Brazil, the beautiful South American country has history, culture and surprisingly one of the largest populations of persons of African descent outside the United States. If your traveling to Brazil and interested in Afro – Latin heritage, we’ve got a travel guide just for you!
Rio de Janeiro
By visiting an Afro-Brazilian museum, a church, a graveyard and a historic neighborhood, you will get an in-depth view of the Colonial Rio de Janeiro. You will understand more about the themes: Candomblé, Umbanda, Orixás, Zumbi, Quilombos, Quilombo dos Palmares and the constant struggle of a people for freedom and a space within the new society after the slavery abolition. History presents a long period of oppression, but also a strong cultural resistance of Afro-Brazilians and a rich cultural heritage.
“‘Pedra do Sal’ (Salt stone) and
the zone known as Little Africa,
where the famous traditions
of samba and Rio carnival originated.”
Walk on foot through the old center of Rio de Janeiro, places of great reference for a better understanding of our culture.
The cemetery: The New Black Cemetery was a burial place (perhaps more correctly called a deposit) for thousands of Africans who died during their long journeys to Rio, or shortly after arriving in the city between 1769 and 1830, when it was closed. Its location remained lost until 1996, when a couple discovered, while renovating their house, that they lived on the old cemetery.
The Church & The Museum: Igreja de Nossa Senhora do Rosário e São Benedito (Our Lady of the Rosary and Saint Benedict Church) and Museu do Negro (the black museum). Burned in 1967, the buildings are sparsely decorated and in poor repair. The church houses The Black Museum, both of which were devastated by fire in 1967. The church still stands today, sparse, unadorned and in disrepair, open to the public. The Museum, with its remaining tiny collection is still housed there on the second floor. When you visit the church, it’s important to buy some candles from the ladies who sell in front of the church. You may also notice traditional African religious offerings placed on the steps of the church in the Brazilian syncretic fashion.
The museum is an essential stop along the Afro-Rio journey, especially for the way its small collection, managed by a dedicated curator, shows the difference between the reality of slavery in the city and the sanitized image of slavery promoted in paintings of the time, which still persists in the memory of the nation to this day. The entrance to the Black Museum is confusing and difficult to find.
The Neighborhood: Another recently “rediscovered” site is the Port Zone. The Valongo slave market, where slaves were brought to Rio by ships and sold. The Valongo was renamed and covered in 1843, due to the arrival of the Italian bride of the future Emperor Dom Pedro II, becoming known as the Pier of the Empress. After being grounded and paved in 1911, the original Valongo remained ignored until 2011, when it was discovered and excavated during the construction of the works for the Porto Maravilha restructuring project. After a hard battle for the preservation of the Valongo, it is now possible to visit the site and see the three layers of streets of the city on display. In this area it is also possible to visit ‘Pedra do Sal’ (Salt stone) and the zone known as Little Africa, where the famous traditions of samba and Rio carnival originated. In addition, information is provided on the traditional Afro-Brazilian religions that have flourished in the region.
The main destination and focal point of our Afro-Brazilian Heritage tour will be the Pelourinho District, the most important historical center of colonial architecture in Latin America. Pelourinho has the largest collection of Baroque colonial architecture in Latin America, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
There you’ll visit the first slave market in Brazil; the first African Church in the Americas, built in 1704 – dine at restaurants and shop at art galleries/souvenir stores in the Pelourinho district owned by black Afro-Brazilian entrepreneurs who are direct decedents of African slaves who were once bought and sold in the Pelourinho. Pelourinho, which means ‘whipping stick’ in Portuguese, was the first place slaves were auctioned off to slave traders upon arrival in Salvador.
Additionally, in this Salvador’s historic district you will discover the secrets of traditional cooking and taste some of Brazil’s most popular, homegrown, foods born out of slavery like Moqueca (moo-kek-a) or Feijoada.
There is no better place to learn how to prepare authentic Afro-Brazilian foods than here in Salvador. Bahia’s strong sense of cultural identity, with African, Native Brazilian and European influences, has made Bahia a mystical land with rich folk culture.
The United Nations (UN) has instituted 2011 as the International Year of People of African Descent and São Paulo values the richness of these traditions.
Place to see in São Paulo:
Afro-Brazilian Museum: The Afro Brasil Museum, in the Ibirapuera Park in São Paulo, highlights the African perspective in the formation of heritage, identity and Brazilian culture, celebrating Memory, History and Brazilian Art and Afro-Brazilian.
Casa das Áfricas (House of Africas): Having as main activities the research and promotion of cultural activities related to the African continent, Casa das Áfricas aims to help in the production and diffusion of knowledge about African societies, besides of better contact between institutions and researchers that focus on I work in Africa. For the general public it maintains a permanent exhibition, with objects, artifacts and traditional African textiles.
African Cultural Center: Founded in 1999, the African Cultural Center (CCA) aims to keep African and Afro-descendant cultural traditions alive by helping to develop material, immaterial and oral heritage, as well as strengthening self-esteem, solidarity, ethics and talent. Provisionally installed in a house until the opening of its new headquarters (in the neighborhood of Barra Funda), the CCA opens a space of knowledge and integration between African and Afrodescendant culture and the local community, schools, researchers and visitors.
Candomblé Cultural Center: Created with the aim of contributing to a better understanding of candomblé, its doctrine and its rituals, the Candomblé Cultural Center allows the visitor to immerse himself in the history of the religious segment. Father Toninho de Xangô plays an active role in the struggle for inclusion and appreciation of the black culture in his community. Monthly there are parties open to the public.