Historical Center of São Luís (I)
Destination São Luís, capital of the state of Maranhão.
Walking through the historical center of São Luís.
São Luís has a rich history. In 1535, the Brazilian colony was divided into capitanias: massive areas that roughly were marked with a ruler. The maps of that time also show straight, horizontal lines, perpendicular upon the vertical line that was determined by the Treaty of Tordesilhas (1494), that divided the New World into a Spanish and a Portuguese share. João de Barros obtained the capitania of Maranhão, but he was hardly interested in his possession.
About fifteen years later, the city of Nazaré was founded, almost on the same location of what is now São Luís. However, this settlement was quickly abandoned due to persistent resistance of the indians and the troublesome accessibility of the island. In 1612, the French navigator Daniel la Touche and five hundred men arrived on the island. He founded Saint Louis, in honor of the French king, Louis XIII. Three years later, the French were expelled by the Portuguese, who continued with the development of the settlement. In 1641, the Dutch, who had their base in Pernambuco, expanded their territory westward and took the city. They managed to stay there for three years, until they were ousted by the Portuguese. Because of the isolated location of the island from the rest of the Brazilian colony, the province of Maranhão/ Grão Pará was founded. The province was more or less independent from the rest of the colony. Mainly sugarcane, cocoa and tobacco were grown in this region, thereby making use of African slaves.
The city flourished, until the abolition of slavery in 1885. The economic activities in São Luís came to a halt. Because of that, tourist may still enjoy the historical richness of a large number of buildings from the colonial era.
Igreja do Desterro
We encountered an obvious church building, when we were on our way to Mercado Central. A church painted in white, with a square tower at the right side, and a cupola in the middle. It turned out to be a church with a turbulent history. Initially, it was a chapel of minor significance, constructed around 1640. When the Dutch invaded São Luís on 25 November 1641, the chapel was destroyed. Only after the expulsion of the Dutch in 1644, the church was about to be rebuilt. However, due to the high cost of the construction, the reconstruction only was started in 1832. It took seven years until the church was inaugurated. The church was located in the center and became neglected. The interior was looted. A new restoration was necessary; the inauguration took place in 1869. The facade was now in the simple colonial style, with a tower at one side. The cupola, that reminds of the Byzantine style, has been enriched with an iron cross.
Bar Antigamente in Rua da Palma
At one of the principal corners of Rua da Palma is a pale green building. It is the location of a bar annex restaurant, were visitors may meet local dishes and local entertainment. We didn’t visit this bar, since we had found a nearby location where reggae music was played all night. Nevertheless, we passed the bar various times, and we enjoyed the music performances for a little while.
By Adriano Antoine Robbesom
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- Travel in Brazil: MARANHÃO (18). Vale Festejar! in São Luís (I), Dança Portuguesa (insiderbrazil.wordpress.com)