Brites de Albuquerque, the wife of Duarte Coelho Pereira,the first grantee of the Captaincy of Pernambuco, was born in Portugal in about 1517 and died in Brazil in 1584. She belonged to an illustrious family of the Portuguese nobility, the daughter of Lopo de Albuquerque and D. Ana de Bulhões.
Brites was a lady of the Royal Palace when she met the military commander, Captain Duarte Coelho, who was famous for his successful explorations. Duarte Coelho received, in recognition of services rendered to the Portuguese crown, the possession of the Captaincy of Pernambuco.
She married Duarte Coelho around 1533 and came with him to Brazil. Although very young and accustomed to the comfort of the royal palace, she had the courage to leave family and friends and venture into an unknown and primitive land, far away from her homeland.
With them, apart fromseveral families and many rough, ambitious adventurers, cameBrites’ brother, Jerônimo de Albuquerque, who became known as the “Adam ofPernambuco”, for leaving vast progeny all around Brazil and, more specifically, in the Northeast region.
Brites first set foot in Pernambuco in 1535, at a place called “Sítio dos Macacos” (Monkeys Farm), near Igarassu, a place that hada few wooden houses, a crude fort, and some “friendly” Indians. The white sand beach was washed by the waves, surrounded by palms and cashew trees, where the red flowers of pau-brasil flourished. There were also unpredictable ‘savages’and the French on the prowl, waiting to exploit the land.
AsIgarassudid not offer suitable conditions for housing, they sought a more convenient location, and decided tosettle in Olinda, where today is the Igreja da Séhill.
There, her four children were born, the first Brazilian and Pernambuconoblemen: the firstborn Duarte Coelho de Albuquerque, who was the second grantee of the captaincy of Pernambuco (1537-1538? -1578), Jorge de Albuquerque Coelho, who would become the third grantee after his brother’s death, Inês de Albuquerque and a stillborn infant. Brites and Duarte Coelho were the only couple among the grantees who managed to settle firmly in their lands and bequeath them to their descendants, as founders of the dynasty.
Dona Brites, as she was known, raised their children in honour and duty. She was a devoted wife and an excellent collaborator. With her husband’s death in 1554, and the absence of the children, who were studying in Portugal, the widow took over the governing of the Captaincy. Only in 1560, with the returnto Pernambucoof her eldest son, Duarte Coelho de Albuquerque, she ceased to hold the office, but resumed it in 1572 because of her son’s absence when he returned again to Portugal. Later, owing to the death of the firstborn, she gave the rule to her second son Jorge, who took over as the third grantee.
Morreu trinta anos depois de seu marido. Brites de Albuquerque é considerada a primeira e uma das mais ilustres pernambucanas. A mãe dos pernambucanos.
Dona Brites adopted Pernambucoas her new and permanent home. For almost 50 years,she accompanied the life of the captaincy that she witnessed being born, from the early difficult and troubled years, with the struggles against the Indians, the tragedies of colonisation, the green expansion of sugarcane fields and the flourishing of coconut palms introduced to Brazilby her husband that gave a new face to the beaches of Pernambuco.
She saw the appearance of Recife and the slow progress of Igarassu. In summary, she encouraged,with herwoman’s sensitivity,the progress and stabilisation of the captaincy that prospered most in Brazil.
She died thirty years after her husband. Brites de Albuquerque is considered the first and one of the most illustrious women fromPernambuco. She is the mother of all from Pernambuco.
Recife, 27 october 2005.
(Updated on 21 august 2009).
Translated by Peter Leamy, January 2012.
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SILVA, Jorge Fernandes da. Vidas que não morrem. Recife: Governo do Estado de Pernambuco, Departamento de Cultura, 1982.
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Source: GASPAR, Lúcia. Brites de Albuquerque. Pesquisa Escolar Online, Joaquim Nabuco Foudation, Recife. Available at: <http://basilio.fundaj.gov.br/pesquisaescolar/>. Accessed: day month year. Exemple: 6 Aug. 2009