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Nova Mazagao, a Brazilian city built by the Portuguese inhabitants of El Jadida

In 1769, the Portuguese abandoned their Moroccan colony, Mazagao. Years later the inhabitants of the city were sent to Brazil to build their own new Mazagao.

Vila Nova Mazagao, a city build in Brazil by Portugal after abandoning their colonies in Morocco./Ph. DR
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Mazagao was the last Portuguese colony in Morocco in the 18th century. Seized by Lisbon in 1502, the city had a solid fortification, a Portuguese governor and an army that survived raids conducted by Muslim dynasties in the Kingdom.

During the 16th century, Portugal controlled several other Moroccan cities, including Alcácer-Ceguer, Arzila, Ceuta, Tangier, Safim and Azamor but abandoned all of them as it gained power in the new world, America.

In 1550, Portugal stepped out from Alcácer-Ceguer and Arzila and in 1662, Tangier was ceded to the British as a dowry when Portuguese princess Catherine of Braganza married Charles II.

Old Mazagao in Morocco./Ph. DROld Mazagao in Morocco./Ph. DR

By the end of the century, Portugal started losing its Moroccan colonies but Mazagao stood still. But according to history platform Brasil Arqueologico conducted by Federal University of Pernambuco in Brazil, «in 1750 Moorish attacks on Mazagao were intensified».

Mazagao was attacked by Alaouite troops in 1751, 1752, 1753, 1754, 1756, 1760 and 1763 before the Portuguese surrendered to a greater raid in 1769. «A powerful contingent of 8,000 men mounted the last siege of the city», recalled Brasil Aqueologico.

Moving to Brazil

The offensive left King José I of Portugal choiceless. He ordered the inhabitants of Mazagao to leave the city for Lisbon, abandoning their houses, belongings and statuses.

However, the King had another plan for the inhabitants of Mazagao. According to the same source, while Portugal lost valuable colonies in the North African Kingdom, it was establishing roots in Brazil. «When the King learned that Mazagao was seized back by the Moors he decided to transfer the 340 residents of the city to Brazil», explained the group of researchers.

As Portugal occupied the Brazilian Amazon, it wanted to establish a new Mazagao in the newly discovered continent. Its objective was to protect its American colonies from the Dutch, French and the British by implementing solid borders and safeguard its riches, such as gold.

By the middle of the 18th century, it was hard to guarantee volunteer settlers for America, so the King ordered the 340 families, expelled from Morocco to go settle down in the northern bank of the Amazon.

The Portuguese then started works, building the twin city of their abandoned one in Morocco which they called Vila Nova de Mazagao. In 1770, the families that left the Moroccan Mazagao arrived in Brazil for their 500-house new city. The latter had a fortification that resembles the one built by the Portuguese in Morocco.

Around the middle of the 19th century, a plague hit the region and the Brazilian Mazagao was affected and half of its population perished. A few residents stayed alive to build a new Mazagao 20 km away from the old one.

Nova Mazagao is now a municipality located in the south of the state of Amapá in Brazil. It shares a common history with its twin sister in Morocco known nowadays as El Jadida.

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