Martim Afonso de Sousa
This Portuguese courtier was born at Vila Viçosa toward the
end of the 15th century. His father had been a loyal retainer in the household
of Bragança, so young Martim was first made a page to Duke Jaime’s son,
Teodosio. He later became a page under the crown prince Joao, who would ascend
the Portuguese throne in December 1521 as King Joao III.
At that time, de Sousa was absent with the retinue that
accompanied the widowed Queen Leonor de Austria back to her native Spain. He
stayed on there to serve under the emperor Charles V and fought against the
French. De Sousa also married a Spanish lady, Ana Pimentel, with whom he would
have five children. In 1525, he was recalled to Portugal by Joao III. De
Sousa’s cousin Antonio de Ataide, a childhood friend of the young monarch, was
ennobled as Conde de Castanheira and appointed ambassador to France. His
influence helped de Sousa obtain the titles of prado and alcoentre, as well as
a knight- hood in the Ordem de Cristo.
De Sousa also displayed an interest in mathematics and
navigation. He started studying in 1527 under the young royal tutor Pedro Nunes
who was named royal cosmographer two years later. De Sousa’s interest helped
him obtain command of the Brazilian expedition when it was proposed by his
cousin to the king in 1530. De Sousa’s two years of exploration were judged so
satisfactory that he was rewarded on his return with the title of governor
general of the Portuguese East Indies.
He set sail from Lisbon on March 12, 1534, to assume office
in the Far East. His first term proved highly successful, with the creation of
a fortress at Diu in Cambodia and vigorous campaigns against the rajah of
Calcutta. Therefore, after de Sousa’s tenure expired in 1538, he was named for
a second time late in 1541. His squadron reached Goa by May 6, 1542, but his
second administration was marred by corruption and dissension. The Portuguese
even fought among themselves, and de Sousa was recalled in 1545. He returned
under suspicion of financial irregularities and was never again employed by the
Crown. He died in Lisbon on July 26, 1564.
As Spain’s settlers forsake their original Antillean
outposts for the rich new kingdoms of the American mainland, traders from other
western European nations begin drifting into the void. Madrid will vainly
attempt to stem this transatlantic traffic into the West Indies, increasing the
envy already taking hold against the Spaniards for their rising fortunes. Old
World conflicts soon are transposed to the New World, beginning during the first
half of the 16th century, when the rulers of Spain and France fight a series of
intermittent conflicts known collectively as the Habsburg-Valois Wars (so named
for their respective dynastic surnames). These are largely territorial disputes
originating in Italy and Flanders that flare into open conflict during
1494-1495, 1499-1505, 1508-1514, 1515-1516, 1521-1526, 1526-1529, 1536-1538,
1542-1544, and 1552-1559, but which actually constitute an almost continuous
period of strife from 1494 to 1559.
The coronation of 20-year-old Charles V as Holy Roman
Emperor in October 1520 intensifies this rivalry because-already being king of
Spain and duke of the Netherlands-his dominions now completely encircle France.
The ensuing round of hostilities from 1521 to 1526, called the First
Franco-Spanish War, features numerous depredations by French privateers off the
coasts of Spain, the Canaries, and the Azores Islands as they waylay vessels
bound to and from the Americas. One such pair of ships, bound from recently
conquered Mexico with exotic Aztec spoils, is captured in 1522 by Giovanni da
Verrazano or Verrazzano-a Florentine-born navigator in the service of Jean Ango
of Dieppe-and the fabulous beauty of the spoils helps to persuade François I to
sponsor his own exploration of North America in quest of a Northwest Passage to
Verrazano makes landfall with his 50-man, 100-ton caravel
Dauphine near what will later be- come known as the Carolinas in late February
or early March 1524, coasting northward and penetrating through the Narrows
into what is today New York City’s Upper Bay, hoping that it might prove to be
the ephemeral waterway leading to Cathay. After a brief survey, he exits and
continues his continental exploration as far northeastward as Newfoundland
before regaining Dieppe on July 8 and submitting a favorable report to the
king. However, it is not until after that monarch is captured at the Battle of
Pavia and compelled to sign the Treaty of Madrid on January 15, 1526, and then
responds by forging the so-called Cognac or Clementine League on May 2-uniting
France with Florence, Venice, Pope Clement VII, and eventually England-that
another three-year round of fighting explodes and the first French corsairs
actually strike out across the ocean to make at- tacks in the West Indies
MARCH 1526. The 130-ton Spanish galleon San Gabriel of
Rodrigo de Acuña, separated by storms from Juan Garci Jofre de Loaysa and Juan
Sebastian de Elcano’s seven-ship expedition bound from La Coruña (Galicia) into
the South Pacific via the Strait of Magellan, is attacked by three French vessels
off the coast of Brazil before anchoring
off Santa Catarina Island on March 26 to
recuperate over the next few months.
