Candido Mariano da Silva Rondon (1865-1958) was a Brazilian military man and Indianist. He explored much of the Brazilian interior and studied and helped the Indians of the region.
Candido Rondon was born in Cuiabá in the state of Mato Grosso on May 5, 1865. He entered the army in 1881 and by 1890 was substitute professor of mathematics in the Praia Vermelha Military School in Rio de Janeiro. That year he accepted a post with the Telegraphic Commission, which was extending telegraph lines into the deep interior of Brazil.
When Rondon began his career in the Amazonian region, the larger part of it had not been explored by civilized man, and Brazil's claim to sovereignty in the region was largely symbolic. He and his coworkers established the first contacts with the outside world for many parts of the Brazilian interior. During his long service with the Telegraphic Commission, he studied intensively the flora and fauna of the Amazon region. He became an expert on the vegetation and inhabitants of the Brazilian interior.
Rondon's work brought him into close contact with the Indian tribes who lived isolated in the forests and plains of the Amazon Valley. He became outraged at the way in which some were being exploited and degraded by outsiders and how contacts with the outside world were tending to destroy the culture and sometimes the very existence of these tribes.
Rondon convinced the Brazilian government to establish the Servico Nacional de Proteção aos Indios (National Service for Protection of the Indians) to help save the indigenous peoples from exploitation and disintegration. He headed this service until 1940, and during his tenure the service gained an international reputation for its struggle on behalf of the tribes and for its efforts to introduce the Indians peacefully and slowly into modern civilization. However, a decade after Rondon's death the service was wracked by scandals surrounding its mistreatment of those it was supposed to protect.
In 1913 Rondon accompanied former U.S. president Theodore Roosevelt on his expedition of exploration in the Amazon Valley. From 1927 to 1930 Rondon conducted an inspection trip that completely covered the land frontiers of his country. In 1934 he was the Brazilian representative on a commission which successfully settled a long-standing border dispute between Peru and Colombia which had led to open warfare in that year.
During his career in the Telegraphic Commission and the Indian Service, Rondon rose steadily in military rank. In 1955, on his ninetieth birthday, the Brazilian Congress passed a special law raising him to the rank of marshal, the highest in the nation's military service. He received many honors from his own and foreign governments. The new Amazonian territory and its capital city were named Rondonia in commemoration of his work there. Rondon died on Jan. 19, 1958.
There is a good discussion of Rondon's career in Donald Emmet Worcester, Makers of Latin America (1966). Theodore Roosevelt recounts an expedition with Rondon in his Through the Brazilian Wilderness (1914). Some of Rondon's explorations are discussed in Charles E. Key, The Story of Twentieth-century Exploration (1938). □