Sá, Mem de (c. 1500–1572)

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Sá, Mem de (c. 1500–1572)

Mem de Sá (b. ca. 1500; d. 1572), Brazilian high magistrate. Nominated third governor-general of Brazil, he arrived in Salvador, Bahia, on 28 December 1557. During his administration he fought the usury of merchants who sold slaves on credit with a gain of 100 percent a year, controlled the excessive enslavement of the Indians by the Portuguese colonists, and expanded the number of Jesuit aldeias (villages) from two or three to around eleven. Mem de Sá helped the chief-captain of Espirito Santo, Vasco Fernandes Coutinho, and the settlers of the captaincy of São Vicente in wars with the Indians. He attacked the French of the so-called Antarctic France who had built the Coligny fort on an island in Rio de Janeiro Bay. The fortress was taken in 1560, but the French took shelter in some Indian villages around the bay. As Sá lacked men to occupy the fort, it was abandoned, and a second attack on the French survivors was led by Sá's nephew, Estácio de Sá (ca. 1526–1567), who established a military base at the foot of Sugarloaf Mountain in 1565. The primitive settlement was transferred to its current site in 1567 by Mem de Sá, who, in a letter to the king, considered himself the true founder of Rio de Janeiro. In 1569 he asked to be replaced as governor-general; he died in Salvador.

See alsoSá, Estácio de .


Herbert Ewaldo Wetzel, Mem de Sá: Terceiro governador geral, 1557–1572 (1972).

Francisco Adolfo De Varnhagen, História geral do Brasil, 9th ed. (1975).

Additional Bibliography

Vainfas, Ronaldo. Dicionário do Brasil colonial, 1500–1808. Rio de Janeiro: Objetiva, 2000.

                          Maria Beatriz Nizza da Silva