LATE 1527. After touching at Puerto Rico, the English ship
Mary of Guildford under the explorer John Rutt or Rout-who has previously
visited Newfoundland and the North American shoreline in quest of the fabled
Northwest Passage-arrives at the city of Santo Domingo to trade and is amiably
received by the city’s Spanish inhabitants. However, after the authorities in
the harbor castle fi re a round at Rutt’s anchored ship, he stands back out to
sea, disembarking nearby a few days later with 30 or 40 armed men seeking to
barter goods for provisions. When this request is refused, the Englishmen pillage
a plantation and then depart.
SUMMER 1528. The French corsair vessel Sainte Anne out of La
Rochelle, which is guided by the Portuguese pilot Diogo Ingenios and
accompanied by a Spanish caravel seized off
Lanzarote in the Ca- nary Islands, traverses the Atlantic and appears
near Margarita Island, then briefly seizes the pearl fisheries on June 24 at
Apparently, this same pair of raiders later attacks and
sinks a Spanish caravel near Puerto Rico’s Cape Rojo on August 11 before
sacking and torching the inland hamlet of San German at the mouth of the Añasco
River the next day, then standing away back across the Atlantic by October. San
German’s residents rebuild and fortify their hamlet.
AUGUST 3, 1529. In Europe, Franco-Spanish relations are
temporarily patched up after a month of negotiations by the signing of the
Treaty of Cambrai (known as the “Ladies’ Peace” because it is
negotiated between Charles V’s aunt, Margaret of Austria, and the French queen
mother, Louise of Savoy).
DECEMBER 3, 1530. Portugal Claims Brazil. Fearful of French
designs upon Brazil, which include a few trading outposts that are already
beginning to dot its coastline, King Joao III decides to supersede Portugal’s
sporadic private eff orts to rescue Brazil by dispatching a royal expedition of
two ships, two caravels, and a galleon bearing 400 men under his retainer
Martim Afonso de Sousa and his brother Pero Lopes de Sousa.
This expedition arrives from Lisbon off Pernambuco on January 31, 1531, and sights
Cape Santo Agostinho the next day. Shortly thereafter, the Portuguese capture
three French ships laden with rare woods and other Brazilian produce. The
commodore thereupon detaches his subordinate Diogo Leite with two caravels to
reconnoiter northeastward from Pernambuco, and Joao de Sousa is sent back to Europe
with a report for the monarch; the main body departs southwestward by February
17 to continue its exploration. They enter Baia de Todos os Santos and
encounter a long-time Portuguese resident named Diogo Alvares Correia, who has
married a Paraguaçu woman and is known among the Indians as Cararmuru or the
“God of Thunder.”
APRIL 30, 1531. At midday, de Sousa’s expedition enters
Guanabara Bay-dubbed Rio de Janeiro three decades previously by Amerigo
Vespucci-and because of its vast, sheltered expanse and abundant resources, the
Portuguese explorer decides to pause and refresh his ships. A tiny fortification
is erected beside his careening beach, and peaceable relations are established
with the local Tamoio natives. When de Sousa finally departs on August 1, a
small group of Portuguese remain behind, although this foothold will not
prosper and is soon abandoned.
