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For other uses, see Bandeirantes (disambiguation).

Domingos Jorge Velho, a notable bandeirante.

The Bandeirantes (Portuguese pronunciation: [bɐ̃dejˈɾɐ̃t(ʃ)is], "those who carry the flag") were 17th-century Portuguese settlers in Brazil and fortune hunters. This group mostly hailed from the São Paulo region, which was known as the Captaincy of São Vicente until 1709 and then as the Captaincy of São Paulo. They led expeditions called bandeiras (Portuguese, "flags") which penetrated the interior of Brazil far south and west of the Tordesillas Line of 1494, which officially divided the Castilian, later Spanish, (west) domain from the Portuguese (east) domain in South America.[1]

The São Paulo settlement served as the home base for the most famous bandeirantes.[Note 1] Most bandeirantes were descendants of first- and second-generation Portuguese who settled in São Paulo,[2] but their numbers also included many people of mameluco background (people of both European and Native American ancestries). Though they originally aimed to capture and force Indigenous Americans into slavery, the bandeirantes later began to focus their expeditions on finding gold, silver, and diamond mines. As they ventured into unmapped regions in search of profit and adventure, they expanded the effective borders of the Brazilian colony.

Slave raids[edit]

The main focus of the bandeirantes' earlier missions was to enslave native populations. They carried this out by disguising themselves as Jesuits, often singing mass to lure the natives out of their settlements. However, they usually relied on surprise attacks. If luring the natives with promises did not work, the bandeirantes would surround the settlements and set them alight, forcing inhabitants out into the open. At a time when imported African slaves sold from $100–$500 the bandeirantes were able to sell large numbers of native slaves at a huge profit due to their relatively inexpensive price.

The first bandeira took place in 1628 and was organized by Antônio Raposo Tavares. This bandeira raided 21 Jesuit villages in the upper Paraná Valley, ultimately capturing about 2,500 natives. A bandeira tactic was to set native tribes against each other in order to weaken them, and then to enslave both sides.

In 1628, Tavares led a bandeira, composed of 2,000 allied Indians, 900 mamelucos, and 69 white Paulistas, to find precious metals and stones and to capture Indians for slavery. This expedition alone was responsible for the destruction of most of the Jesuit missions of Spanish Guayrá and the enslavement of over 60,000 indigenous people. Between 1648 and 1652 Tavares also led one of the longest known expeditions from São Paulo to the mouth of the Amazon river, investigating many of its tributaries, including the Rio Negro, ultimately covering a distance of more than 10,000 kilometers. The expedition travelled to Andean Quito, part of the Spanish Viceroyalty of Peru, and remained there for a short time in 1651. Of the 1,200 men who left São Paulo, only 60 reached their final destination in Belém.

Gold hunting[edit]

In addition to capturing natives as slaves, bandeiras also helped to extend the power of Portugal by expanding its control over the Brazilian interior. Along with the exploration and settlement of this territory[disputed ] the bandeiras also discovered mineral wealth for the Portuguese, which they had been previously unable to profit from.

In the 1660s, the Portuguese government offered rewards to those who discovered gold and silver deposits in inner Brazil. So the bandeirantes, driven by greed, ventured into the depths of Brazil not only to enslave natives, but also to find mines and receive government rewards. As the number of natives diminished, the bandeirantes began to focus more intensely on finding minerals.


The bandeirantes were responsible for the discovery of mineral wealth, and along with the missionaries, for the territorial enlargement of central and southern Brazil. This mineral wealth made Portugal wealthy during the 18th century. As a result of the bandeiras, the Capitaincy of São Vicente became the basis of the vice-kingdom of Brazil, which would go on to encompass the current states of Santa Catarina, Paraná, São Paulo, Minas Gerais, Goiás, part of Tocantins, and both Northern and Southern Mato Grosso. With only a few outlying Spanish settlements surviving and the majority of Jesuit missions overrun, the de facto control by Portugal over most of what is now the Southeast, Southern, and Central West territory of Brazil was recognized by the Treaties of Madrid in 1750 and San Ildefonso in 1777.

