Lampião was born Virgulino Ferreira da Silva in 1897 in the northeastern state of Pernambuco. As Virgulino grew up, he and his family got involved in local feuding and they ended up on the wrong side of the law. Virgulino’s father was killed in a police raid on his home, turning Virgulino, only 25 years old, into a bandit gang leader and a deadly threat to the local establishment for the next fifteen years. The Robin Hood of Brazil image he cultivated belies the reality of a complex, vain and brutal man. It is perhaps his boldness that made him stand out, often fighting battles when his gang was outnumbered more than three to one.

The law finally caught up with Lampião in 1938. The police detachment that shot him, his wife, Maria Bonita, and his closest lieutenants preserved their heads in alcohol so that they could be shown in market towns in the interior, the only way to convince people he really had been killed – even today, the Brazilian media occasionally publish pictures of an old man who died in 1996 and bears a striking resemblance to Lampião.

Travel offers; book through Rough Guides

Brazil features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

Amazing new aerial images show uncontacted tribe in Brazil

Amazing new aerial images show uncontacted tribe in Brazil

Incredible aerial images of one of the Amazon rainforest's uncontacted tribes have been released by Survival International. The pictures, taken by photographer …

18 Nov 2016 • Lottie Gross insert_drive_file Article
A sex-themed amusement park is set to open in Brazil

A sex-themed amusement park is set to open in Brazil

Forget about virtual-reality roller coasters, the future of theme parks just got a whole lot raunchier. Developers in Brazil are planning to build an adults…

13 May 2016 • Eleanor Aldridge insert_drive_file Article
23 brilliant pictures of Brazil

23 brilliant pictures of Brazil

This year sees the Olympics and Paralympics take place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. If you're heading to Brazil to catch any of the sporting action, here are a fe…

04 Mar 2016 • Rough Guides Editors insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month