SOUSA, Pêro Lopes de (c. 1509-1540)
Son of Dona Brites de Albuquerque and Lopo de Sousa (alcaide of Bragança and attendant to the fourth duke of Bragança). Although the sequence and exact circumstances remain unknown, Pêro Lopes learned the art of navigation and earned such solid experience throughout his career that Dom João de Castro praised him outright.
His first documented voyage began on December 3, 1530. The commodore of the armada was his brother, Martim Afonso de Sousa. The main objectives of this expedition were to fight the French off the Brazilian coastline, effect further geographical explorations of the region and establish the framework for further Portuguese colonization of the territory. Pêro Lopes sailed aboard the main vessel and, immediately upon leaving Lisbon, began to keep a log of the developments and episodes of the campaign, clearly demonstrating the nautical know-how that he had acquired.
The squadron reached Terra de Vera Cruz at the end of January of 1531 and immediately pursued combat with the French. The victories allowed Pêro Lopes to take over one of the defeated rival vessels. Martim Afonso de Sousa then set him on an important mission: recognizance of the Plate River basin and the installation of claims to the area by the Portuguese Crown. In January of the following year, Pêro Lopes was in the company of, in his own words, his "Brother Captain" when the town of São Vicente was founded, the primordial base to be colonized in Brazilian territory. From there, this nobleman was sent back to the kingdom. He stopped in Pernambuco, where he had the opportunity of confronting French forces once again. The recently-created base was destroyed and the prisoners were taken back to Portugal. In January of 1533, he reached the port of Faro and met with King John II and with his cousin Dom António de Ataíde, overseer of Finances and first count of Castanheira, to whom he recounted the successes of the expedition.
As a reward for his good work and family ties to the favorite minister of King John III, he received land on the coast of Brazil, which would become the donator-captaincies of Itamaracá, Santo Amaro and Santana. Similar to the majority of the noblemen who received like treatment, Pêro Lopes was an absentee donator. This, along with the naval career that he actively pursued in the years that followed, would lead to the problematic situation that the said captaincies would face.
During the following years, Pêro Lopes would not cease to garner more credits; he came to the aid of Safim in Morocco (1534), participated in the Portuguese campaign to help King Carlos V regain control of Tunes (1536) and, above all, was successful in his role as commodore of the armada guarding the Portuguese coast (1536).
The last chapter of his life was dedicated to being commodore of another squadron. In this capacity, he ventured for the first time onto the route to India in 1539. During his short stay there, he had occasion to represent, along with other officials, the vice-king Garcia de Noronha in establishing peace with the Samorim of Calcutta. He made the return voyage in 1540, but is thought to not have survived a shipwreck near the island of São Lourenço (presently Madagascar). Two years later, Martim Afonso de Sousa became the governor of the State of India and would search for his brother, but to no avail.
CORTESÃO, Jaime, A Fundação de São Paulo, Capital Geográfica do Brasil, Rio de Janeiro, Livros de Portugal, 1955.
COUTO, Jorge, A Construção do Brasil, Lisboa, Cosmos, 1995.
DIAS, Carlos Malheiro (dir.), História da Colonização Portuguesa do Brasil, vol. III, A Idade Média Brasileira (1521-1580), Porto, Litografia Nacional, 1924.
SERRÃO, Joel & A. H. de Oliveira Marques (dir.), Nova História da Expansão Portuguesa, vol. VI, O Império luso-Brasileiro (1500-1620), coord. Harold Johnson & Maria Beatriz Nizza da Silva, Lisboa, Editorial Estampa, 1992.
PELÚCIA, Alexandra, Martim Afonso de Sousa e a sua Linhagem ? A Elite Dirigente do Império Português nos Reinados de D. João III e D. Sebastião, Lisboa, UNL-FCSH, 2007, dissertação de doutoramento policopiada.
RADULET, Carmen M., «A Expedição de Martim Afonso de Sousa ao Brasil: Questões Metodológicas e Análise Tipológica de Documentação», in Anais Hidrográficos, tomo XLIX (suplemento), VII Reunião Internacional de História da Náutica e da Hidrografia, Manaus, 1992, s.l., Diretoria de Hidrografia e Navegação, s.d., pp. 195-213.
Author: Alexandra Pelúcia
Translation: Rosa Simas