Lampião (1897–1938)

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Lampião (1897–1938)

Lampião (Virgulino Ferreira da Silva: b. 7 July 1897; d. 28 July 1938), Brazilian bandit. Brazil's best-known bandit of all time, Lampião was a world-class bandit as well. Son of a modest rancher and hauler in the backlands of Pernambuco, he went astray when he and his brothers began to feud with neighbors. As violence increased on both sides, the Ferreiras, of lower social status than their adversaries, were branded, not unjustly, as outlaws. After 1922, Lampião became the preeminent figure in the cangaço, the name given to the organized brigandage that flourished in the region from the 1870s to the 1930s. He seemingly verged on legality in 1926, when Father Cícero Romão Batista of Juàzeiro had him commissioned a captain in forces hastily raised to oppose Luís Carlos Prestes's wandering revolutionaries. But the patent proved to be worthless, and he reverted to outlawry. For sixteen years, roaming over seven states; living from extortion, robbery, and abductions; and enjoying protection from sometimes reluctant ranchers, political bosses, and even for a time a state governor, he and his band so vanquished police and army forces sent against them that they virtually dominated portions of the backlands. Conscious of his image and ever catering to the press, he became one of the nation's most newsworthy figures, and the story of his exploits reached abroad. Partly the result of strengthened efforts, but largely by luck, the police killed him, his companion, Maria Bonita, and several others of his band in a surprise attack in Sergipe in 1938. Thus the cangaço ended. Lampião, whose preserved head long lay in a museum in Salvador, survives in folkore and history.

See alsoBanditry; Cangaceiro.


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

Optato Gueiros, "Lampião": Memórias de um oficial excommandante de forças volantes (1952).

Ranulpho Prata, Lampeão (1934).

Additional Bibliography

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

                                       Billy Jaynes Chandler