The most important captaincies were, however, in the colony of Terra de Santa Cruz, or Land of the Holy Cross (modern Brazil). Each was delivered to a single captaincy general (capitão-mor, or capitão-donatário), who was a Portuguese nobleman. They were straight stripes of variable height of land, divided parallel to the Equator from the coast to the Tordesilhas Line, created by King John III of Portugal in 1534.
The captaincies in Brazil were initially fifteen in total, granted to twelve donatários. They were the following:
|Captaincy of Maranhão||Fernão Aires and João de Barros|
|Captaincy of Ceará||Antônio Cardoso de Barros|
|Captaincy of Rio Grande||João de Barros / Aires da Cunha|
|Captaincy of Itamaracá||Pero Lopes de Sousa|
|Captaincy of Pernambuco||Duarte Coelho Pereira|
|Captaincy of Bahia||Francisco Pereira Coutinho|
|Captaincy of Ilhéus||Jorge de Figueiredo Correia|
|Captaincy of Porto Seguro||Pero Campos de Tourinho|
|Captaincy of Espírito Santo||Vasco Fernandes Coutinho|
|Captaincy of São Tomé||Pero de Góis da Silveira|
|Captaincy of São Vicente - 1st section (from Parati to Cabo Frio)||Martim Afonso de Sousa|
|Captaincy of Santo Amaro (from Bertioga to Parati)||Pero Lopes de Sousa|
|Captaincy of São Vicente - 2nd section (from Cananéia to Bertioga)||Martim Afonso de Sousa|
|Captaincy of Santana (from Cananéia to Laguna)||Pero Lopes de Sousa|
All but two failed. The Captaincy of Pernambuco succeeded through the plantation of sugarcane, and thus formed the basis for the Viceroyalty of Grão-Pará. The Captaincy of São Vicente succeeded through the explorations of the hinterlands known as bandeiras, and was at the origin of the Viceroyalty of Brazil (later the province of São Paulo).
Captaincies (capitanías, in Spanish) were military and administrative divisions in colonial Spanish America and the Spanish Philippines, established in areas under risk of foreign invasion or Indian attack. They could consist of just one province, or group several together. These captaincies general should be distinguished from the ones given to almost all of the conquistadores, which was based on an older tradition. During the Reconquista, the term "captain general" and similar ones had been used for the official in charge of all the troops in a given district. This office was transferred to America during the conquest and was usually granted along with the hereditary governorship to the adelantado in the patent issued by the Crown. This established a precedent that was recognized by the New Laws of 1542, but ultimately the crown eliminated all hereditary governorships in its overseas possessions.
With the establishment of appointed governors, who served only a for a few years, captaincies were created in the areas where the crown deemed them necessary. The new captaincies general were governed by what was also called a captain general, and it is this title alone that is usually used by historians. However, in practice this was a person who held two distinct offices: one military, which granted him command of the regional forces (the "captaincy general" proper), and another civilian, which included the presidency of the audiencia, if there was one in the provincial capital, (the governorship). The specific powers of any governor-captain general varied by time and place and were specified in the decrees establishing the captaincy general. The institution of the captaincy general predated the viceroyalty, but was incorporated into the latter when the viceroyalties were established in the mid-16th century.
Some captaincies general, such as Guatemala, Chile and Venezuela were eventually split off from their viceroyalties for better-administration purposes. Although under the nominal jurisdiction of their viceroys, governors-captains general were virtually independent, because the law granted them special military functions and given the considerable distance of their districts from the viceregal capital, they were authorized to deal directly with the King and the Council of the Indies, in Madrid. The institution was later revived as part of the Bourbon Reforms. Captaincies general were first introduced into Spain beginning in 1713 during the War of the Spanish Succession. After the losses of the Seven Years' War, the Bourbon kings established new ones in many American regions, which had not had them before. Along with the new governors-captains general, the Bourbons introduced the Intendant, to handle civilian and military expenses.