India by way of Brazil

by Dave

I’m reading John Crow‘s the Epic of Latin America. (ed. 1971). Interesting piece of info. Brazil was “discovered” by Alvares Cabral while trying to follow Vasco da Gama to India. da Gama landed in Calicut, on the Kerala coast in 1498 and established a monopoly on the spice trade with the East.

The natives of India had not exactly greeted da Gama with open arms, and other European powers might any day try to force their way in, so a large fleet was sent to establish Portuguese rule there[in India] beyond any shadow of a doubt.  There were 13 ships bearing the red cross of Portugal on their sails, and about 1500 men all under the command of Captain Alvares Cabral.

Gama warned Cabal about getting caught in the doldrums off the African coast, and he sailed far to the west and unexpectedly (say some reports) landed on the coast of Brazil in 1500.

Early Brazilian history is vague and nebulous. There were no great marches of conquistadores, no rich native cities to seek and plunder, and for over 30 years there were no fixed Portuguese centers. Brazil was strictly a business side line and nothing more for the moment – a mere stopping off place on the voyage to India.

There’s been a wee bit of change in Brazil’s strategic significance since then.