Pêro Vaz de Caminha

Distinguished protojournalist, scriber Pêro Vaz de Caminha described to D. Manuel I the arrival to a new territory. The report by the scribe becomes the first written document in the History of Brazil


"From this Safe Harbour, from Your Island of Vera Cruz, today, Frieday, the first of May, 1500. Pêro Vaz de Caminha".

That's how the letter sent to king D. Manuel I ended, the witness of a discovery that truly changed the course of History.

The existence of territories unknown up until then was reported to the monarch. They were baptised "Terra de Vera Cruz" ["Land of Vera Cruz"], none other than Brazil.

The letter was signed by Pêro Vaz Caminha, the scribe who had joined navigator Pedro Álvares Cabral's fleet.

The informative document, known as "the letter of Pêro Vaz de Caminha", describes the discovery of new land and the customs of the indigenous people.

Through Caminha's quill, kind D. Manuel followed the central moments of the adventure of Álvares Cabral's fleet'. 

O Brasil em palavras

Responsible for informing the monarch of every occurrence, the scribe narrated the discovery of the territory with such admiration and richness of detail that he even asked the king for forgiveness "if I got a bit carried away".

The letter immortalised Caminha's name in the Portuguese Age of Discovery and is considered the first written document in the History of Brazil.

But the fleet's - and Pêro Vaz de Caminha's - final destination wasn't Vera Cruz.

The ships were headed to India, where Caminha had been appointment scribe of Feitoria de Calecute, an important and valuable position in the East.

He was 50 years old, at the time.

His job revealed prestige and trust from the Portuguese Court, a result of the many decades he spent serving the Royal House and kings D. Afonso V, D. João II and D. Manuel I.

In 1476, Caminha had been appointed master of the scale of Casa da Moeda, a job he's thought to have inherited from his dad, Vasco Fernandes de Caminha, also a scribe.

The prior year, he's thought to have taken part, as many other young men, in the Toro Battle, a conflict against Castile where many Portuguese people lost their lives.

He was, at the time, around 25 years old, since it's believed that he was born circa 1450, in Oporto.

His cultural education was solid for the time, with a writing style that revealed erudition and knowledge, characteristics recognised by the Royal House through the appointment for a number of public positions.

In 1497, as Councilman, he took upon himself the responsibility to write the Chapters of the Oporto City Hall, to be presented to the Lisbon Courts.

Three years later, the opportunity arose to travel with Pedro Álvares Cabral's fleet.

Even though it's one of the most important documents in the Portuguese Age of Discovery, Pêro Vaz de Caminha's letter remained unknown from the public for over two centuries.

It was found in the 18th century, in Torre do Tombo and published for the first time in the 19th century.

The last paragraph of the letter is quite peculiar, seen nowadays:

"To Him [Your Highness] I ask that, for making me such a singular favour, you order the release of Jorge Osório, my son in law, from São Tomé - which from Him I would welcome as a great favour."

Caminha requested that the king forgave his son in law, arrested in São Tomé for armed robbery.

Jorge de Osório was Isabel de Caminha's husband, who is thought to be the scribe's only daughter with his wife, Catarina Vaz.


D. Manuel I agreed to the release, but Pêro Vaz de Caminha never knew.

He died during an attack to Feitoria de Calecute, in December 1500.

Over five hundred years later, his reports remain - full of wonder and admiration, that much is certain, but also accurate and informative - of the new worlds that the Portuguese gave to the world.


Jornalismo do «vi claramente visto»

Pêro Vaz de Caminha personifies the "narrators of pre-journalism", shoeing the early days of an activity of informative nature, that would turn centuries later, into the birth of modern Journalism.

Fernão Lopes, Fernão Mendes Pinto, Padre António Vieira, Ramalho Ortigão, Fialho de Almeida, Ferreira de Castro, narrators of the "saw it clearly seen", are other personalities that, throughout the centuries, stood out for the contributions for the evolving process of Journalism.

These "protojournalists", many still lacking the techniques and methods which are associated to the practice of Journalism nowadays, have something in common: the mission to inform.

A mission that is the basis and the great duty of the practice of Journalism.