Tordesillas – the town that split the world in two

The world is a really diverse and fascinating place, and there is so much we don’t know about such a vast majority of it. In fact, there are many places where things might appear to be the same, but they actually aren’t. What is the secret being this, and why do we have so much diversity in the world?

Have you ever wondered why all of South America speaks Spanish except for Brazil, where they speak Portuguese? Well, the reason for that is because the Portuguese colonized Brazil. But, how did that happen? And why is Brazil the only South American country colonized by Portugal, with all the rest being Spain? Well, to get the answer to this, we have to take a trip back through time, to 1494.


The world was very different top how it is today, and the high seas were where the battles of the world were fought. Many nations vied for supremacy, and trade routes were formed in the oceans of the world. The Spanish Empire was vast and impressive, and they held sway over much of the seafaring in the world. The Spanish met with the Portuguese crown, and agreed on the Treaty of Tordesillas. This divided the lands they had yet to find, establishing the line dividing the countries for the purposes of colonization.

What led to the treaty?

There were a number of factors at the time that led to the treaty being pursued and signed by both parties. The Spanish had good reason to want to pursue the treaty, as they had fears of an imminent war with Portugal, not to mention the fact that a doomed Columbus voyage made the Portuguese aware of Spanish discoveries, and they claimed the lands as theirs. The Treaty of Tordesillas did away with the old treaty between the two nations, and, instead of drawing a horizontal line, which divided the Atlantic between Portugal and Spain, it drew a vertical line across the Atlantic.

What this meant

Well, the Portuguese were pretty mad about this because it meant they lost new islands, as well as room to maneuver when visiting their African colonies. However, it seemed that Portuguese reluctantly agreed, and this was how it stayed. But then, a Spanish expedition, King John II of Portugal wanted to make sure he could sail to Africa without too much difficulty, and requested the line be moved to 370 leagues west of Cape Verde. The Spanish, seeing no new islands there, agreed. But, little did either party know, this line made the east coast of Brazil into Portuguese territory – they expanded their influence, and Brazil became the first (and only) South American nation to speak Portuguese.

It seems strange how things work out sometimes. If the Spanish had known what moving that vertical line would have brought Portugal, would they still have done it? Unlikely. But, they did agree to it, and this set in motion a precedent that still stands to this day. It’s the reason why Brazilians continue to speak Portuguese, while the rest of South America is speaking Spanish.