Pero Vaz de Caminha: who was it, letter, death

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Pero Vaz de Caminha was the clerk who was part of Pedro Álvares Cabral's expedition, the incursion that reached the Brazil on April 22, 1500. He belonged to a noble family, which had good relations with the Portuguese kings, and was the responsible for writing the first document in the history of Brazil, the letter reporting to arrival of the Portuguese in Brazil.

Also access: Discovery of America — the arrival of the Spaniards, led by Christopher Columbus, in America

Summary about Pero Vaz de Caminha

  • Pero Vaz de Caminha was born in Porto sometime in 1450.

  • He was the son of Vasco Fernandes de Caminha, belonging to a noble family.

  • His first known trade was working as a scale master at the Mint in 1476.

  • He participated in Pedro Álvares Cabral's expedition as a scribe.

  • Wrote a letter to the king of Portugal reporting the discovery of new lands.

Who was Pero Vaz de Caminha?

Pero Vaz de Caminha, who married d. Catarina Vaz and with whom she had a daughter named Isabel Caminha, holds your image engraved

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The in Brazilian history for having been the editor of the record that is considered the first written document in the history of Brazil. This happened because Walks he was the scribe of the expedition led by Pedro Álvares Cabral, Portuguese commander who led a voyage with 13 vessels that set sail from Portugal, arriving in Brazil on April 22, 1500.

This expedition left Lisbon, the capital of Portugal, with a double objective: to establish a Portuguese factory in the India and check the Portuguese possibilities in America. It was through this incursion that Pero Vaz de Caminha coined his name in Brazilian history as the person responsible for a valuable document.

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Historians do not have much knowledge about the life of Pero Vaz de Caminha. Currently, it is known that he born in Porto, city Thethe north of Portugal, in 1450, but the day and month in which he would have been born are unknown.

He he belonged to a noble family, which had good relations at the court of Portugal.. His father, Vasco Fernandes de Caminha, was known for having been a knight of the Duke of Bragança. Vasco Fernandes de Caminha also acted as main receiver for Porto, Ceuta and the regions of Entre-Douro, Minho and Trás-os-Montes. He married Isabel Afonso, and they had three children: Fernando, Afonso Vaz and Pero Vaz de Caminha.

walk had good education and became a learned man.The influence of his family, added to his erudition, allowed him to assume the position of scale master at the Mint on March 8, 1476. Some authors point out that the position would have been a reward for having participated in a conflict against the kingdom of Castile.

In 1497, Caminha was appointed to the position of councilor of Porto and acted in the drafting of a document called Chapters of the City Council of Porto. Phoi nominated, in 1500, to be expedition clerk led by Pedro Álvares Cabral, mentioned above. This incursion left Portugal on March 9, 1500, with 13 vessels carrying between 1200 and 1500 men.

On April 22, 1500, the ships sighted land, and the next day, the first Portuguese were sent ashore to verify details of the territory. There, the first contacts of the Portuguese with indians. The Europeans remained in Brazilian lands until May 2, 1500, when they then embarked on their way to India.

However, a vessel, led by Gaspar Lemos, returned to Portugal in possession of a document known as the “Letter from Pero Vaz de Caminha”. In this letter, Caminha reports to the Portuguese king, d. Manuel I, all the details of the expedition, including the “discovery” of the new land and its characteristics and the people who inhabited it.

  • Video lesson on the discovery of Brazil

Letter from Pero Vaz de Caminha

The letter written by Pero Vaz de Caminha on the occasion of the arrival of the Portuguese in Brazil was named “Letter to El-Rei Dom Manoel on the discovery of Brazil”. The purpose of the letter, as mentioned, was to report the “discovery” of new lands, so that Pero Vaz de Caminha narrated Details regarding the trip, The land and the natives.

Page from Pero Vaz de Caminha's letter.
The letter reported the “discovery” of the new lands.

The person responsible for transporting the letter to Portugal was Gasparwe read. Upon reaching the king's hands, the document was kept a state secret. It had, in total, 27 handwritten pages and, of course, in old portuguese. Throughout the letter, the author mentioned the names of 15 people, including Pedro Álvares Cabral, Bartolomeu Dias and Nicolau Coelho.

Later, the document was sent to the Torre do Tombo National Archives, remaining unknown until the 18th century. THE letter was found in 1773, by JosephSeabragivesSilva, and published by Father Manuel Aires do Casal, in 1817.

A striking excerpt reported by Pero Vaz de Caminha narrates the first encounter of the Portuguese with the Indians|1|:

The Captain General ordered Nicolau Coelho to land on land with a boat and go to inspect that river. And as soon as he started to go there, men came along the beach in groups of two, three, so that when they reached the boat at the mouth of the river, there were already 18 or 20 men there. They were brown, all naked, with nothing to cover their shame. Bows and arrows were in their hands. They all came stiffly towards the boat. Nicolau Coelho motioned for them to put down their bows. And they did so.

See too: Great Navigations the exploration of the atlantic ocean started by Portugal

Death of Pero Vaz de Caminha

Pedro Álvares Cabral's expedition headed for Calicut, coastal city of India. There, the Portuguese established a factory, responsible for trade with the local inhabitants. Despite this, the relationship between the Portuguese and the Indians was never good.

In Calicut, Pero Vaz de Caminha would be responsible for the role of scribe. On December 15, 1500, hedied in a conflict what gave up between Muslims living in Calicut and Portuguese,a few months after having passed through Brazil and written his so famous letter.


|1| CASTRO, Sílvio: The Letter from Pero Vaz de Caminha. The Discovery of Brazil. Porto Alegre: L&PM, 2013, p. 88.

By Daniel Neves Silva
History teacher
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