This month, Speak Portuguese Brazil introduces you to Belém, the historical city, capital of mango trees which was the first European colony in the Amazonian rainforest.
Belém was founded in 1616 by Captain Francisco Branco, sent by the Portuguese crown to protect the territory against foreign invasions, mainly composed of the French, British and the Dutch.
He thus built the Fort de Presépio where the « Feliz Lusitânia » community settled afterwards.
Belém was the first European colony in the Amazon but was integrated to Brazil only 100 years later. The city actually has 1,4 million inhabitants, and is the second biggest agglomeration of Northern Brazil after Manaus.
The city´s nickname “cidade das mangueiras” was given to the city as its streets are full of mango trees.
Between 1835 and 1840, the extreme poverty provoked a social revolt called the revolt of Cabanagem. It is considered as the most popular revolt of the country´s history as it is the only time when Brazilians were able to bring down a local government.
Belém then became a major commercial city between the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century thanks to the rubber production, attracting many foreigners, mostly Portuguese, Japanese, French, and Spanish.
It was at this time that the Palácio Lauro Sodré, Colégio Gentil Bittencourt, Teatro da Paz, Palácio Antônio Lemos and the Market of Ver-o-Peso were built.
Belém, capital of the Pará state:
Belém is a traditional Brazilian city located on the Amazon River. It is the state capital of Pará, and is now a major industrial harbour located 100 km away from the Atlantic Ocean.
The region has hundreds of small islands, most of which are uninhabited. The two main islands are Mosqueiro and Caratateua which attract tourists thanks to its beautiful beaches. The climate is equatorial which is very humid without any dry season.
Belém, land of opportunities in Brazil:
At the beginning of the XXe century, Belém´s economy was based on agriculture, breeding and fishing for exportation to Europe thanks to slave labour which was at its highest point at the time.
Nowadays the economic activity is based on international trade and exports of goods and services. Tourism, agriculture, fishing, shipbuilding, metallurgy, chemistry, and wood production are other main components of the city´s economy.
Recently the city entered the fashion world with the Belem Fashion Days and the Amazonia Fashion Week, the biggest fashion event in Amazonia.
The heritage of the Pará state capital:
Belém is a colourful city, rich in smells, and flavours. It is a city with huge history, with baroque architectural style from the 17th century full of monuments and museums to visit.
The city was named Belém, which is the Portuguese name for Bethlehem: Jesus´ place of birth.
The city hosts the ‘Círio de Nazaré’ , the biggest catholic parade in Brazil, which takes place on the second Sunday of October of every year in Belém.
During this weekend the city accommodates millions of pilgrims coming from all over the country which contributes to the economic wealth of the city.
Visiting Belém and Pará state:
If you are at Belém, make the most of your journey by visiting Algodoal and Ilha Marajo. These are very pleasant destination on the Atlantic cost.
If you are planning a trip to the Amazon River we advise you to visit Belém even though most of the tourists prefer São Luis as it is on the way to Maranhenses and Salvador de Bahia.
The Bioparque Amazonia Crocodilo Safari Zoo (20 km away from Belém) is the principal touristic attraction of the state, which gives a great summary of the region ecosystem to its visitors.
The food in Belém:
Pará offers a great picture of the traditional Brazilian gastronomy. Unlike most of other states of the country, the gastronomy has not been influenced by the African, Portuguese or Dutch immigration but takes its inspiration in the traditional amazon cuisine.
The Amazon rainforest is home of a wide range of fruits, vegetables fish variety that you can buy in the famous Ver-o-peso market.
The main component of the Amazonian gastronomy is manioc which you can find in the Maniçoba, a ragout of ground leaves mixed with beef or pork meet that we deeply recommend.
The Tucupi is another culinary must-try, it is a yellow condiment extracted from manioc leaves served most of the time with duck.
We also recommend: Pará nuts from the tucuma (fruit from the local palm tree), fried pirarucu with açaí, fish soup, tacata, tucunare, piranha and the filhote, one of the best fish of the Amazon that can weigh up to 300 kg.
Most of restaurant are innovating and adapting local product to international cuisine like for example hamburgers of manoçoba. Pará is becoming an important source of inspiration for chef all around the world.