Place and date of birth: Captaincy of Paraíba, 1595.
Place and date of death: The Netherlands, 1656.
Job title and main information:
Indigenous interpreter and mediator (1631-1644). Regent and captain of the Indigenous of Rio Grande (1645-1649) and Brazil (1649-1654).
Link to BRASILHIS Database: https://brasilhis.usal.es/es/personaje/antonio-paraupaba
Potiguara from the indigenous village (aldeia) of Tabussuram, located in the interior of the Captaincy of Paraiba, a territory of the Hispanic Monarchy in Brazil. This is how we can briefly summarize who Antônio Paraubaba was when vessels flying the flag of the Dutch West India Company under the command of Boudewijn Hendrikszoon arrived at the coast of Paraíba in 1625.
The Dutch fleet was returning from Salvador, in Baía de Todos os Santos, recently reconquered by the Spanish-Lusitanian group of D. Fadrique de Toledo y Osorio. Hendrikszoon left the Netherlands to provide help to the Dutch West India Company that since May 1624 had taken the capital of Brazil. They arrived too late in Salvador and found out that the city was surrendered to its former possessors. The fleet split up to fulfill different Atlantic objectives. One part sailed to the coast of Africa, specifically to the Gold Coast in Guinea. Another one went up to the Caribbean, aiming to conquer Puerto Rico and establish an advantaged position to attack the silver fleets leaving the territories of Felipe IV, El Rey Planeta (Heijer, 2006: 35-39).
It was necessary to care for the sick and bury the dead after a long journey to the South Seas; the Company’s vessels that would now head to the Caribbean stopped further north in Bahia, specifically in the Captaincy of Paraíba. It was there that the trajectory of Paraupaba and part of the Potiguara indigenous from that area would change radically after the encounter with the Dutch.
Besides welcoming the Dutch and assisting them in their most immediate needs, a group of indigenous people, including Antônio Paraupaba (age 30), decided to follow the Company’s fleet that was heading to the Caribbean – thus integrating the expedition that sought to take Puerto Rico. Thirteen Potiguara indigenous embarked on the journey, although it is not known if they played any military role in this expedition. The remnants of the failed attempt to capture Puerto Rico made their way to the Netherlands.
Some of the Potiguara people embarked were named by Hessel Gerritsz in 1628: from Ceará, embarked Gaspar Paraupaba (age 50) and André Francisco (age 32); from Baía da Traição were Pieter Poty, Antônio Guiravassauai, Antônio Francisco, and Luís Gaspar (Hulsman, 2006: 42; Mello, 2001: 208; Meuwese, 2012: 135-137; Souto Maior, 1913: 146; Teensma, 2007: 134). Despite his otherwise registered name, Antônio Guiravassauai is Antônio Paraupaba. He was traveling with his father, Gaspar Paraupaba.
The life of Antônio Paraupaba, as well as that of the Potiguara people who spread among the lands of the captaincies of Maranhão, Ceará, Rio Grande, Paraíba, and Itamaracá, can only be understood by analyzing the periods preceding the episode that brought him into contact with the Dutch.
The Potiguara indigenous community had a troubled history with the Portuguese and the French. They were allies of the Portuguese at first, then became enemies and would return to their alliances assuming the role of vassals. During the 16th century, part of these natives had also been actively involved with the French waging war against the Portuguese – until the French were expelled from the coast of Brazil and the Potiguara people were brought, through conflicts and agreements, back to the Lusitanian side. Some of them maintained enmity and found refuge in Ceará and Maranhão. They would once again clash with the Portuguese who marched from Pernambuco to defeat the French who had settled in Maranhão in the early 17th century. The Luso-Spaniards had on their troop Potiguara allies, which clearly demonstrates that there was a schism among the nation, divided among themselves and involved in the Luso-Spanish and French wars for Brazil (Hemming, 2007: 417-454; Hulsman, 2006: 41; Monteiro, 2001: 72).
The key to understanding this Potiguara divergence predates the arrival of Europeans in Brazil since the coastal groups were fragmented and had the battle as one of the central elements of their societies – although it should be noted that relations between indigenous peoples before the arrival of Europeans should not be summarized only through the prism of war (Almeida, 2010: 36-38).
These tense relations – exacerbated by colonization – took place in distinct political contexts throughout the fifteenth and seventeenth centuries, continuing thereafter (Almeida, 2010: 38-69). The arrival of vessels with Dutchmen was seen by those Potiguara who remained enemies of the Luso-Spanish as the opportunity to get rid of the domination of the former colonists. Welcoming the enemies of the Hispanic Monarchy had a remarkably high price for part of the Potiguara people, harshly repressed on the coast of Paraíba by the Portuguese after the departure of Hendrikszoon’s fleet (Mello, 2004: 44; Meuwese, 2012: 133-136; NL-HaNA_OWIC 49, doc. 9, 20-05-1630, fol. 44; Teensma, 2007: 134-137).
