or "followers of the
banner" were Portuguese colonial scouts
in Brazil, members of the 16th-18th
century South American slave-hunting
expeditions, called Bandeiras
for "flags"). Though their
original purpose was to capture natives and force them into
slavery, the Bandeirantes
later began to focuse
their expeditions on finding gold, silver and diamond mines. They
ventured into unmapped regions in search of profit and adventure.
From 1580 – 1670 the Bandeirantes focused on slave hunting, then
from 1670-1750 they focused on mineral wealth. Through these
expeditions, the Bandeirantes also expanded Portuguese America from the small limits of the Tordesilhas Line to roughly the same
territory as current Brazil.
expansion discovered mineral wealth that made the fortune of
Portugal during the
17th and 18th centuries.
Bandeiras were the expeditions by citizens of São Paulo, known as Paulistas,
designed to enslave indigenous peoples and to find precious metals
The Bandeirantes were the men who participated
in these expeditions.
Bandeiras were not state organized – they were privately run, and
hence the men paid for their own equipment, and willingly and
knowingly traversed into the wilderness for months or years at a
time. São Paulo was the home base for the most famous
Besides the purpose of capturing natives as slaves bandeiras were
also used to extend the power of Portugal by expanding its control
over the Brazilian interior. Along with this development of
property the bandeiras also allowed for the Portuguese to gain a
hand in the discovery of mineral wealth, which they were previously
unable to lavish in. They have participated in the Battle of Mborore, (March 11, 1641): Guaranís from Jesuit Reductions against Bandeirantes, and portuguese explorers after separation of the
kingdoms of Spain and
The course of the Bandeira route was a difficult and perilous one.
The men were faced with hunger fatigue, disease and death. Often
there was little food, and because of this, the Bandeirantes got
into the habit of planting and harvesting this food as they went.
They also built roads as they went, and founded settlements, too.
the basis for agriculture and ranching in the interior of Brazil.
Despite the fact that the Jesuit missionaries were the chief
opponents of the Bandeirantes, priests accompanied the Bandeira for
two reasons: 1. to shrive the dying and the dead, 2. to ease the
conscience of the men. The Bandeira heard mass before leaving on
1660s, the Portuguese government offered rewards to those who
discovered gold and silver deposits in inner Brazil.
Bandeirantes, who were driven by greed, ventured into the depths of
Brazil not only to capture natives to sell as slaves, but
to find mines and get government rewards.
As the number of
natives diminished, the Bandeirantes began to focus on the precious
The first Bandeira was in 1628, organized by Antonio Raposo Tavares
. This bandeira
raided 21 Jesuit villages in the upper Panama Valley. They captured
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 of them.
result of the Bandeiras, the Capitaincy of São Vicente
became the basis for the vice-kingdom of Brazil and
encompassed current states of Santa Catarina, Paraná, São Paulo, Minas
Gerais, Goiás, Tocantins and both Northern and Southern
With the few
outlying Spanish settlements and missions overrun, the defacto
control over most of what is now Brazil was recognised by the
Treaty of Madrid in 1750.
A notable historian of the Bandeirantes was the genealogist Pedro
Taques de Almeida Paes Leme, who covered most of the families of
those who undertook the gold rush expeditions. He was born in São
Paulo in 1714, into a Paulista family, the son of Bartolomeu Paes
de Abreu and Leonor de Siqueira Paes.
In the beginning, the main focus of the bandeirantes was to enslave
natives. They carried this out by disguising themselves as Jesuits,
often singing mass to lure the natives out of their settlements.
However, more often they relied on surprise attacks. If luring the
natives with promises didn’t work, the bandeirantes would surround
the settlements, and set them alight in order to force out the
natives. The natives would be captured and placed into a large
outdoor pen, until there were enough of them enslaved to justify a
trip back to the coast, where they would be sold as slaves. It
could be weeks or months until this was the case, and so hundreds
of captives died of exposure. On the journey to the coast, the
captives would be stripped, and tied to a long pole to prevent them
from trying to flee the group.
There were over 2.5 million Indigenous peoples in Brazil
1500. By the middle of the 18th century, the number had dropped to
between 1 million and 1.5 million. Many tribes living close to the
Atlantic coast intermixed with Portuguese or died of diseases
. Others had fled into the
interior, and their flight created an ever-greater need for
, one that was not entirely satisfied
by importing them from Africa. Native slaves sold for about
$30-$40, while the imported African slaves sold from $100-$500. The
bandeirantes were able to sell many native slaves due to their
cheap price, and hence made a large profit.
Some of the most famous bandeirantes were Bartolomeu Bueno da Silva
), Fernão Dias Pais (the Hunter of
), Antônio Rodrigues Arzão, Domingos Jorge Velho,
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, Antonio Dias de Oliveira,
Tomé Portes del-Rei, Antonio Garcia da Cunha, Matias Cardoso de
Almeida, José de Camargo Pimentel, Domingos Rodrigues do Prado,
João de Siqueira Afonso, Jerônimo Pedroso de Barros and Bartolomeu
Bueno de Siqueira. In 1628, Antônio Raposo Tavares lead a bandeira,
composed of 2.000 allied Indians, 900 mamelucos
and 69 white Paulistanos, to find
precious metals and stones or to capture Indians for slavery or
both. This expedition alone was responsible for the destruction of
most of the Jesuit missions of Spanish Guairá and the enslavement
of over 60,000 indigenous people.
to 1652, Tavares also lead one of the longest known expeditions
Paulo to the mouth of the Amazon river, investigating
many of its tributaries, including the Rio Negro, and covering a distance of
more than 10,000 km. The expedition arrived in Andean Quito, part of the
Spanish Viceroyalty of Peru, and stayed there
for a short time in 1651. Of the 1200 men who left São Paulo, only
60 reached their final destination in Belém.
The Bandeirantes were responsible for the discovery of mineral
wealth and, to a large extent, to the territorial enlargement of
"In spite of the lack of geography, a science ignored by the
Paulistas of old times, without other help than the Sun, they
penetrated the interior of the America, conquering tribes. Some
would go to the hinterland of Goias, until the Amazon river. Others
to the coastline from the river of Patos until the river Plate,
going to the river Uruguay and Tibagi. E going up through the
Paraguay river until the Paraná [...] Some went through the vast
hinterland beyond the river Paraguay going through the high
mountains of the Kingdom of Peru. The Paulistas had to fight
against the enemies and against nature: the latter with the weather
and the former with wrath and hate. The lack of supplies could have
made them cowards, if they were not used to eating the fruits of
the hinterland, the honey of bees, the nuts of the forests, the
sweet and bitter palmitos, and the roots of the plants known to be
digestable". (Pedro Taques de Almeida Paes Leme)
"However a new breed of men was growing, wild yes and untractable,
but one with which the native American blood infusion would soon
acquire unrelentless building up activity. While the Spaniards, in
Paraguay, stayed where Irala had placed them, treated generally the
discoveries which the first Conquistadores had done with
indifference, 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, following the informations they learnt with the native
Americans. And finally, they managed to secure, to themselves and
to the House of Braganza, the richest mines, the largest portion of
South America, of all inhabited Earth, the most beautiful land".
(Robert Southey, 1819)
- Leme, Pedro Taques de Almeida Paes, "Nobiliarquia Paulistana
Histórica e Genealógica", Ed. São Paulo University (1980, São
- 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)
- Crow, John A., “The Epic of Latin America,” (London, 1992)
- Cheney, Glenn Alan, Journey on the Estrada Real: Encounters
in the Mountains of Brazil, (Chicago: Academy Chicago, 2004)