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Borba Gato, Manuel de (c. 1628–1718)

Borba Gato, Manuel de (c. 1628–1718)

Manuel de Borba Gato (b. ca. 1628; d. 1718), explorer and administrator in Brazil's mining region. One of the most famous bandeirantes (São Paulo explorers who sought wealth and slaves in frontier regions), Borba Gato participated in expeditions, in search of gold and jewels, that crossed the frontier region between his native São Paulo and Bahia. From 1674 to 1681 he accompanied his father-in-law, Fernão Dias Pais, on one of the largest and best organized of these missions. Although it failed in its quest for emeralds, the expedition opened up new areas for other mining and for eventual settlement. Then, implicated in the 1682 murder of the general administrator of mines, Dom Rodrigo de Castelo Branco, near Sumidouro, Borba Gato fled to the Rio Doce region. Never ceasing to look for mineral wealth, he remained in voluntary exile for nearly twenty years.

Borba Gato's exoneration of the murder charge came through the intervention of political allies in 1700. In that same year Borba Gato revealed that he had found gold in the Rio das Velhas area, a discovery that would make him one of the mining zone's richest men. With wealth came power, and he moved quickly into administrative posts. Beginning as the chief customs officer of Rio das Velhas, he rose in 1702 to general administrator of mines for the region.

When civil war flared up in 1708 between those who had come to the mines from São Paulo and the emboabas (outsiders), people from other areas, Borba Gato at first showed sympathy for his Paulista compatriots. Siding with two of his kinsmen in a dispute with the emboabas' leader, Borba Gato called the latter a thief and ordered his banishment from the area. He never carried out this order, however, and in fact tried to effect a reconciliation. Throughout the war he maintained a position of neutrality. After hostilities ended in 1709, Borba Gato received royal grants of land and the position of superintendent of mines as a reward for his loyal service.

See alsoBanderias; Mining: Colonial Brazil.


Manoel S. Cardozo, "The Guerra dos Emboabas: Civil War in Minas Gerais, 1708–1709," in Hispanic American Historical Review 22, no. 3 (1942): 470-492.

Charles R. Boxer, "The Gold Rush in Minas Gerais" and "Paulistas and Emboabas," chaps. 2 and 3 in his The Golden Age of Brazil, 1695–1750 (1962).

Additional Bibliography

Donato, Hernâno, and Mozart Couto. O cotidiano brasileiro no século XVIII. São Paulo: Melhoramentos, 1998.

Fausto, Boris. A Concise History of Brazil. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999.

                                          Roger A. Kittleson

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