Portuguese-Speaking Diaspora

The materials in this exhibit represent five centuries of the Portuguese-speaking diaspora with emphasis on history, literature, religion and the arts.

By the mid-sixteenth century, the Portuguese-speaking diaspora stretched from Brazil and the mid-Atlantic territories of the Azores and Madeira to Africa, India, China, Southeast Asia and Japan. The 1502 Cantino map (below) shows the size of the Portuguese empire shortly after Vasco da Gama’s 1498 voyage around the Cape of Good Hope to India and Pedro Álvares Cabral’s founding of Brazil in 1500. Square-shaped red and blue Portuguese flags indicate the territories to which Portugal laid claim under the 1494 papal Treaty of Tordesilhas, which divided the non-Christian world between the Spanish and Portuguese.

Carta del Cantino. Low resolution image courtesy of Biblioteca estense universitaria

The map by Portuguese cartographer Lopo Homem-Reinéis is part of the famous 1519 Atlas Miller, held in the Bibliothèque National in France. Portuguese territories around the Indian Ocean are marked by a more detailed image of the Portuguese flag with its five shields or quinas. The bearded figure with sword and shield on the eastern coast of the African continent represents the legendary Christian ruler Prester John. The Portuguese believed that he reigned in Abyssinia and would support their proselytizing and commercial efforts.

View the Lopo Homem-Reinéis map, courtesy of the Bibliothèque National: Atlas Miller, Océan Indien Nord avec l'Arabie et l'Inde

The Cantino and Lopo Homem-Reinéis maps are reproduced in Portugaliae monumenta cartographica. vol. 1. Ed. Armando Cortesão and Avelino Teixeira da MotaLisbon: Comissão Executiva das Comemorações do Quinto Centenário da Morte do Infante D. Henrique, 1960. (Lilly Library call number G1001 .C5 v.1)

The majority of the items in this exhibition are from the Lilly Library Charles R. Boxer collection.


This online exhibition was curated by Professor Darlene Sadlier, Department of Spanish & Portuguese, Indiana University.