For the Dutch who settled for a while in Groningen and Amsterdam, the support provided by the Potiguara was part of a political project. They would be important allies for a return to Brazil, which was not long in coming. For the Potiguara people, traveling to the Netherlands should be seen with the same purpose. While for the North Europeans it would be the seed of an alliance that proved to be fundamental for the taking and maintenance of territories in dispute with the Hispanic Monarchy in Brazil, for the Potiguara natives it would be the achievement of an alliance capable of changing the course of an old conflict (Almeida, 2010: 53; Meuwese, 2012: 135-137).
Antônio Paraupaba would return from Europe to Brazil in 1631, after a long period of training in the Netherlands. He converted to Calvinism, learned Dutch, provided numerous pieces of information about Brazil, and came as a guide/interpreter to negotiate and attract indigenous allies for the West India Company, which had held positions in Pernambuco and Itamaracá since 1630 (Hulsman, 2006: 43).
In order to expand the colony, still vulnerable, and gain access to the sugar zone, the Company tried to conquer positions further north in the aforementioned captaincies. To do so, it relied on the action of indigenous people such as Antônio Paraupaba, who mediated the Company’s negotiations with Tarairiú people from the backlands of Rio Grande and Ceará, commonly called Tapuia. They were led by Nhanduí.
At first, there was reluctance from groups in Pernambuco and Paraíba to ally themselves with the Company, whether out of loyalty to the Luso-Spanish or the memory of episodes that took place in Paraíba. The initial indecision, also a result of the actions of pro-Monarchy Iberian indigenous leaders and missionary action, was to overcome Company’s advance in the territory. The political reading and the state of the war against the Luso-Spanish proved to be essential for the possible adhesion of these natives to the Dutch project.
In late 1633, after the conquest of the Reis Magos fort in Rio Grande, the Tarairiú people decided to seal an alliance with the Company. Despite problems understanding the language of the Tarairiú, the Potiguara natives (including Paraupaba) mediated the agreement (Meuwese, 2012: 143-144).
Through the assistance of their Potiguara and Tarairiú allies, the Dutch were finally able, after some time, to move more safely through the territory, especially in the northernmost part of the colony. Later, some of the indigenous groups from Paraíba, Itamaracá, and Pernambuco made agreements with the Company and joined the troops, playing an important military role against the Luso-Spanish forces in Brazil. The people of the Tabajara nation, among other groups, joined the Potiguara and Tarairiú (Meuwese, 2012: 148-152).
Antônio Paraupaba grew along with the Dutch advance in the colony. From being an interpreter and mediator, he would assume a prominent position and soon become one of the main indigenous agents of the West India Company in Brazil, along with Pieter Poty. In 1645, he was appointed as Regedor of Indigenous do Rio Grande – a civil magistrate – a position which he combined with being Captain of the Indigenous. Two other leaders were appointed by the Company’s government as regents: in Paraíba, Pieter Poty, in Itamaracá and Goiana, Domingos Fernandes Carapeba. Paraupaba was a regent of Rio Grande until 1649 when he assumed the post of Regent of the Indigenous of Brazil due to the vacancy of the other magistrates. Pieter Poty was captured in the second Battle of Guararapes (1649) and died in captivity. Carapeba was stripped of his position and banished from the colony for a crime he committed (Hulsman, 2006: 44-47; Meuwese, 2012: 170-179).
Meanwhile, indigenous leaders allied with the Portuguese such as Felipe Camarão and Diogo Pinheiro Camarão, tried to convince Paraupaba to change sides during the war. The correspondence exchanged in Tupi between indigenous leaders allied to the Dutch and Portuguese after the insurrection against the Company in 1645 is well known (NL-HaNA_OWIC 62, doc. 52, 21-10-1645; NL-HaNA_OWIC 62, doc. 53, 04-10-1645; NL-HaNA_OWIC 62, doc. 54, 21-10-1645; NL-HaNA_OWIC 62, doc. 55, 04-10-1645; NL-HaNA_OWIC 62, doc. 56, 10-1646; NL-HaNA_OWIC 62, doc. 57, 19-08-1645; Souto Maior, 1913: 148-160; Schalkwijk, 2004: 249-252).
Participation in the Iberian and Dutch projects was essential to the success of the war and the colonial enterprise. In turn, these indigenous peoples sought to make deals that seemed most convenient for their groups. They chose and negotiated according to their own agendas (Miranda, Silva: 2020). This led to numerous confrontations between the Company’s authorities and the indigenous allies. Paraupaba and other leaders showed that they were following different plans that did not meet all the wishes of the Dutch. Conflicts emerged, rebellions jeopardized Ceará and agreements had to be reinforced.