AUGUST 12, 1531. De Sousa’s expedition gains Cananéia Bay,
where other Portuguese and Spanish ships are found lying at anchor. Also found
is a decades-old resident named Cosme Fernandes, a Jewish convert and
university graduate-hence referred to as the Bacharel or
“Bachelor”-who was marooned by Vespucci’s expedition as long ago as
January 22, 1502. He has since married a Carijo princess. There is also a
deserter from Rodrigo de Acuña’s 1526 visit, named Francisco de Chavez.
Familiar with the native trade patterns, they in- form de
Sousa of rich mines lying far up the Iguaçu River in Incan territory, so the commodore
dispatches 40 harquebusiers and 40 crossbowmen up- stream on September 1 under
Capt. Pero Lobo Pinheiro, along with native auxiliaries and with de Chavez as
their guide-none of whom will ever return; they are instead lured out into the
Parana River and massacred by tribal warriors. Unaware of their fate, de Sousa
puts to sea again on September 26 to continue his reconnaissance as far
southwest as the River Plate estuary.
JANUARY 8, 1532. Having wrecked his flagship, de Sousa’s
depleted expedition returns into Cana- néia Bay to recuperate before setting
out southward 10 days later to establish a permanent Portuguese colony at what
is then known as the Porto do Escravos or “Slaves Port.”
Appearing outside its bar by January 20, de Sousa’s vessels
cross over after two storm-tossed days to begin erecting a fort and town, from
whence they hope to probe inland and finally reach the ephemeral mines of the
Incas. This settlement is christened Sao Vicente-January 22 being St. Vincent’s
feast day on the Church calendar.
MAY 12, 1532. Having departed from Sao Vicente to return to
Portugal for more colonists, a squadron under Pero Lopes de Sousa learns of a
30-man French outpost recently installed on Itamaraca Island by the Marseillan
privateer Jean Barrau du Perret, commander of the 120-ton Pelerine. He
therefore interrupts his homeward passage to capture it after an 18-day siege
and supplants this stronghold with a Portuguese garrison before proceeding out
across the Atlantic.
OCTOBER 10, 1532. De Sousa leads a group of settlers inland
from Sao Vicente guided by the Portuguese castaways Joao Ramalho and Antonio
Rodrigues-they have married the daughters of the local Guiana tribal chieftains
Tibiriças and Piquerobi and are therefore familiar with the terrain and trusted
by the natives. Pushing through the dense man- groves along the Quilombo River
Valley, they ascend the formidable Serra do Mar onto the Piratininga Plain to
found a second outpost (which will eventually become the modern city of Sao
JANUARY 1533. Joao de Sousa reaches Sao Vicente from
Portugal, bringing letters from the king informing Martim Afonso de Sousa that
he is to be relieved, but he is also to be rewarded with one of the 15 new
“hereditary captaincies” into which Brazil will be divided, depending
on whether he chooses to remain in the New World or return to Portugal.
MAY 1533. Martim Afonso de Sousa departs Sao Vicente,
leaving his brother Pero in charge of his properties while he returns to
Lisbon, where he will be promoted to governor general of the Portuguese East
Shortly before leaving Sao Vicente, Martim Afonso de Sousa
learns of the annihilation of Pero Lobo’s lost expedition up the Iguaçu River,
which he believes has been engineered by the Bacharel Cosme Fernandes and his
Spanish associates. He therefore suggests to the acting military commander who
is left behind-the mill owner and militia captain Pero de Gois da Silveira-that
they be arrested.
