission, it prompted a series of consultations in the judicial courts in Lisbon and in Madrid, which were interrupted and altered given the context of the Restoration. It meant that the Jesuits were giver jurisdiction over the missionary campaign.
After negotiating these matters and recruiting missionaries in the reign, Luís Figueira left for Maranhão in 1643, with ample power and 16 members of the clergy. It was the 29th to the 30th of June and the moment seemed promising, but the ship fell apart as it reached the State, controlled at the time by the Dutch, and only 42 of the 173 persons aboard were saved. Luís Figueira, along with nine other Jesuits, turned down the invitation of the governor to enter the life-saving boat, preferring to be of spiritual assistance to those that stayed behind. According to the account of Nicolau Teixeira, one of the survivors, some died at sea, others at the hands of the natives; the ten Jesuits that reached the island of Marajó on a raft would be killed by the Aruãs, one by one, during the next few days.
Thus was the end of a dynamic life that became part of the history of Portuguese territorial expansion in the north of Brazil, at a time of robust international competition in the valley of the Amazon and under the peculiar national conditions and strategies that characterized the transition from the Filipine dynasty to the Bragança dynasty. These implied the Church and the missions, which had impact on inter-ethnic relations, on reasoning, on the Law and on theological and pastoral issues. As pertained to Luís Figueira, these were part of the cosmopolitan project of the Company of Jesus, which was crystallized in a rigid yet flexible model that was based, in intellectual terms, on the school of Salamanca, to be at the service of ecclesiastic patronage. His writing placed his name in the annals of cultural history, and in the broader scope of the literature of the Americas and of the physical and human geography of the continent. His grammar of the Tupi contributed to the field of linguistics, and his other writings, especially the Recounting the Mission of Maranhão, contain important information on varied topics, juxtaposed with innumerable bits of lore. His style is fluid and objective, with clear literary value, especially when he describes the customs of the people of Ceará, the "?innumerable savage tapuyas ?"who run in groups through the forest,"?with no other house than the place that just happens to them?" .
LEITE, Serafim, S.J., Luiz Figueira. A Sua Vida Heróica e a Sua Obra Literária, Lisboa, 1940 (published here except Arte da Lingva Brasílica, above-mentioned works and others).
Works by Luís Figueira that are most related to the text:
FIGUEIRA, Luís, Arte da Lingva Brasilica, Composta pelo Padre Luis Figueira da Companhia de IESV, Theologo, Lisboa, Oficina de Manoel da Silva, 1621. Idem, Carta bienal da Província do Brasil dos anos de 1602 e 1603. Por mandado do Padre Vice-Provincial Inácio Tolosa a 31 de Janeiro de 1604. Idem, Dificuldades da Missão do Maranhão, Baía, 26 de Agosto de 1609. Idem, Informação ao N.P.Geral sobre a Impossibilidade da Missão do Maranhão sem Irem lá os Portugueses por Mar com Guerra a Lançar os Franceses, possivelmente de 1609. Idem, Memorial sobre as Terras e Gente do Maranhão & Grão-Pará & Rio das Almazonas, Lisboa, Oficina de Mathias Rodrigues, 1637 (anonymous). Idem, Missão que Fes o P.Luiz Figueira da Companhia de Jesu, Superior da Rezidencia do Maranhão, indo ao Grã Parâ, Camutâ e Curupâ, Capitanias do Rio das Almazonas no Anno de 1636. Idem, Relação da Missão do Maranhão. Idem, Relação de Varios Sucessos Acontecidos no Maranhão e Grão Para, assim de Paz como de Guerra, Contra o Rebelde Holandês, Ingleses, e Franceses e outras Nações, Lisboa, Oficina de Mathias Rodrigues, 1631.
Author: Madalena Larcher