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Mem de Sá

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Coimbra, Portugal

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Mem de Sá (c. 1500 – 2 March, 1572) was a Governor-General of the Portuguese colony of Brazil from 1557-1572.

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.

He 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 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 aboriginal 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 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 in 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 also

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