SUBCHAPTER 9 – São Miguel das Figuras

The Bandeirantes expanded Portuguese America from the small limits of the Tordesilhas Line to roughly the same territory as current Brazil. This expansion discovered mineral wealth that made the fortune of Portugal during the 17th and 18th centuries. They ventured into unmapped regions in search of profit and adventure. From 1580-1670 the Bandeirantes focused on slave hunting, then from 1670-1750 they focused on mineral wealth. Their expeditions focused on finding gold, silver and diamond mines.

In 1775, a bandeirante known as Romão Gramacho Falcão promised that wherever he found gold, he would build a church. Upon arriving on the hills of the Serra das Figuras (today Jacobina), he did find gold. History goes that he saw the Archangel Miguel in the trunk of a native tree and there – with slaves and Indians – he built a beautiful church in honor of St. Michael, protector of miners.

I visited the ruins of the church twice during the years and was always impressed with the majestic scenery and its mystical ambience where bromeliads thrive in splendor. Adroaldo introduced me to Ester Oliveira de Araujo and her husband Agnaldo, zealous guardians of the ruins which still receive pilgrims for the mass celebrated once a year.

During my first visit while exploring the surroundings I saw the most extraordinary of the creatures, later identified with the help of Dr. J. Frank Howard as Anteros formosus. Photo is included.