The story of “Botafogo”

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In the first half of the 16th century Portugal did not have a large army, but had a Navy superior to any other country of the time, with more than 400 large vessels of the type that we would today call battleships.

England’s King Henry VIII (the same that sent some wives to the gallows), had only 20 of this type of ships.

Portugal’s maritime supremacy was motivated by the need to protect the rich trade from the Indies, Brazil and Far East.

For that purpose Portugal designed the “galleon“ a new type of vessel, specifically built for a naval warfare strategy called ”line of battle”, first used during the Kingdom of Manuel I against Muslim piracy.

The exponent of the Portuguese nautical shipbuilding, was the Galleon São João Baptista, built in 1534, which at the time was the most powerful battleship in the world.

The Portuguese Galleon São João Baptista, was armed with an awesome firepower of 366 bronze cannons and became for that reason known by the nickname of “Botafogo”(Spitfire).

São Joao Baptista displaced about 1000 tons and was by far the most powerful European ship of its time.

The capacity of St. Joao Baptista firepower was decisive in the outcome of many naval battles, like the conquest of Tunis and in the capture of the notorious Islamic pirate “Barbaroxa”.

The supremacy of the Portuguese navy in the seas was ruined by the Spanish occupation of Portugal, from 1580 to 1640, a period of war between Spain and England which decimated some of the best Portuguese ships of the line, in naval battles, integrated in the Spanish fleet and command, like Invincible Armadas disastrous campaign.

Nevertheless that was not the end of “Botafogo” legend and the name of one of the most fashionable suburbs of Rio de Janeiro.

It came from one of the crew members of the Galleon, named João Pereira de Sousa a noble of the city of Elvas, responsible for the São Joao Baptista artillery.
His gunnery skills earned him the nickname of “Botafogo” which became the surname of all his descendants.

João Pereira de Sousa settled in Brazil where he had received from the Portuguese Crown land, along Guanabara Bay, passing that area to be known as “Botafogo”.

This is why there is even today a famous neighbourhood in the southern part of the city of Rio de Janeiro is called Botafogo!


 

Em meados do século XVI a exploração das riquezas provenientes da India e do Brasil tornaram Portugal a maior potencia naval europeia.

Para manter a supremacia e defesa das rotas do ouro e especiarias das Américas e da Ásia Portugal tinha constituído uma força naval, mais de 400 navios de grande porte.

A Inglaterra, nos primórdios das duas ambições marítimas no reinado de Henrique VIII (o soberano que decapitou algumas suas esposas..) possuía nessa época apena vinte navios de guerra de dimensões similares.

O expoente máximo da hegemonia Portuguesa dos mares foi a nau São João Baptista, construída em 1535, celebrizada pelo nome de “Botafogo”, devido ao inigualável poderio da sua artilharia, constituída por 366 (trezentos e sessenta e seis) canhões de bronze, enquanto que os mais artilhados navios contemporâneos não excediam duzentos canhões.

O galeão português São Joao Baptista seria celebrizado pela intervenções decisivas em batalhas navais no Mediterrâneo nas Américas e na Asia.

A ocupação espanhola de Portugal entre 1580 a 1640, causaria, entre outras nefastas consequências, o declínio poderio naval português.

O nome“ Botafogo” iria contudo perdurar na história o geografia brasileira por motivo do comandante das baterias do imponente Galeão português, João Pereira de Sousa, também ele alcunhado de “Botafogo”, se ter estalecido Brasil como donatário Coroa Portuguesa num território junto da baía de Guanabara.

A alcunha “Botafogo”, sobrenome adotado pela família, passando a região a ser conhecida por “Botafogo”.

Daí a origem do nome do famoso bairro e da belíssima praia de “Botafogo”, na Zona Sul da cidade do Rio de Janeiro.

Jay Fernandes
Master’s Degree G. Ph. from the University of Lisbon. Academic and teacher. Television , radio and press reporter / commentator

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