Guide to Brazil

The real story behind Portugal’s “discovery” of Brazil

School books will tell you that Brazil was discovered by Portuguese explorer Pedro Álvares Cabral in 1500. Records show the country had visited the new land years before

discovery brazil portugal history
“First Mass In Brazil,” a 1861 canvas by Victor Meirelles

On the morning of April 22, 1500, after a long and tiring voyage, Portuguese captain Pedro Álvares Cabral spotted “a large hill, very high and round,” to the south of what is now the Brazilian state of Bahia. Partly by chance, Cabral had just discovered Brazil — originally called Vera Cruz — which he originally believed to be a small patch of land on the way to India.

This is the official story, propagated by the Portuguese and still taught to Brazilian schoolchildren today. But over 500 years later, this discovery tale is contested by historians from...

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