Cândido Rondon

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Cândido Mariano da Silva Rondon
Marechal Rondon.jpg
Marshal Rondon in 1930
Nickname(s)Marshal Rondon
Born(1865-05-05)May 5, 1865
Santo Antônio do Leverger, Mato Grosso, Empire of Brazil
DiedJanuary 19, 1958(1958-01-19) (aged 92)
Rio de Janeiro, Federal District, Brazil
Allegiance Empire of Brazil
Republic of Brazil
Service/branchCoat of arms of the Brazilian Army.svg Brazilian Army
Years of service1881–1955
RankMarechal.gif Marshal
Commands heldMilitary Corps of Engineers
Strategic Telegraph Lines Commission
Indian Protection Service
Battles/warsProclamation of the Republic
Revolta da Armada
Revolution of 1930
AwardsCombat Cross
David Livingstone Centenary Medal
Explorers Club Medal
Order of Columbus
Spouse(s)Chiquinha Xavier (m. 1896)
Other workAuthor, Engineer

Marshal Cândido Mariano da Silva Rondon (5 May 1865 – 19 January 1958) was a Brazilian military officer who is most famous for his exploration of Mato Grosso and the Western Amazon Basin, and his lifelong support of Brazilian indigenous populations. He was the first director of Brazil's Indian Protection Bureau (SPI/FUNAI) and supported the creation of the Xingu National Park. The Brazilian state of Rondônia is named after him.


Early life[edit]

He was born on 5 May 1865 in Mimoso, a small village in Mato Grosso state. His father, Cândido Mariano da Silva, was of Portuguese ancestry, and his mother was a Native American from the Terena and Bororo. His father died of smallpox before Cândido was born, and his mother died when he was two years old.[1] He was raised by his grandparents until they too died while he was still a boy.[clarification needed] After this, he lived with his mother's brother, who adopted Cândido and gave him his family name, Rondon. His uncle raised him until he reached sixteen.[2]

After finishing high school at the age of 16, he taught elementary school for two years, and then joined the Brazilian army. He enrolled in the 3rd Regiment of Horse Artillery in 1881. Among other studies, he studied Mathematics and Physical and Natural Sciences of the Superior School of War. On joining the military, he entered officer's school and graduated in 1888 as a second lieutenant. He was also involved with the Republican coup that overthrew Pedro II, the last Emperor of Brazil.

As an army engineer[edit]

Rondon at the age of 24, exploring the Amazon basin as an army engineer

The republican government was worried about the western region of Brazil, very isolated from the great centers and in border regions. In 1890, he was commissioned as an army engineer with the Telegraphic commission, and helped build the first telegraph line across the state of Mato Grosso. This telegraph line was finally finished in 1895, and afterwards, Rondon started construction on a road that led from Rio de Janeiro (then capital of the republic) to Cuiabá, the capital of Mato Grosso. Until this roadway was complete, the only way between these two cities was by river transport. Also during this time, he married his wife, Chiquinha Xavier. Together, they had 7 children. From 1900 to 1906, Rondon was in charge of laying telegraph line from Brazil to Bolivia and Peru. During this time he opened up new territory, and was in contact with the warlike Bororo of western Brazil. He was so successful in pacifying the Bororo, that he completed the telegraph line with their help. Throughout his life, Rondon laid over 4,000 miles of telegraph line through the jungles of Brazil.

Marshall Rondon was honored with the title "Patron of the Communications Corps of the Brazilian Army", by Decree No. 51,960, of 26 April 1963.


As a result of Rondon's competence in constructing telegraph lines, he was put in charge of extending the telegraph line from Mato Grosso to the Amazon. In the course of constructing the line, he discovered the Juruena river, in northern Mato Grosso which is an important tributary of the Tapajós river along with the discovered the Nambikwara tribe, which had until then killed all Westerners they had come in contact with.[3] He also discovered the ruins of the Real Forte Príncipe da Beira, the greatest historical relic of Rondônia and was promoted as Major of the Corps of Military Engineers, responsible for building the Cuiabá telegraph line to Santo Antonio do Madeira, the first to reach the Amazon region, which was called the "Rondon Commission". His works developed from 1907 to 1915. At the same time, the Madeira-Mamoré railroad was being built, which together with the Rondon telegraphic exploration and integration helped to occupy the region of the present state of Rondônia.

In May 1909, Rondon set out on his longest expedition. He set out from the settlement of Tapirapuã in northern Mato Grosso heading northwest to meet up with the Madeira river, which is a major tributary of the Amazon River. By August, the party had eaten all of its supplies, and had to subsist on what they could hunt and gather from the forest. By the time they reached the Ji-Paraná River, they had no supplies. During their expedition they discovered a large river between the Juruena, and Ji-Paraná river, which Rondon named the River of Doubt. To reach the Madeira, they built canoes, and reached the Madeira on Christmas Day, 1909.

When Rondon reached Rio de Janeiro, he was hailed as a hero, because it was believed that he and the expedition had died in the jungle. After the expedition, he became the first director of the Brazilian Government's Indian Protection Agency, or the SPI.