In spite of their ignorance of geography, a science unknown to the Paulistas of olden times, and with only the help of the sun, they penetrated the interior of the Americas, conquering tribes. Some went to the hinterland of Goias, as far as the Amazon river; others went all the way to the coast from the river Patos until the river Plate and as far as the rivers Uruguay and Tibagi; and going upstream along the Paraguay river as far as the Paraná [...] some crossed the vast hinterland beyond the Paraguay river all the way to the high mountains of the kingdom of Peru. The Paulistas had to fight against their enemies and against nature: in respect of the latter they had to battle against the weather and in respect of the former they had to battle against wrath and hate. The lack of supplies could have driven them to despair had it not been that they were used to eating the fruits of the hinterland: wild honey, wild nuts, sweet and bitter palmitos, and the roots of edible plants. (Pedro Taques de Almeida Paes Leme)[3]

However, a new breed of men was growing, wild, yes, and ungovernable, but one in whom the infusion of native American blood would soon result in a relentless increase in action and achievement. So while the Spaniards in Paraguay stayed where Irala had placed them, mostly treating with indifference the discoveries which the first Conquistadores had made, the Brazilians continued for two centuries to explore the country. These determined adventurers would spend months and months in the wild hunting slaves and looking for gold and silver, guided by what they had learnt from the native Americans. Eventually they managed to secure for themselves and the House of Braganza the richest mines and the largest territory in South America This acquisition was of all the inhabited earth the most beautiful part. (Robert Southey, 1819)[4]


  1. ^ Well-known bandeirantes included Bartolomeu Bueno da Silva (the Anhanguera), Antônio Dias de Oliveira, Fernão Dias Pais (the Hunter of Emeralds), Domingos Rodrigues do Prado, Antônio Rodrigues de Arzão, Domingos Jorge Velho, Salvador Furtado Fernandes de Mendonça, Antônio Raposo Tavares, Estêvão Ribeiro Baião Parente, Brás Rodrigues de Arzão, Manuel de Campos Bicudo, Francisco Dias de Siqueira (the Apuçá), Pascoal Moreira Cabral, Antônio Pires de Campos, Manuel de Borba Gato, Francisco Pedroso Xavier, Lourenço Castanho Taques, Tomé Portes del-Rei, Antonio Garcia da Cunha, Matias Cardoso de Almeida, Salvador Faria de Albernaz, José de Camargo Pimentel, João Leite da Silva Ortiz, João de Siqueira Afonso, Jerônimo Pedroso de Barros and Bartolomeu Bueno de Siqueira.

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Leme, Luís Gonzaga da Silva, "Genealogia Paulistana" (1903-1905)
  • Leme, Pedro Taques de Almeida Paes, "Nobiliarquia Paulistana Histórica e Genealógica", Ed. São Paulo University (1980, São Paulo).
  • Taunay, Afonso de E., "Relatos Sertanistas", Ed. São Paulo University (1981, São Paulo) *
  • Taunay, Afonso de E., "História das Bandeiras Paulistas", Ed. Melhoramentos (São Paulo)
  • Franco, Francisco de Assis Carvalho, "Dicionário de Bandeirantes e Sertanistas do Brasil", Ed. São Paulo University, São Paulo, Ed Itatiaia, Belo Horizonte (1989)
  • Deus, Frei Gaspar da Madre de, "História da Capitania de São Vicente", Ed. São Paulo University (1975, São Paulo)
  • Crow, John A., “The Epic of Latin America,” (London, 1992)
  • Hemming, John, "Red Gold: The Conquest of the Brazilian Indians, 1500–1760 (London, 1978)

External links[edit]


  1. ^ "Um Governo de Engonços: Metrópole e Sertanistas na Expansão dos Domínios Portugueses aos Sertões do Cuiabá (1721-1728)". Retrieved 2016-03-12. 
  2. ^ CARVALHO FRANCO, Francisco de Assis, Dicionário de Bandeirantes e Sertanistas do Brasil, Editora Itatiaia Limitada - Editora da Universidade de São Paulo, 1989
  3. ^ Integral edition of the book 'Paulistana nobility - Genealogy of the main families from São Paulo, in Portuguese, by Pedro Taques de Almeida Paes Leme
  4. ^ History of Brazil