Juana Catalina Ramírez de Ugarte

José Carlos Vilardaga (Universidade Federal de São Paulo)

Date of birth: around 1610

“Creole” wife of Salvador Correá de Sá e Benavides, son of Martim Correa de Sá and grandson of Salvador Correa de Sá, o velho, governors of the captaincy of Rio de Janeiro.

Link to BRASILHIS Database: https://brasilhis.usal.es/es/personaje/juana-catalina-ramirez-de-velasco-ugarte

Catalina Ramírez de Velasco Ugarte was one of the wealthiest people in the Province of Tucumã in the beginning of 17th century. She married Salvador Correia de Sá e Benevides and was the manager of a sugar mill in Rio de Janeiro. Commonly known as Catalina de Ugarte y Velasco, in a homonymous reference to her paternal grandmother, known as “La Comendadora”, whom it was said to have been one of the only women to receive the Santiago order, even before her trip to America (Granaldo Hijelmo, 1995).

Catalina would have been born around 1610, she was the daughter of captain and commissioner Pedro Ramírez de Velasco, born in La Rioja, Tucumã, and Maria del Rosario Villagra Osorio y Olmos de Aguillera, this one Francisco de Villagra y Villareal’s daughter, who participated in the Chilean “conquest” together with Pedro de Valdivia and was Chile governor. Catalina’s paternal grandfather, Juan Ramirez de Velasco, considered as La Rioja founder, was governor of Tucumã (1586-1593) and of the Paraguay and Rio da Prata Province (1595-1596). He was also a relative of D. Luis de Velasco, who was New Spain viceroy and after that also Peru (Boxer, 1973; Granaldo Hijelmo, 1995).

Catalina married at the end of 1620’s Diego Graneros de Alarcón, widower of Juana Villegas. Juana, in turn, was the widow of Diego de Vera, who was a lieutenant governor in Tucumã. Through this marriage with Villegas, Alarcón was able to confirm the encomiendas from Paquilingasta (1609) and Silipica and Lacqueme (1614). Later, with the new marriage to Catalina, Guacona’s commission was added to the couple’s patrimony, as a dowry. The couple became one of the wealthiest in Tucumã, with a lot of cattle, plantations, carpentry works and a squad of 120 enslaved black people. Alarcón lent money to merchants and was part of the business network of the great merchant Diego Lopez de Lisboa, and had connections with the Buenos Aires treasurer, Simon Valdez, and the Portuguese smuggler Diego de Vega. Alarcón and Catalina had a son, named Pedro de Velasco y Graneros de Alarcón, who became fatherless in 1630, when he was only seven months old. Thus, Catalina became “the richest widow, if not the person, individually, with the most possessions in the province of Tucumán” (Boxer, 1973: 110). Graneros left, in will, a fortune of more than 200,000 pesos, and declared his wife, and his father-in-law, as administrators of the legacy. Dona Catalina married a second time to Salvador Correia de Sá e Benevides, Martim de Sá’s son, Rio de Janeiro governor, in Brazil. Benevides wandered through Spanish America since 1630. In 1632, he agreed on the wedding with Catalina while he was in Buenos Aires and she was in São Miguel de Tucumã. Through this marriage, Benevides would inherit the encomiendas from Paquilingasta, Silipica and Lacqueme, confirmed on 1636, as well as the Graneros assets and commercial networks Graneros (Brizuela del Moral, 2003; Boxer, 1973; Nolli, 1998; Ceballos, 2014; Molina, 1951; Vilardaga, 2020).

In 1634, after his father’s death, Martim de Sá, in Rio de Janeiro, Salvador Correia de Sá e Benevides left Tucumã and returned to Brazil to claim his inheritance from the Rio de Janeiro government. Catalina followed her husband after a while. Still in 1634, Benevides bought from his aunt hald of a land in Tijuca, Rio de Janeiro, which belonged partially to his uncle Gonçalo de Sá, also recently deceased. For that, Salvador presented a power of attorney given by his wife, still away, in Tucumã (Rudge, 1983). According to the Tucumã bishop’s delation, Salvador and his father-in-law, Pedro Ramirez de Velasco, had spent great part of Graneros’ fortune as well as practiced all kinds of fraud towards the goods inventory. Still according to the Bishop, while Pedro Ramirez and family has going to Rio de Janeiro to meet with Benevides, they have stopped in Santiago de Estero, where Pedro died. Catalina and her mother, on the other hand, arrived in Buenos Aires and moved from there to Rio de Janeiro (AGI, Charcas 137).

