There are two paths that cross each other when we enter the touristic circuit on the Potiguara Trails, on Paraíba’s North Coast. The first goes toward the present, in a route full of heavenly beaches, colorful cliffs, crystal water river, indigenous lands and exuberant woods.
The other path makes a sharp turn in time and returns to the first chapters of XVI and XVII centuries, when the same places were stages of ambushes, collusions, catechizations and epic battles that determined the course of history.
The scenery remains, almost, the same as of five hundred years ago, the time when Spain and Portugal monarchies, through the Iberian Union, fought against French and Dutch in territorial, economical and religious wars.
Paraíba’s North Coast definitive conquest, where today live the brave Potiguara Indians, was a turning point to Brazil’s colonization.
If the end of this story, whose plot of fights and resistances lasted more than a century, was another, Brazil’s today official language would be much different than what we know.
French traded redwood and occupied the Northeast coast, from the left bank of the Paraíba River until Maranhão, in a strategic alliance with the Potiguara Indians, who, since the arrival of the Portuguese enslavers, ferociously endured the occupation of their lands.
Portugal, in its turn, lived a political and economic crisis and had no immediate plans for the Colony, that was labeled as uninteresting for its apparent lack of metals and precious stones.
In 1530, however, facing the increased French-Potiguara harass, the Portuguese found themselves obliged to stablish Inherent Captaincies, as an occupation form.
In 1570, the situation got out of control. Supported by the French, the Potiguara started to attack the center of the Itamaracá Captaincy, which Paraíba was part, and roam Olinda, important capital of the Pernambuco Captaincy.
The Portuguese decided to counter-attack. Six frustrate attempts were made until, in 1585, with aid from the Tabajara Indians, originally from Bahia, but stablished on Paraíba’s River right bank, the city of Our Lady of Neves, presently João Pessoa, was founded.
The Santa Catarina Fort, in Cabedelo, was built, but suspension of the conflicts with the brave Potiguara came to occur fourteen years later, in 1599, in a more diplomatic than military action.
Were present Manuel Mascarenhas Homem, Captain General of Pernambuca, Feliciano Coelho de Carvalho, Captain General of Paraíba, the Jesuits Gaspar de Samperes and Fancisco Pinto, Tabajara leader Pirajibe and a Potiguara group, led by the legendary Zorobabé (see profile on the Potiguara Indian section) that was, then, allied to the Portuguese.
With Paraíba’s conquest, that Iberian Union, at last, was able to expel the French and head towards the extension of their territory to the North. Peaceful times would not last though.