On 1 March 2015 the city of Rio de Janeiro celebrated the 450th anniversary of its founding. The date relates to the first time the Portuguese really made an effort to set up a colony in Rio after driving out the French.
The Portuguese Government had first ordered the Governor General of Brazil, Mem de Sá, then resident in Bahia, to expel the French colony in 1560. His fleet entered the harbour of Rio on 21 February 1560, and in just two days he had taken control of the settlement. His job done, Mem de Sá returned to Bahia but without taking the precaution of establishing his own garrison. With Mem de Sá’s departure, the French returned, this time to set up camp on the mainland close to what is today Catete.
It would not be until 1565 that the Portuguese returned to Rio under the command of the Governor General’s nephew, Estácio de Sá, who landed on 1 March of that year (the date of the 450th anniversary) just west of Sugar Loaf. A bitter two-year struggle then ensued with the French defeated by the arrival of Mem de Sá himself on 18 January 1567. Two days later, on 20 January, Estácio de Sá was mortally wounded by an Indian arrow while in combat with the French settlers and their native allies. With the death of his nephew, Mem de Sá moved the site of the new town to Morro do Castelo, an area in front of what is today Santos Dumont Airport.
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