Just as the Company, which went into rapid decline in Brazil after the insurrection in Pernambuco (1645), Paraupaba began to suffer the crumbling of its people, killed by conflicts and epidemics. When the Dutch surrendered in Brazil, in 1654, Paraupaba followed them and traveled to Europe. He was looking for support in his projects. It would be his last trip to the Netherlands. He died in 1656, in Europe, without achieving what he intended: to maintain an alliance capable of giving autonomy to his people and strength to continue the fight against the former colonizers (Miranda, Silva: 2020).
NL-HaNA_OWIC 1.05.01.01. [Memória de Adriaen Verdonck para o Presidente e Conselho de Pernambuco, sobre as possessões de Pernambuco, Itamaracá, Paraíba e Rio Grande]. Arquivo Nacional – Velha Companhia das índias Ocidentais (número 49, documento 9, 20-05-1630, fólio 44). Arquivo Nacional, Haia, Países Baixos.
NL-HaNA_OWIC 1.05.01.01. [Carta em tupi do sargento Dom Diogo Pinheiro Camarão, em Sirinhaém, para Pedro Poti]. Arquivo Nacional – Velha Companhia das Índias Ocidentais (número 62, doc. 52, 21-10-1645). Arquivo Nacional, Haia, Países Baixos.
NL-HaNA_OWIC 1.05.01.01. [Carta em tupi do capitão Antônio Felipe Camarão para Pedro Poti, da Paraíba]. Arquivo Nacional – Velha Companhia das Índias Ocidentais (número 62, doc. 53, 04-10-1645). Arquivo Nacional, Haia, Países Baixos.
NL-HaNA_OWIC 1.05.01.01. [Carta em tupi do sargento Dom Diogo Pinheiro Camarão para o Capitão Baltazar Araberana]. Arquivo Nacional – Velha Companhia das Índias Ocidentais (número 62, doc. 54, 21-10-1645). Arquivo Nacional, Haia, Países Baixos.
NL-HaNA_OWIC 1.05.01.01. [Carta em tupi do capitão Felipe Camarão para o capitão Antônio Paraupaba, no Rio Grande]. Arquivo Nacional – Velha Companhia das Índias Ocidentais (número 62, doc. 55, 04-10-1645). Arquivo Nacional, Haia, Países Baixos.
NL-HaNA_OWIC 1.05.01.01. [Carta em tupi de Antônio Felipe Camarão para Pedro Poti]. Arquivo Nacional – Velha Companhia das Índias Ocidentais (número 62, doc. 56, 10-1646). Arquivo Nacional, Haia, Países Baixos.
NL-HaNA_OWIC 1.05.01.01. [Carta em tupi do capitão Felipe Camarão]. Arquivo Nacional – Velha Companhia das Índias Ocidentais, número 62, doc. 57, 19-08-1645. Arquivo Nacional, Haia, Países Baixos.
Almeida, M. R. C. de. (2010). Os índios na história do Brasil. Rio de Janeiro: Editora FGV.
Heijer, H. den. (2006). Expeditie naar de Goudkust. Het journaal van Jan Dircksz Lam over de Nederlandse aanval op Elmina 1624-1626. Zutphen: Walburg Pers.
Hemming, J. (2007). Ouro Vermelho: A conquista dos índios brasileiros. São Paulo: Editora da Universidade de São Paulo.
Mello, J. A. G. de. (2001). Tempo dos Flamengos. Influência da ocupação holandesa na vida e na cultura do norte do Brasil. Rio de Janeiro: Topbooks.
Mello, J. A. G. de. (2004) Fontes para a História do Brasil Holandês: a economia açucareira. Recife: Companhia Editora de Pernambuco.
Meuwese, M. (2012). Brothers in Arms, Partners in Trade. Dutch-Indigenous Alliances in the Atlantic World, 1595-1674. Leiden/Boston: Brill.
Monteiro, J. M. (2001). Tupi, tapuias e historiadores. Estudos de História Indígena e do Indigenismo. (Tese de Livre Docência). Universidade de Campinas, Campinas.
Schalkwijk, F. L. (2004). Igreja e Estado no Brasil Holandês (1630-1654). São Paulo: Cultura Cristã.
Teensma, B. N. (2007). Roteiro de um Brasil desconhecido. João de Laet. Descrição das costas do Brasil. Petrópolis: Kapa Editorial.
Printed journal article:
Hulsman, L. (2006). Índios do Brasil na República dos Países Baixos: As representações de Antônio Paraupaba para os Estados Gerais em 1654 e 1656, Revista de História, 154, 37-69.
Miranda, B., Silva, L. (2020). “Aliados essenciais. Relações indígenas-neerlandesas no Brasil (1624-1654)”, Dossiê Histórias da Nova Holanda (05 de fevereiro de 2021). From http://bndigital.bn.gov.br/dossies/historias-da-nova-holanda/aliados-essenciais/
Bruno Miranda (Universidade Federal Rural de Pernambuco)