Teixeira, Pedro

views updated


TEIXEIRA, PEDRO (c. 1570–c. 1650), Portuguese Marrano explorer and author. Born in Lisbon, Teixeira was one of the greatest travelers of his age, circumnavigating the globe during the years 1585–1601. His first journey, begun in 1585–86, took him to China and the Philippines, from there to the Americas, and finally back to Lisbon, in 1601; his second took him to India, Persia, and other parts of the Orient between the years 1603 and 1609, when he is thought to have settled in Antwerp. Teixeira published a detailed account of these travels, Relaciones de Pedro Teixeira… (Antwerp, 1610), containing data long considered authoritative. It was translated into French in 1681 and the first English version appeared in 1708–10. A complete English translation, The Travels of Pedro Teixeira, was published in 1902. The book is still held to be one of the most important sources of information about the Orient at the beginning of the 17th century. Apart from the descriptive material, it contains a history of the rulers of Persia and demographic information about the Jews of Baghdad, Aleppo, and Persia. In Baghdad, Teixeira found two or three hundred Jewish families, mainly poor people, living in a district of their own. Aleppo had a larger and wealthier community of a thousand families, for the most part merchants, but including also craftsmen, silversmiths, and lapidaries. The Jews managed the Aleppo mint and customs house and possessed an impressive synagogue. In the provinces of Persia, Teixeira located some 8,000–10,000 Jewish families. Teixeira is said to have arrived in Brazil in the early 1620s and to have led successful forays against the English and the Dutch. In July 1637, at the request of Philip iii of Portugal (Philip iv of Spain), he undertook a journey of exploration in the country. In what was to be his last expedition, Teixeira set out from Pará (Belém) with a party of 2,000 men and made the first continuous voyage up the Amazon, finally reaching Quito after an adventurous trip lasting ten months. In the course of this journey he extended the boundaries of Brazil and established a line of demarcation between the Spanish and Portuguese possessions in South America. There are conflicting accounts of the last years of Teixeira's life. Some authorities claim that he finally became governor of Pará and died there; others maintain that he returned to Europe and settled in Antwerp, where he reverted to Judaism. A description of his expedition to the source of the Amazon is found in the Nuevo descubrimiento del Gran Rio de la Amazonas (1641).


M. de Saavedra y Guzmán, Viaje del capitán P. Teixeira… (1889); Roth, Marranos, 76; J. Amador de los Rios, Estudios históricos, politicos y literarios, sobre los Judíos de España (1848), 554–8; P. Teixeira, The Travels of Pedro Teixeira, ed. and tr. by W.F. Sinclair (1902), introd. by D. Ferguson.

[Kenneth R. Scholberg]