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5.2.4 Nautical Atlas of the World, Folio 5 Recto, Southwestern Atlantic Ocean with Brazil
This map (folio 5 recto in the atlas) shows the southwestern Atlantic Ocean with Brazil; folio 5 verso is blank. The people of Brazil are shown as naked, or almost so, collecting wood or preparing for a hunt, and watched by exotic birds and beasts. A cartouche states that the Brazilians are “savage and very brutal.”
This map of Brazil was published in the Miller Atlas of 1519, an illustrated atlas created by Portuguese cartographers (mapmakers) Lopo Homem, Pedro Reinel, and Jorge Reinel and artist António de Holanda. The Portuguese arrived in Brazil in 1500. According to this map, what did the cartographers know about Brazil after almost 20 years of exploration? What were they interested in showing about themselves? What were they interested in showing about Brazil and the indigenous people of Brazil? How does this explain what motivated the Portuguese to explore and extract resources from Brazil?
This map of Brazil was published in the Miller Atlas of 1519, an illustrated atlas created by Portuguese cartographers Lopo Homem, Pedro Reinel, and Jorge Reinel and artist António de Holanda. The arrival of the Portuguese in Brazil in the year 1500 initiated 300 years of colonial exploitation. The iconography of this map illustrates the motivations of the Portuguese colonization of Brazil.
The map depicts the Atlantic Ocean and the coast of Brazil. It is remarkable in its detail of the Brazilian coastal area such a short time after the arrival of the Portuguese. The land is populated with plants, animals, and people. Notably, the map acknowledges the existence of indigenous societies on this land. However, the illustrator fused the imagery of indigenous peoples with that of animals, with one winged, like a bird, and another crouched over on all fours. In this way, the cartographer was making a point about the perceived levels of civilization among these indigenous people. Furthermore, the lush green trees represent Portuguese interest in the exploitation of the rainforests, as the Portuguese extracted copious amounts of Brazilwood during the sixteenth century before shifting their interests to sugar and mining. The source illuminates the motivations for Portuguese exploration. In the early fifteenth century, the Portuguese Crown desired to create a colonial holding in the Americas in order to exploit the land and labor of people it viewed as racially inferior.