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Monções, annual canoe flotillas covering the river routes between São Paulo and the gold mines of Mato Grosso in eighteenth-century Brazil. Setting out from Porto Feliz on the Tietê River near São Paulo, convoys ranging from 50 to 300 canoes transported as many as 3,000 persons and several tons of cargo to the mining districts. The outbound voyage ordinarily lasted between five and seven months, as crews conducted their crowded and heavily packed vessels through scores of rapids and over at least one rough portage. Passengers included colonists, with their Indian and African slaves, hoping to strike fortunes in the mines, as well as royal officials assigned to the remote outposts of the Portuguese Empire.

The return trip was much quicker, taking around two months, due mainly to favorable river currents but also to far fewer passengers and a lighter cargo in gold. In the 1720s and 1730s the return convoys frequently were attacked by Paiaguá Indians, who sought iron for their weapon heads and gold to trade with the Spanish of Paraguay. The monções became less frequent with the decline in mining returns during the second half of the eighteenth century.


Sergio Buarque De Holanda's brilliant Monções (1945) was the first and most important work to point out the significance of the movement to Brazilian history. Part of this work appears in English in Richard Morse, ed., The Bandeirantes (1965). See also Charles Ralph Boxer, The Golden Age of Brazil (1962), chap. 10. On the Paiaguá and other Indian groups affected by the movement, see John Hemming, Red Gold (1978), chap. 17.

Additional Bibliography

Guimarães, Acyr Vaz. Quinhentas léguas em canoa: De Araraitaguaba às minas do Cuiabá: As monções paulistas. Campo Grande, MS: Editora UCDB, 2000.

                                  John M. Monteiro