After Belém and Fortaleza, My Little Brasil continued its tours of Brazilian cities with a focus on the cities situated along the Atlantic coast. Discover Recife, a city bordered with 10km of beaches and protected by a barrier reef the length of the coast, which gave the city its name.
History of Recife, the old sugar cane capital of Brazil
Recife was founded in 1537 when it was a simple fisherman’s port. The Dutch invaded the colony in 1630 and it became the capital of Dutch Brazil called “New Holland”.
The Portuguese, Brazilians, Native Brazilians and African Americans expelled the Dutch in 1654. With 16 000 habitants, Recife became the capital of the state of Pernambuco in 1837.
In the 16th century, the region of Pernambuco was rich with sugar cane and numerous slaves from Africa to work in the plantations. The conditions were perfect for cultivating sugar cane: gentle climate, lots of rain, flat land and fertile soil.
It’s in Recife that the sugar was stored before being exported to Europe. In the beginning of the 17th century, Pernambuco, under the Spanish Crown, was the largest sugar-producing region in the world with more than 120 mills.
The region was also a target because of its prosperity: Recife was pillaged twice by pirates during the same century.
Geography of the capital of Pernambuco, Brazil
Situated halfway between Fortaleza and Salvador, Recife is today the 5th agglomeration of Brazil and has a population of 3.7 million people. The climate is equatorial, which means hot and humid year round.
Economy of Recife stimulated by the activity of Porto Digital
Pernambuco’s activity has turned towards electronic products, notably with the French society Seb that is located there, and also food products. Lots of businesses came in the 70s and 80s because of several fiscal encouragements from the Brazilian government.
The port of Suape situated 40km from the city is the principal container’s port in the Northeast. It plays an essential role in the economy of the region. National and international investments are very important because of the excellent logistic capacities of the port.
Since 2000, Recipe has been a region dedicated to information technology: “Porto digital”, with more than 90 enterprises providing 3000 jobs in technology, principally in the creation of logistics. The area makes and exports technology to Japan, China and other countries for a revenue of more than 3 billion euros annually. Its core consists of small-medium enterprises but also multinationals like Accenture, Motorola, Samsung, Dell, Sun Microsystems, IBM and Microsoft.
Recife is also the 2nd best medical area in Brazil after São Paulo.
Recife, a city with Luso-Dutch heritage and baroque style
The architectural style of the buildings in the city (cathedrals, basilicas and churches) is baroque, except for the Place de la République, which has a neo-classic style.
Recife still has reminders of the occupation of the Portuguese and the Dutch colonies throughout its architecture. Its colorful houses are similar to those of Portugal while its buildings built vertically are reminiscent of the Netherlands, specifically Amsterdam. Its modern boulevards and skyscrapers that tower over the old colonial buildings help give the city its charm.
Tourism in Pernambuco, between Carnival, escapades and cultural visits
A real tourist destination, Recife has been nicknamed the Venice of Brazil because of its abundance of bridges (which relates back to the Dutch colonization), rivers and canals.
The beaches of the region attract more tourists every year. The Boa Viagem beach is one of the most gorgeous urban beaches in Brazil. The popular destinations are Itamaracá, Maria Frainha and mainly Porto de Galinhas. Recife claims to have the best infrastructures for tourism in the Northeast. It’s long natural pools the length of the coast are perfect for diving amateurs.
Every year more than 1.5 million people travel to Recife for Carnival. Lots of tourists stop in Recife before continuing onto Olinda during Carnival. Olinda is a superb city and one of the biggest cultural centers of Brazil. It entered UNESCO’s World Heritage in 1982 and was voted the first cultural capital of Brazil in 2005.
Careful, for the last several years, sharks have circled the magnificent beaches of the coast. To prevent from being attacked, surfers, divers and lifeguards are sometimes equipped with an anti-shark necklace, a device that creates a magnetic field impassable by the nose of the shark, the most fragile area of its body. The tiger shark that lives in the area is attracted to the garbage from the boats, which it follows from the port all along the coast. With this being said, don’t panic! Shark attacks are thankfully very rare!
A multitude of stews in the gastronomy of Pernambuco
The dishes of the region are influenced from a variety of different cultures: Portuguese, Dutch, Spanish, African, Moorish and Native.
Typical dishes in Recife and Pernambuco :
Dobradinha, most well known dish : bean stew
Caldeirada : seafood stew
Rabada : beef tail and manioc flour stew
Buchada : goat stew
Mão de vaca : hoof stew
Cozido Pernambucano : beef stew
Galinha de cabidela : chicken cooked in a blood sauce
Peixada Pernambucana : fish stew
Macaxeira com charque : cassava with beef jerky, dried and salted meat common in South
Quiabada : okra (tropical plant) with beef
Guaiamuns : giant crabs
Carne-de-sol : sun-dried beef often served with green beans
Many dishes are served with a coconut and palm oil (dendê) sauce served with corn, manioc, yams, seafood and fruits from the region. Grilled meats are also very appreciated, mainly goat and beef.
For dessert you often find wraps, Souza Leão (cake made with manioc paste and coconut milk) and cartola (long fried bananas with cheese, cinnamon and sugar).
For breakfast, you can eat sweet potatoes and yams with charque (cassava) guava or mugunzá jam, tapioca, rice pudding, oatmeal, farmhouse cheese or bread/ cornmeal.