Duarte Barbosa

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Duarte Barbosa (1480 – 1521) was a Portuguese writer and officer from Portuguese State of India. In 1516, he wrote a book The Book of Duarte Barbosa, a travel literature chronicling the countries bordering on the Indian Ocean and their inhabitants. In 1519, he joined his fellow Portuguese Ferdinand Magellan in his quest to go to the Spice Island using a western route, eventually becoming a captain of one of the fleet’s ships. He died in 1521 at the feast of Rajah Humabon on Cebu Island, where they were poisoned and killed.

Early Life

Duarte Barbosa was the son of Diogo Barbosa, a servant of Alvaro Baraganza, a known voyager and Chancellor of the Kingdom of King Alfonso V of Portugal. His uncle, Goncalo Gil Barbosa, who was also a Portuguese voyager, took him to his travels to Kochi and Kannur (Cannanore in English) in India. It was during that time that he worked as a scribe and an interpreter of the local language, Malayalam, for Alfonso de Albuquerque’s contact with the Rajah of Cannanore. During his stay at the Indian colony, he wrote “The Book of Duarte Barbosa,” which he completed in 1516.

Circumnavigation with Magellan

Barbosa became Magellan’s brother-in-law when the latter married Barbosa’s sister Beatriz. Barbosa, together with his friend João Serrão, joined Magellan’s fleet on 10 August 1519 in an attempt to go to the Spice Island using a western route. Along the voyage, Barbosa tried multiple times to leave the expedition and immerse with the locals, which angered Magellan who even tried to arrest him once. His help, however, was crucial in quelling the mutiny that happened in Puerto San Julian. As a result, Barbosa became the captain of one of Magellan’s ships, the Victoria. After Magellan’s death on 21 April 1521 during the Battle at Mactan, Barbosa, Serrao, and a few other survivors attempted to carry on with the expedition. However, on 1 May 1521, the survivors—mostly officers—were all poisoned and killed by the ruling chief of Cebu and a former ally, Rajah Humabon, after inviting them for a banquet.

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