Tomé de Sousa
1st Governor-General of Brazil
In office
MonarchJohn III of Portugal
Preceded byOffice created
Succeeded byDuarte da Costa
Personal details
Rates, Kingdom of Portugal
Died1579 (aged 75–76)
Kingdom of Portugal
Spouse(s)Maria da Costa
ChildrenHelena de Sousa
Francisco de Sousa
Garcia de Sousa
Iria de Sousa
Ana de Sousa
Military service
AllegiancePortuguese Empire

Tomé de Sousa (1503–1579) was the first governor-general of the Portuguese colony of Brazil from 1549 until 1553. He was a nobleman and soldier born in Rates, Póvoa de Varzim. Sousa was born a noble and participated in military expeditions in Africa, fought the Moors and commanded the nau Conceição to Portuguese India, part of the armada of Fernão de Andrade.

Sousa was the first knight commander of the medieval Monastery of Rates, reinstablished in 1100 AD and dissolved in the 16th century.

Sousa in Brazil

Sousa was the agent in charge of restoring the king's authority in Colonial Brazil. Up until this point, Brazil had been neglected by Portugal, which was putting all of its resources into the spice trade in India. There was a decline in the spice trade and increasing threats around Brazil's borders by the surrounding Spanish colonies, which prompted Portugal to intervene. As part of this mission, Sousa had established his capital city of Salvador at Bahia on the Atlantic coast between São Paulo and Pernambuco. The new capital was supposed to bring together the twelve pre-existing settlements, though Sousa traversed the bordering areas in an effort to promote his idea of justice and to diminish what the Portuguese saw as the lawlessness and chaos of the region. He planned on making the colony a strong military base to protect the Portuguese settlers from Indian or other outside forces. He brought 1,000 colonists and soldiers with him on an expedition to Brazil, including four hundred degredados - "men banished from Portugal for some minor criminal activity."[1] Among the colonists were six Jesuits, the first in Brazil, whom he assisted in the christianization of the natives and helped to reaffirm the King's rule over the colonies. He was successful in decreasing the hostilities waged against the colonists by native people, in part through diplomatic avenues but primarily through his use of cruel and often extreme punishment.

Return to Portugal

In 1552, Sousa suggested that Rio de Janeiro might be a potential area for settlement and in 1553 he returned to Portugal to work with the King, acting as his adviser on Brazilian affairs. Sousa also helped to attract settlers to Brazil by installing municipal organizations, similar to the ones in Portugal, into the cities. He also managed to appoint local officials over the captaincies and strengthened tactical areas around the coast that would be beneficial to the safety of the citizens.


According to the traditions of the de Souza family of West Africa, their founding patriarch - Francisco Felix de Sousa, the Chacha of Ouidah - was a direct descendant of Tomè de Sousa. He arrived in Dahomey after leaving Brazil, and went on to become an African chieftain after serving as a powerful slave trader and royal advisor. With his harem of black consorts, he had a brace of children whose lineal descendants would go on to be prominent in the region. President Paul-Emile de Souza of Benin and his niece Chantal de Souza Boni Yayi, the first lady to President Boni Yayi of Benin, are arguably the most notable of them.

Further reading

Crow, John A. The Epic of Latin America, Fourth Edition. University of California Press. 1992


  1. ^ Crow, John A. The Epic of Latin America Page 225

External links