Histoire des découvertes et conquestes des Portugais dans le Nouveau Monde

An Electronic Edition · Joseph- Francois Lafitau (1681 – 1746)

Original Source:

Full Colophon Information

Translation and edition by Sarah Schuster


[Volume I, book ii, p.123-125]

The General[1] had sent his Discoverers to the land, and from the report they made the land seemed to be very fertile, watered by beautiful rivers, covered by fruit trees of many species, inhabited by men and animals. He resolved to descend to refresh his world and to put it henceforth in his possession. Having taken some savages on board, he used friendship and presents to tame all the others who acquainted themselves in little time, and brought the fruits of their land to the Fleet. These Savages were entirely nude, and painted from the head to the feet in the color red, which they renewed every day, and in general they then add several amenities to those different figures[2]. The men shave the front and the top of the head, and cut their hair above their ears in a manner very similar to the crown of monks. They pierce their ears, nose, lips, and cheeks, in which they insert thick studs of porcelain drawn from seashells, which renders their appearance terrible. Their other ornaments include some fabrics of feathers, some porcelain collars and bracelets, or dried fruits, which made noises like cowbells. They were moreover well-formed[3] and generous, a good temperament, very agile, clever, and uniquely occupied by hunting, by fishing, and by war. Their arms are the bow, the arrow, a type of rondache[4], and the club. They use pirogues[5] or long boats of hollow trees, able to contain up to sixty people. Their women, who are somewhat generous[6], wear their hair loose or tied in two braids, which is very long and a beautiful black. They are the ones who do the work of the entire household. They sow Turkey wheat[7] and Cassava root[8], of which they make Cassava bread[9]. They smoke-dry the meat, and also prepare the intoxicating drinks that they serve at their feasts. The savages’ cabins are long and shabby. Some hammocks where they sleep and some earthenware make up all of their riches. What characterizes them more is that the first cousins are born wives of their first cousins. Also, the husbands are put to bed when their wives are delivered of their fruits. And furthermore they eat their enemies in a solemn celebration, after being knocked out, and they dry the corpses of their dead, pulverize them, and drink the ashes.

Cabral saw a people who appeared good and simple, but who observed no vestige of Religion…


[Volume II, p. 485]

The races that the French shipowners began to make around Brazil, did not serve very much to awaken the attention of the court of Portugal, for this was a country that might have escaped them. They made it their principal motive to engage Don Jean the thirteenth in a great arming, that he sent under the command of Thomas de Sosa. The French shipowners had harassed the Portuguese as soon as they began their discovery of the Indies.

[1] Pedro Álvarez Cabral.

[2] Appears to refer to worship of certain figures. In the original French, à laquelle ils ajoutent plusieurs agréments de differentes figures.

[3] Bienfaites

[4] A type of buckler.

[5] Dugout, canoe.

[6] Bienfaites.

[7] Bled de Turquie. Bled more colloquially means “godforsaken place” or “backwater,” but here it refers to the grain.

[8] A starchy root similar to the potato. For more information, see http://www.hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/cropfactsheets/cassava.html

Full Colophon Information

Genre: Prose
Period: 1700-1750
Location: Luso America
Format: Account/Relation