SUMMER 1533. A body of Portuguese troops under Captain de
Gois advances on Iguape to detain Fernandes, who has taken up residence there
with his family near his Spanish-born friend Ruy Garcia Mosquera. Apprised of
the Portuguese captain’s intent, the defenders rally their numerous retainers,
other disgruntled residents, as well as some 150 native archers, and prepare to
To better do so, Fernandes and Garcia Mosquera seize a
French privateer anchored off Cananéia and land its artillery to prepare an
ambush at a trench that they have dug, covering Icapara Bar outside Iguape
(modern Trincheira Bay). De Gois’s disembarkation is therefore crushed, 80 of
his troops being slain and himself wounded and captured, after which Fernandes
and Garcia Mosquera use his ship to mount a destructive counterattack against
Sao Vicente. They thereupon decamp beyond Portuguese jurisdiction, along with
French crossbowman of the Cartier-Roberval expedition
MAY 10, 1534. The 42-year-old explorer Jacques Cartier
arrives off Newfoundland with two ships and 61 men from Saint Malo (France),
searching for the Northwest Passage to Asia. After charting part of what are
today the shorelines of New Brunswick and Quebec, he returns to Europe by
AUGUST 9, 1535. Cartier returns to Newfoundland with his
120-ton flagship Grande Hermine, the 60-ton Petite Hermine, and the 40-ton
Émerillon and penetrates the Saint Lawrence Seaway as far south- west as
Hochelaga (modern Montreal) by October 2 before retiring to winter at the Saint
Charles River mouth (modern Quebec City). Although disappointed at not discovering
a passage all the way through to the Far East, the Frenchman is nonetheless
convinced that this new territory is “rich and wealthy in precious
stones,” so he kidnaps a dozen natives before weighing anchor on May 6,
1536, carrying them to Saint Malo by July 16. Cartier’s hope is to spark
interest in this new land and thus be granted Crown permission to found a
colony, which he mistakenly believes to be called Canada- actually the
Huron-Iroquois word for “village.”
LATE AUTUMN 1535. Relations between Paris and Madrid again
begin to deteriorate regarding disputes in Savoy and Milan, so numerous French
corsairs begin taking up station off the western approaches to Spain and
threatening returning ships- especially those bearing treasure from recently conquered
Peru. As a result, the Spanish Crown orders the establishment of an armada de
la guardia de la carrera de Indias or “guard fleet for the Indies
FEBRUARY 1536. War officially erupts between France and
Spain when the former occupies Savoy and penetrates the Piedmont, to which the
latter replies in June by invading Provence.
NOVEMBER 1536. A lone French corsair vessel cuts out a
Spanish ship anchored at Chagres (Panama).
JANUARY 1537. Emperor Charles V and King François I agree to
a short-lived truce.
FEBRUARY 1537. Apparently the same single French corsair
ship is sighted between Cartagena (Colombia) and Nombre de Dios (Panama), where
it captures a Spanish merchantman near the latter port as it is arriving with a
consignment of horses from Santo Domingo.
MARCH 15, 1537. This same French vessel materializes before
Havana, prompting Gov. Gonzalo de Guzman to order three of five 200-ton Spanish
merchantmen anchored in his port to sortie under Lt. Juan Velazquez. They
overtake and trap the shallow- draught intruder inside the harbor at Mariel
(then known as the “Puerto de Tablas”), only to run aground when the
French vessel escapes out to sea, and so are boarded when this raider reverses
course. Two of the Spanish prizes are burned and the third manned by the
triumphant Frenchmen, who return before Havana to extort ransom from its
hapless villagers. Other French trespassers are also sighted near Santo
MAY 31, 1537. A French corsair vessel enters Santiago de
Cuba’s harbor and carries off some merchantmen.
JUNE 14, 1537. A dozen Spanish warships and two caravels
sortie from Seville under Capt. Gen. Blasco Nuñez Vela, becoming the first fleet
of warships officially assigned to escort an outward-bound American convoy,
reinforce garrisons throughout the Caribbean, lift the blockade of Havana, and
then return to Spain.
OCTOBER 1537. A French ship and auxiliary out of Bayonne,
bearing a total of 150 men, arrive off the Lesser Antilles to prowl the Spanish
SPRING 1538. This pair of Bayonne ships raid Ocoa, Puerto
Hermoso, and La Yaguana (modern Léogane, Haiti), bringing maritime traffic off Santo
Domingo to almost a complete standstill.
APRIL 4, 1538. The large Bayonne ship pillages a Spanish
brigantine exiting from Santiago de Cuba, then the next day penetrates its
harbor and engages the caravel Magdalena of Diego Pérez as well as a small
two-gun battery ashore. The shallow draught of Pérez’s craft allows him to gain
the Frenchmen’s quarter, though, peppering the intruders with his four
culverins from 11:00 a. m. until they finally withdraw an hour past midnight on
April 6, having sustained about a dozen casualties. Three Spaniards die during
this fray, and the French ship eventually exits Santiago Bay three days later.
