Monument to Silva Porto

Monument to Silva Porto

António Francisco Ferreira da Silva Porto - was a Portuguese trader and explorer who became famous in the interior of Africa. He was born in a poor family in Porto, Portugal. His father had distinguished himself in the battles against the French invasions in 1810, however Silva Porto sought opportunities further. Brazil was an obvious destination, where many emigrants were then successful. At the age of twelve, he left with his father's permission for Rio de Janeiro aboard the brig Rio Ave.


After working for a time for a merchant, indignant with the remuneration, he dedicated himself to itinerant jobs and at the age of 18, in Bahia, he insisted on announcing his new name in the newspaper Correio Mercantil, in order to distinguish himself from another António Ferreira da Silva, adding "Porto" in honor of his hometown. In Bahia he continued to work as a sales clerk for a coffee merchant, but
unhappy with the conditions.


For decades he was the only European that the populations of the Bié plateau knew, because long before European explorers crossed Africa, this Africanist had already established himself as a trader in the heart of the Angolan hinterland.
His experience was invaluable for traders and adventurers who later demanded the interior of Angola.


One day, at the port of Bahia, he embarked on a ship to Luanda "without even knowing where Angola was", as I would say later. However, after a short period, he returned.
During "Sabinada", an autonomist revolt between 1837 and 1838, Silva Porto decided to return to Angola, where he was employed in a tavern.
Progressively fascinated with the interior of the continent, and with his first salary, he bought articles and clothes. Once confident of the quantity of goods, he quit his job to begin his 50-year career as a trader in the countryside. He was 22 years old. It was a difficult adventure: many of the caravans that left the coast of Benguela for Lui, Luanda and Katanga risked theft, looting and the risk of being involved in tribal conflicts. Silva Porto made many friendships with tribes in the countryside and quickly adapted to the conditions of Africa, where he married a prominent woman from the Ovimbundu people of Bié with whom he had several children.
In 1848 Silva Porto was appointed interim donor captain of Bié.
Establishing peaceful relations between the locals and the Europeans, he met with the colonial Europeans to unite them and to convince the local chief, Lhiumbulla, to prevent the detention of settlers. However, his attempts were prevented when the chief died, leading Silva Porto to ask the colonial administration for military force to protect Portuguese interests.
After 1854 its activity was unremitting. In 1869 he had made six trips to Lui and three to Benguela, where he bought the local Bemposta store and remained until 1879, when he returned to Kuito. At the age of 62, he once again crossed West Africa: he traveled to Moio (Cuba) in 1880 and 1882, Lui (Barotseland) in 1883, and then to Benguela in 1882 and 1884. In Belmonte he helped the local mission, your money for school supplies, food and clothing for children and remuneration for the teacher. On March 5, 1889, he was replaced by Justino Teixeira da Silva as captain-donator of Bié, but continued to receive 100 $ 000 reis per month and maintained the associated honors.
By 1850 Portuguese exploration in Africa had expanded, but Silva Porto's request for a military detachment was never granted: Portugal was only interested in the coast. From Kuito, the eastern Portuguese border, Silva Porto experimented exploring the interior. Beyond
as a merchant and explorer, he had become a diplomat between the Portuguese settlers and the Ovimbundu tribes.
He frequently traversed the countryside in caravans selling goods and participating in projects to document the ethnography and geography of the countryside. For many years, Silva Porto was the only white man the locals saw, establishing a local business in Bié to serve residents, settlers and support Portuguese forces.

In 1889, after visiting another village, Silva Porto returned to Kuito where he found his house on fire. He wrote to his friend Luciano Cordeiro "I am an invalid and poor. I have no bread and look for the supreme consolation ... to die in the motherland". In 1877, the Lisbon Geographical Society had specifically called for a pension, in order to support his desire to return to Portugal, where he could "die in the homeland he had honor and dedicatedly served".

The British ultimatum in 1890 and Chief Dunduna's loss of confidence would drive him to despair. In January 1890 Paiva Couceiro arrived in the Teixeira da Silva (Bailundo) area with a contingent of 40 armed Mozambican soldiers, which worried the Bié chief. Fearing that the Portuguese were there to build a fort and occupy their land, the chief was convinced by Silva Porto that they were just passing through on their way to Barotseland. However Paiva Couceiro remained in the area until April, when the chief (encouraged by the English threats to the Portuguese) decided to send an ultimatum: Couceiro and his troops were to leave Bié the following morning. Outraged by these demands, Couceiro sent Silva Porto to the village to negotiate an understanding. Believing that he had some influence on the boss, Silva Porto tried to resolve the tensions, but was disappointed to realize that he could do little: he returned discouraged, probably believing that the British Ultimatum had reduced Portuguese influence. During the confrontation with Dunduna, the chief even pulled on his white beard; Dunduna was indignant for not being informed of Paiva Couceiro's intentions and insulted Silva Porto, saying that he would have no character to wear a beard, a symbol of respect.
Returning to Bailundo, he asked about the certainty of the Ultimatum, which irritated Paiva Couceiro. But later, at Kuito, Silva Porto appeared in a good mood. Paiva Couceiro noticed that his complex had powder kegs (which Silva Porto, laughing, declared to be just sand). On April 1, 1890, the old explorer wrapped himself in a Portuguese flag, and lying on the powder kegs lit the wick. He would die the next day, from his injuries. He was seventy-two years old. He was a very famous author for his great works, he dedicated himself a lot to them thus having the opportunity to join the great academies of art, winning many awards for his intelligence as a painter.



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