HomeLIFESTYLEThe Crazy Life of the Portuguese Robin Hood

The Crazy Life of the Portuguese Robin Hood

They say he took from the rich to give to the poor. They called him Zé do Telhado, he was a bandit and was a friend of Camilo Castelo Branco. A hell of a story.

He went down in history as Zé do Telhado, a soldier who became a brigand and bandit and who, according to the chronicles (or legend), became a kind of Portuguese Robin Hood, robbing the rich and distributing the loot to the poor.

It may not have been like that, but it is a life where military life, assaults and escapes through the streets intersect. durian cliffsprison, exile and even an unlikely friendship with one of the greatest names in Portuguese letters, Camilo Castelo Branco.

In the life of Zé do Telhado, myth and truth intertwine in such a way that it becomes difficult to understand exactly who this character was.

That he existed is a proven fact, that he was an unconditional defender of the most vulnerable is doubtful, that he led a troubled existence is a certainty.

Zé do Telhado: the birth of the legend

Born José Teixeira da Silva, on June 22, 1818, Zé do Telhado came into the world in the bosom of a humble family in rural areas, ending up going to live with an uncle early on, from whom he learned the trade of castrator and animal caretaker. In 1845 he married a cousin, Ana de Campos, with whom he had five children.

He became a soldier, took part in the fight against the September supporters for the restoration of Constitutional Charterbut the defeat of his faction forces him to take refuge in Spain.

When he returned, he joined the protest movement against the government of Costa Cabral and ended up becoming one of the leaders of the Revolution of Maria da Fonte, which took place on March 23, 1846.

Despite the bravery he showed, he ended up falling out of favor and, riddled with tax debts, was expelled from the armed forces. The stage was set for his transformation into the character who would go down in history, Zé do Telhado.

Robberies of the richest

At the head of a group of bandits, he carried out numerous robberies all over the north of the country.

It is also around this time that the legend takes shape that he would be a kind of Portuguese Robin Hood, since he would rob houses and carriages of wealthy people, sharing the plight of the theft with the poorest, who, it is said, they often sheltered him.

Over the course of seven years, Zé do Telhado and his group of bandits carried out countless robberies throughout the northern region, taking refuge in the Serra do Marãodifficult to access and that he knew like few others.

However, the authorities were already on his trail and with the siege tightening, he tries to escape to the Brazil🇧🇷 It was at this very moment that he was arrested and imprisoned in the Porto Relation Chair.

Zé do Telhado and Camilo: unlikely friendship

Camilo Castelo Branco, one of the biggest names in Portuguese letters

When he enters the prison, he meets Camilo Castelo Branco, who was also arrested for the notorious case of adultery that involved the writer and Ana Plácido.

The morality of the 19th century severely penalized adultery and the romance with Ana Plácido (married to Manuel Pinheiro Alves) was an ordeal for both.

Arrested, Camilo Castelo Branco dedicated himself to writing (he wrote Amor de Perdição in prison, in 15 days!!) and became acquainted with the already famous Zé do Telhado, who shared his cell.

From this, an unlikely friendship is born, with the writer taking advantage of the life story of the bandit to tell it in “Memoirs of Prison”, where he reinforces the legend of the thief who steals from the rich to give to the poor.

Zé do Telhado was also protective of Camilo Castelo Branco, as he feared being killed by one of the other detainees, possibly paid by Ana Plácido’s husband.

The bandit told him not to fear anything, since if someone touched him with a finger “three days and three nights would not be enough to bury the dead”. Camilo did not die in prison. He later committed suicide, leaving behind a remarkable literary work.

Antique photograph of Alves dos Reis

See too
Alves dos Reis: the story of the biggest fraudster ever in Portugal

banishment and death

Meanwhile, Zé do Telhado’s sentence was clear: accused of eleven crimes (which many say is a tiny part of those he committed) he was freed from the gallows, but was sentenced to exile in Africa, for a period of 15 years.

He ended up settling in Malange, angolan province, where he got married again and had children, specifically three. In 1875 she died in African lands, victim of smallpox.

Character coming from the people, and with deep connections to the land, Zé do Telhado entered the popular imagination and even today his story is recognized.

The house he lived in is still there, in the parish of Mouriz, in the municipality of Paredes. By the way, it is said that they called him Zé do Telhado because his parents’ house was the only one in the region with roof tiles. The rest had thatched roofs.

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