At the city in Rio de Janeiro, Catalina has settled in one of the Sá family’s mills and has herself started to manage it, including native-born manpower. In 1646, the former Rio de Janeiro governor, Francisco de Souto Maior pointed out that Catalina had a rigid control over the native-born people under her management and those people did not follow anyone else’s rules but hers (AHU, ACL-CU-017-CX2-Rio de Janeiro). She and Salvador Correia de Sá e Benevides had five children. Her son with Graneros de Alarcon had an uncertain future. Boxer suspects that he might have ended in the Portuguese India (Boxer, 1973).

However, a grandson, also named Pedro Ramirez de Velasco, still “younger than 25 but older than 16”, had gone to Spain with the Buenos Aires governor in 1671 to request a license to go to Portugal to claim his already deceased grandmother’s heritage at Sá e Benevides. From the presented application, Catalina’s son has impoverished, without his father legacy to manage. When he died, this Pedro, left a son, who was also extremely poor and could not go to Brazil due to the war with Portugal (AGI, Charcas 14).


AGI, Archivo General de Indias, Charcas 14, Peticiones y Memoriales (1607-1678). 1671.
AGI, Archivo General de Indias, Charcas 137, Cartas y Expedientes Eclesiasticos, Tucumã, 28/05/1635.
AHU, Arquivo Histórico Ultramarino, ACL-CU-017-CX2-Rio de Janeiro. Rolo 2/D.135. 1646.

Boxer, C. (1973). Salvador de Sá e a luta pelo Brasil e Angola. 1602-1686. São Paulo: Editora Nacional, Edusp.
Brizuela del Moral, F. (2003). Historia de las mercedes de tierra en Catamarca. Siglos. XVII al XIX. Catamarca: Editora Benedit
Fridman, F. (1999). Donos do Rio em nome do rei. Uma história fundiária da cidade do Rio de Janeiro. Rio de Janeiro: Jorge Zahar Editor; Garamond.
Granado Hijelmo, I. (1995). Las instituciones nobiliarias riojanas. Un capitulo de la historia institucional de la Rioja y el derecho nobiliario español. Madrid: Ediciones Hidalguia.
Molina, R. (1951). Salvador Correa de Sáa y Benavidez. Un heróe americano ligado al Brasil y la Argentina. Buenos Aires.
Rudge, R.T. (1983). As Sesmarias de Jacarepaguá. São Paulo: Livraria Kosmos Editora S.A.

Books chapter:
Vilardaga, J.C. (2020). Conexões e percursos luso-castelhanos da família Sá na América Meridional durante a Monarquia Hispânica (1580-1640). In: José Manuel Santos Pérez; Ana Paula Megiani; José Luis Ruiz-Peinado Alonso. (Orgs.). Redes y circulación en Brasil durante la Monarquia Hispánica (1580-1640). Madrid: Silex, pp. 435-464

Periodical articles:
Ceballos, R. (2014). Os vecinos lusitanos na restauração portuguesa: um estudo das redes sociais na Buenos Aires seiscentista. Métis: história & cultura, 13, 25, pp.31-57.
Noli, E. S. (1998). Algarrobo, maiz y vacas. Los pueblos índios de San Miguel del Tucumán y la introduccion de ganados europeos (1600-1630). Mundo de Antes,1, pp. 31-67.
Sá, H. de C. T. de; Benevides, B. C. de S. e. (2017). Privilégio familiar ou estratégia política: a permanência de Salvador Corrêa de Sá e Benevides no governo do Rio de Janeiro (ca.1637-ca.1643). Estudios Historicos (Riviera), 9, 18.

Annals of events:
Bicalho, M.F. (2013). Redesenhando fronteiras, ampliando jurisdições: O Rio de Janeiro no período filipino. Anais do XXVII Encontro Nacional de História da ANPUH. Natal.

Graneros, una historia. Un pueblo rural en la historia provincial y nacional (06 de maio de 1621). Recuperado de: http://biblioteca.cfi.org.ar/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2018/12/granerostucuman.pdf

Keep Reading