Mem de Sá

Mem de Sá (c. 1500 – 2 March 1572) was a Governor-General of the Portuguese colony of Brazil from 1557-1572.[1] He was born in Coimbra, Kingdom of Portugal, around 1500, the year of discovery of Brazil by a naval fleet commanded by Pedro Álvares Cabral.

Mem de Sá
Governor General of Brazil
In office
3 January 1558 – 2 March 1572
Preceded byDuarte da Costa
Succeeded byLourenço da Veiga
Governor-general of Rio de Janeiro
In office
Preceded byEstácio de Sá
Succeeded bySalvador Correia de Sá
Personal details
Bornc. 1500
Coimbra, Portugal
Died2 March 1572(1572-03-02) (aged 71–72)
Salvador, Colonial Brazil
Military service
AllegiancePortuguese Empire
Battles/warsBattle of Rio de Janeiro

In the early sixteenth century, Brazil was not a major settled area of the Portuguese empire. The Jesuits had established aldeias in order to evangelize the Brazilian Indians. Portuguese settlers actively enslaved the indigenous populations. Mem de Sá was nominated the third Governor-General of Brazil in 1556, succeeding Duarte da Costa, who was Governor-General from 1553 to 1557. The seat of the government at the time was Salvador, in the present-day state of Bahia.

He was fortunate in securing the support of two important Jesuit priests, Fathers Manuel da Nóbrega (1517-1570) and José de Anchieta (1533-1597), who founded São Vicente in 1532, and São Paulo, on 25 January 1554, which is today one of the largest metropolises in the world. The Jesuits were stern and persistent missionaries of the Catholic faith with the indigenous people, and their pacification of these warrior societies was one of the most important conquests of Mem de Sá's government. The Jesuits had conflicts with Duarte da Costa, because he supported the plantation owners, who tried to force slavery upon the Indians. Mem de Sá opposed the usury of the Portuguese plantation owners in their trade in Indian slaves and helped the Jesuits expand the number of their aldeias.[2]

Mem de Sá also had an important military and political mission when, in 1560, leading a naval expedition of 26 ships and 2,000 soldiers and sailors, he was sent by the Portuguese crown to attack France Antarctique, a colony founded by Nicolas Durand de Villegaignon, a Huguenot French vice-admiral on the site of present-day Rio de Janeiro. Fort Coligny, built by the French colonists on a small island of the Guanabara Bay was destroyed, but Mem de Sá was able to expel definitely the French invaders in 1567 only, with the help of his nephew, Estácio de Sá, who was also the founder of Rio de Janeiro on 1 March 1565. With the help of the Jesuits, Mem de Sá was able to convince the Tamoyo Confederation to withdraw their support to the Frenchmen.

Mem de Sá died on 2 March 1572, in Salvador.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Maria Beatriz Nizza da Silva, "Mem de Sá" in Encyclopedia of Latin American History and Culture, vol. 5, p. 1. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons 1996.
  2. ^ Nizza da Silva, "Mem de Sá, p. 1.

Further readingEdit

  • Norton, Luis. A dinastia dos Sás no Brasil, 1558-1662. 2nd. ed. 1965.
  • Nowell, Charles E. "The French in sixteenth-century Brazil." The Americas 5.04 (1949): 381-393.
  • Varnhagen, Francisco Adolfo de, História geral do Brasil, 9th ed. 1975.
  • Vianna Júnior, Wilmar da Silva. Espelho dos governadores do Brasil, a administração de Mem de Sá. 2007
  • Wetzel, Herbert Ewaldo, Mem de Sá: Terceiro governador geral, 1557-1572. 1972.
  • Padre José de Anchieta. Feitos de Mem de Sá, ASIN: B00A6FRKE8. Maison Editora. 2013.