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Cangaceiro, bandit of northeastern Brazil. Cangaceiros operated in the Sertão (backlands) during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Feared and sometimes revered by rural tenants and small landholders, they represented a challenge to authorities and unscrupulous coronéis (local political bosses). Many began their careers by exercising private vengeance on family enemies, but most became bandits for personal gain and notoriety. Cangaceiros reflected the breakdown of traditional authority in the sertão and often operated with the protection of competing coronéis. Increased political centralization and more efficient policing led to their demise by the 1930s. Cangaceiros are a popular subject of regional literature, music, and art.

See alsoBanditry; Coronel, Coronelismo; Jagunço; Lampião; Sertão, Sertanejo.


João Guimarães Rosa, The Devil to Pay in the Backlands, translated by James L. Taylor and Harriet De Onís (1963).

Billy Jaynes Chandler, The Bandit King: Lampião of Brazil (1978).

Linda Lewin, "The Oligarchical Limitations of Social Banditry in Brazil: The Case of the 'Good' Thief Antônio Silvino," and Billy Jaynes Chandler, "Brazilian Cangaceiros as Social Bandits: A Critical Appraisal," in Bandidos: The Varieties of Latin American Banditry, edited by Richard W. Slatta (1987), pp. 67-112.

Additional Bibliography

Barros, Luitgarde Oliveira Cavalcanti. A derradeira gesta: Lampião e nazarenos guerreando no sertão. Rio de Janeiro: Mauad: FAPERJ, 2000.

Grunspan-Jasmin, Elise. Lampião, senhor do sertão: Vidas e mortes de um cangaceiro. São Paulo: Editora da Universidade de São Paulo, 2006.

Lins, Daniel Soares. Lampião: O homem que amava as mulheres: O imaginário do cangaço. São Paulo: Annablume, 1997.

                                        Robert Wilcox