In September 1913, Rondon was struck by a poisoned arrow from the Nambikwara Indians. In 1914, with the Rondon Commission, he built 372 km of lines and five more telegraph stations: Pimenta Bueno, President Hermes, Presidente Pena (later Vila de Rondônia and present Ji-Paraná), Jaru and Ariquemes, in the area of the present state of Rondônia. On January 1, 1915, he completed his mission with the inauguration of the telegraph station in Santo Antônio do Madeira.

The 52nd meridian west is also a geographical reference for the history of communications in Brazil. Rondon was the second human being to receive in his honor a meridian in his name. He fulfilled missions by opening roads, clearing lands, launching telegraph lines, mapping the land, and establishing cordial relations with the Indians. He maintained contact with several indigenous peoples.

Expedition with Roosevelt[edit]

From left to right (seated): Father Zahm, Rondon, Kermit, Cherrie, Miller, four Brazilians, Roosevelt, Fiala. Photo taken in 1914.

In January 1914, Rondon left with Theodore Roosevelt on the Roosevelt-Rondon Scientific Expedition, whose aims were to explore the River of Doubt. The expedition left the Tapiripuã, and reached the River of Doubt on 27 February 1914. They did not reach the mouth of the river until late April, after the expedition had suffered greatly. During the expedition, the river was renamed the Rio Roosevelt.

The Adventure down the River of Doubt was the most difficult of Roosevelt's life. All the men except Rondon suffered from ailments and constant maladies.

Later life[edit]

After the expedition of 1914, Rondon worked until 1919 mapping the state of Mato Grosso. During this time he discovered some more rivers, and made contact with several indigenous tribes. In 1919, he became chief of the Brazilian Corp of Engineers, and the head of the Telegraphic Commission.

In 1924 and 1925, he led army forces against a rebellion in the state of São Paulo. From 1927 to 1930, Rondon was put in charge of surveying all of the borders between Brazil and its neighbors. In 1930, he was interrupted by the Revolution of 1930, and he resigned from his position as head of SPI. During 1934–1938, he was in charge of a Diplomatic Mission, to mediate a dispute between Colombia and Peru over the town of Leticia. In 1939, he resumed his directorship of SPI, and expanded the service to new territories of Brazil. In the 1950s he supported the Villas Boas brothers campaign, which faced strong opposition from the government and the ranchers of Mato Grosso and led to the establishment of the first Brazilian National Park for indigenous people along the Xingu River in 1961.[4]

On 5 May 1955, the date of his 90th birthday, he was awarded the title of Marshal of the Brazilian Army, granted by the National Congress. In 1957, he was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by the Explorers Club of New York. He died in 1958 in Rio de Janeiro at the age of 92.


Marshal Cândido Rondon is considered one of the foremost Brazilian heroes and patriots and has thus been honoured by population and government in many ways. He is the "Father of Brazilian Telecommunications" and 5 May is the National Day of Telecommunications, established in his honour. Had the glory of having his name written in letters of gold in massive Book of the Geographical Society of New York.

In addition, thousands of streets, schools and other urban features and organizations have received Rondon's name.


From 1898 onward Rondon was an orthodox member of the Igreja Positivista do Brasil (Positivist Church of Brazil), which is a Religion of Humanity based in the thought of Auguste Comte. The creed he embraced from it emphasized naturalism, science, and altruism rather than any supernatural forces.[5]

"I believe: That man and the world are governed by natural laws. That science has integrated man into the universe, enlarging the unity constituted by the woman, thus creating modest and sublime: sympathy for all beings of whom, as poverello, feels brother. That science, establishing the inattention (born feeling) of love, like that of selfishness, gave man the possession of himself. And the means of transforming and perfecting oneself. That Science, Art, and Industry will transform the Earth into Paradise, for all men, without distinction of races, beliefs, nations: banished the specters of war, of misery, of disease. That along with selfish forces - to be reduced to means of preserving the individual and the species - exist in the heart of man: treasures of love that life in society will sublimate more and more. In the laws of Sociology, founded by Augusto Comte, and why the mission of the intellectuals is, above all, the preparation of the human masses: disadvantaged, so that they rise, so that they can be incorporated into Society. That, being sometimes incompatible with the interests of the Order with those of Progress, everything must be resolved in the light of Love. That material order must be maintained, above all, because of women, the best part of all countries and children, the homelands of the future. That in the current state of anxiety, the solution is to let the thought free as the breath, promote the Religious League,: converging all to Love, the Common Good, set aside the disagreements that will remain in each as intimate forum issues, Without disturbing the splendid unity - which is true happiness."

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ Lucien Bodard, Green Hell (New York, 1971) p. 10
  2. ^ Donald F. O'Reilly, "Rondon: Biography of a Brazilian Republican Army Commander," New York University, 1969
  3. ^ Baker, Daniel ed. Explorers and Discoverers of the World. Detroit: Gale Research, 1993 Pg 483
  4. ^ From the first expedition to the creation of the Park, pib.socioambiental.org
  5. ^ Stringing Together a Nation: Candido Mariano da Silva Rondon and the ... By Todd A. Diacon: pgs 83–84


  • (in French) Michel Braudeau, « Le télégraphe positiviste de Cândido Rondon », in Le rêve amazonien, éditions Gallimard, 2004 (ISBN 2-07-077049-4).

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