MAY 1538. A French corsair ship appears near Havana and robs
several houses and churches ashore. Upon learning of this attack at the
island’s capital of Santiago de Cuba, 500 miles farther east-southeast, the new
captain general, Hernando de Soto, dis- patches the military engineer Mateo
Aceituno with 100 men. Within a few weeks of their arrival, they throw up the
6-gun fort, Castillo de la Fuerza, to guard Havana’s entrance channel (see
“June 7, 1538” entry in “Expansion beyond Mexico”).
JUNE 1538. San German de Puerto Rico is sacked and burned by
80 French raiders from the Bayonne ship. During their retirement back toward
their boats, they are overtaken during a rainstorm by 30 mounted Spaniards, who
attack while the French- men’s powder is wet. Fifteen raiders are therefore
killed and another three taken prisoner, who then are exchanged for San
German’s looted church bells, plus other booty.
JUNE 15, 1538. In Europe, French and Spanish
plenipotentiaries agree upon a 10-year truce negotiated at Nice by Pope Paul
III, although it is some time before word of this cessation of hostilities
reaches the New World.
EARLY JUNE 1540. French corsairs disembark from a single
ship near San German de Puerto Rico, sacking and burning the town, along with
its outlying district.
AUGUST 1540. A leaking, 400-ton English ship with a French
pilot commandeers a Spanish merchantman laden with sugar and hides off Cape Tiburon
(southwestern Haiti), setting its crew ashore before transferring aboard their
prize. They then send their leaking vessel to the bottom and sail home in
MAY 1541. As Franco-Spanish relations again be- gin to fray
over differences regarding the succession in Milan, a 35-man French corsair
ransacks a Spanish caravel off Puerto Rico. This same craft then sinks another
victim off Mona Island before disembarking some men to loot ashore. It proceeds
next to Cape de la Vela (Colombia) and robs a Spanish caravel of 7,000-8,000
ducats’ worth of pearls at Portete.
AUGUST 1541. Cartier returns to Canada with five ships,
having brought an advance contingent of a few hundred settlers from France to
establish a foothold for a new colony. The titular head of this enterprise-the
impoverished, 41-year-old courtier Jean-François de La Rocque, Seigneur de
Roberval-is to follow next year with many more colonists, hoping in the process
to rebuild his fortune by serving as “lieutenant general of Canada”
and exploiting its rich mineral deposits.
While awaiting his arrival, Cartier erects a small fort
called Charlesbourg Royal at Cap Rouge, nine miles above present-day Quebec
City, and explores the Saint Lawrence River until wintertime.
EARLY DECEMBER 1541. Thirteen well-armed French vessels
ransack a Portuguese caravel off Guyana, then are joined by three other vessels
to press deeper into the Caribbean and pillage the coastlines of Margarita
Island, Curaçao, and the entrance to the Lake of Maracaibo (Venezuela).
JUNE 8, 1542. Roberval reaches Newfoundland with the ships
Valentine, Sainte Anne, and Lechefraye, bringing 100 more French colonists to
join Cartier at Charlesbourg Royal (Quebec). Instead, he is surprised to meet
his subordinate in the Newfoundland harbor of Saint John’s. Cartier had earlier
abandoned this advance foothold because of the harshness of the past winter and
the hostility from the Iroquois. Cartier refuses Roberval’s order to return to
Canada with him, instead continuing toward France with his own survivors.
Undismayed by Cartier’s disobedience, Roberval proceeds to
Charlesbourg Royal and reestablishes that outpost, then begins exploring
Canada. How- ever, although the population of his community is too numerous to
be directly assaulted by the Indians, many of the French settlers are ill
prepared to withstand the ensuing winter, and so they suffer cruelly from cold,
famine, and disease. The next September (1543), they are retrieved by a rescue
mission under Paul d’Austillon, Seigneur de Sauveterre, and France’s North
American aspirations will be entirely forsaken for the next 60 years.
