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1535 Duarte Coelho

Lopo Homem, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Lopo Homem, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
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Duarte Coelho Pereira was a Portuguese nobleman, military officer, and colonial administrator. He was the first donatary captain of Pernambuco, a captaincy in northeastern Brazil, from 1535 until his death in 1554.

In 1535, King John III of Portugal granted Duarte Coelho the captaincy of Pernambuco as a reward for his service in India. This was part of the Portuguese Crown’s strategy to colonize Brazil by dividing it into captaincies, or hereditary fiefs, which were granted to individuals who were responsible for their administration and development.

Upon arriving in Pernambuco, Duarte Coelho found a region rich in brazilwood, a valuable resource for the production of dye. He established the first permanent Portuguese settlement in Brazil, the town of Olinda, and later founded the city of Igarassu.

Duarte Coelho’s administration of Pernambuco was considered successful. He managed to establish a prosperous sugar industry, with numerous sugar mills, and he maintained relatively peaceful relations with the indigenous peoples.

However, his tenure was also marked by conflict. He had to defend his captaincy against French privateers and rival indigenous tribes. He also faced internal disputes within the Portuguese community.

Duarte Coelho’s efforts laid the groundwork for the development of Pernambuco into one of the wealthiest and most important regions of colonial Brazil. His descendants continued to rule the captaincy until the end of the 17th century.

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