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Recife History, Brazil

Recife History – The Portuguese

Recife history is full of interesting stories about different processes of colonization, all of which left their mark on the Brazil city and therefore turned it into a multicultural place with lots of heritage. It all started in 1537, the area around Recife being among the first to have been settled by the Portuguese. John III of Portugal divided the territory the Crown had conquered and sent representatives to rule from there, but due to lack of proper surveillance from his part, the so-called Captaincies mostly failed. One of those, which came through, was the Captaincy of Pernambuco, whose ruler was charmed with the beauties of the place and therefore invested very seriously in developing it.

Recife History – The Africans

The sugarcane industry made the region prosper and the fact that Brazilian sugar was very much appreciated in Europe made Duarte Coelho exploit the land as well as he could. The natural conditions were perfect, but what he lacked was human work force and because he couldn’t find it among the locals, he turned to African slaves. Between the 16th and 19th centuries, Pernambuco heavily imported slaves and therefore turned the city into a territory highly influenced by black culture. This started being visible both in the way people ate, and in their music and traditional dances.

Recife History – The Dutch

The war the Spanish and Portuguese led against the Dutch led to the decision of the former to prohibit any Dutch intervention in the Brazilian territories, as they were the ones who controlled all sugar distribution in Europe. This led to the Dutch invading Recife and Olinda and taking control of them between 1630 and 1654. With the Dutch came the Jews and therefore Recife became the first city in the Americas to have a synagogue. The local inhabitants tried hard to drive the Dutch population out of the territory and as a consequence most of the Jews fled to Amsterdam, while others remained and migrated north, founding New Amsterdam, which is today’s New York. Its privilege to be one of the biggest harbors on the Atlantic shore helped it reassert its position in front of neighboring towns such as Maceio or Joao Pessoa, and the city still thrives today and displays a colorful variety of cultural inheritance.

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