MID-JULY 1542. In Europe, tensions once more escalate
between France and Spain, the Pyrenees becoming the scene of clashes one month
later, followed by open declarations of war by both nations before the end of
FEBRUARY 1543. Two French ships and a small auxiliary attack
San German de Puerto Rico, burning it and making off with four caravels lying
in its harbor. A pair of Spanish galleons and two lateen- rigged caravels on
the neighboring island of Santo Domingo are manned with 250 volunteers and set
out in pursuit under Ginés de Carrion, captain of the galleon San Cristobal.
Five days later he returns, having captured the enemy flagship and 40 of its
crew, while sinking the smaller French consort.
Despite this victory, San German’s inhabitants are too
frightened to return to their dwellings, preferring instead to relocate their
town to Santa Maria de los Remedios in Guadianilla Bay (modern Guayanilla).
JUNE 16, 1543. Antillean Sweep. Five French corsair ships
and a smaller consort bearing 800 men as- sault Venezuela’s Margarita Island,
then the next month burn the once-rich pearl-fishing town of Nuevo Cadiz on
adjoining Cubagua, whose population has already declined to scarcely 10 Spanish
inhabitants because of the exhaustion of its pearl beds and the devastation
suffered by a destructive hurricane on Christmas Day 1541. According to some
Spanish sources, these raiders are commanded by Roberval (“Robertval”
or “Roberto Baal”), but the French raiders may have borne commissions
from him or been intending to visit his Canadian colony on their homeward leg.
JULY 16, 1543. Four of these same large French corsair
vessels and a smaller consort arrive undetected before Santa Marta (Colombia),
landing be- tween 400 and 500 men the next noon to occupy the port. They remain
in possession for seven days, destroying everything of value before retiring
with four bronze cannons and other booty.
JULY 24-25, 1543. Under cover of darkness, the French
squadron-piloted into Cartagena’s bay by a Spanish turncoat embittered at a
punishment received from Lt. Gov. Alonso Vejines-deposits 450 raiders ashore,
who then carry this Colombian port with ease in a three-pronged attack. Its
newly consecrated bishop, Fr. Francisco de Santamaria y Benavides, and an
overawed populace surrender 35,000 pesos in specie, plus another 2,500 from the
royal coffers, before the enemy withdraws. The next month, the raiders are
anchored off Cape de la Vela, selling their booty to local residents.
SEPTEMBER 7, 1543. A single 20-man vessel detached from this
same French squadron pillages a rich Spanish merchantman off Santiago de Cuba,
then attempts a disembarkation, only to be repelled by its two-gun battery
under Andrés Zamora. The raider emerges from the bay and proceeds westward,
intending to reunite with its main force off Isla de Pinos. The French
squadron, meanwhile, seizes five vessels in early October that are anchored off
the new Spanish town of Santa Maria de los Remedios in Guadianilla Bay (modern
Guayanilla), although the raiders are prevented from disembarking.
OCTOBER 31, 1543. The reunited, homeward- bound French
squadron appears before Havana, disgorging more than 200 men at San Lazaro
Inlet. Advancing across open country, the invaders are checked by fire from La
Fuerza Fortress. They retreat toward their ships, leaving behind 20 dead. The
rovers then depart the Caribbean altogether via the Straits of Florida.
SEPTEMBER 18, 1544. After an imperial army has fought its
way to within sight of Paris, the Treaty of Crepy is signed in Europe, marking
an end to this latest round of Franco-Spanish hostilities. Although François I
has been constrained by this treaty to recognize Spain’s sovereignty in the
Caribbean, some fighting will still persist in the New World. Cuba and Puerto
Rico, in particular, continue to be harassed by French interlopers.
LATE OCTOBER 1544. Three French ships prowl past San Juan de
Puerto Rico, landing at depleted San German to pillage and burn the town. Off Cape
de la Vela (Colombia), another trio of French interlopers intercepts passing
vessels; they also sell contra- band items to local Spanish citizens. 1545.
Five French corsair vessels and a small auxiliary surprise the new Colombian
port town of Riohacha (constituted only as of February 2), seizing five Spanish
vessels lying in its roadstead. Unable to disembark, the raiders subsequently
arrange a truce with its residents, eventually selling them 70 slaves. A
similar visit by these same Frenchmen, albeit entirely peaceful, ensues at