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Henrique Dias

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Henrique Dias

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Last update: 16/09/2013

By: Lúcia Gaspar - Librarian of the Fundação Joaquim Nabuco

There is little documentation on Henrique Dias, one of the black heroes of the fight against the Dutch. Information only begins to appear in 1633, when he appeared before General Matias de Albuquerque “to serve with some of his colour in whatever he determined”, becoming captain of the group and receiving the warrant of Governor of Brazilian creoles, blacks and mulattos.

It is known that he was born in Pernambuco, but his date of birth is unknown. It is also unknown whether he was born a slave or free, nor who was his wife. He did not have any sons, but had four daughters, two of whom were called Guiomar and Benta.

There is no known authentic portrait of him. Those that appear in compendiums and even scholarly books are pure fantasy.

His first military action was the defence of the São Sebastião Sugarcane Plantation, when he called on the aid of twenty black men and other captains, and where he received the first of his 24 wounds fighting the Dutch. His left hand had to be amputated from one of these wounds.

He saw combat against the Dutch in Pernambuco, Bahia, Alagoas and Rio Grande do Norte, never losing a battle. He took part in the battles of Casa Forte, when the plantation of Anna Paes was defended,Tabocas,Cunhaú and Guararapes, among others.

Henrique Dias resided in a home in the outskirts of Recife and in the town of Maurícia (today the neighbourhood of Santo Antônio) which, according to documents, was the closest to the enemy. He was so close to the Dutch that sometimes the fighting wasn’t with bullets but with words of challenge and insult. He undertook various important attacks on the Dutch from his home. The place was attacked several times by the Flemish, however they were always repelled.

With the surrender of Recife in 1654, Henrique Dias, unlike the other militants who fought the Dutch, did not receive compensation to which he was entitled, having to travel to Portugalin March 1656 to request delayed remuneration for his services.

He was granted,by King John IV, the rank of ‘Moinhos de Soure’ (literally ‘Soure Mills’ – Knight) in the Order of Christ, which was vacant due to the death of Antônio Felipe Camarão, who had held it since 1641.

He spent his final years in Pernambuco, dying in extreme poverty on either 7 or 8 June 1662 in Recife, being buried at the Government’s expense at the Santo Antônio Convent, in an unknown location.

Recife, 29 june 2004.
(Updated on 28 august 2009).
Translated by Peter Leamy, February 2012.


sources consulted

MELLO, José Antonio Gonsalves de. Henrique Dias: governador dos crioulos, negros e mulatos do Brasil. Recife: Fundaj, Ed. Massangana, 1988. 73 p.

VASCONCELOS, Everardo. Um herói que a pátria esqueceu.  Arquivos, Recife, n. 21/47, p. 13-17, 1952-1965.


how to quote this text

Source: GASPAR, Lúcia. Henrique Dias. Pesquisa Escolar Online, Joaquim Nabuco Foudation, Recife. Available at:  <>. Accessed: day month year. Exemple: 6 Aug. 2009