A walk along the ruins of Alcântara (I)
Destination São Luís, capital of the state of Maranhão.
First impressions of the ruins of Santo Antônio de Alcântara
On a Sunday morning, a catamaran carried us to the other side of Baía de São Marcos, a distance of more than fifty km. On the peninsula is the historical city of Santo Antônio de Alcântara, a large open air museum.
Alcântara is a peninsula northwest of São Luís Island, divided by Baia de São Marcos.
Alcântara is a peninsula northwest of São Luís Island, divided by Baia de São Marcos. The travel by catamaran took more than two hours, over a distance of more than fifty km. On our way, we were greeted by dolphins and – closer to the peninsula – by red ibises.
Shortly after our arrival, we were welcomed by an old black man, who introduced himself as the city guide. The nameplate on his chest confirmed that he was a guide, recognized by the tourist board. However, we didn’t make use of his generous offer to guide us. We preferred to buy a city plan for three reais and to plan our route. The local tourist information point wasn’t open, but a helpful waitress provided us the much desired city plans.
Barracks were located at the other side of the tourist information point. Soldiers walked in and out, the entrances were guarded by soldiers armed with machine guns. We started our walk through the main road. This road was paved with cobble stones in mosaic patterns and was a bit steep. The sun shone brightly and burned our skin. That day, it must have been more than thirty degrees. The small houses were painted in pastels, which created a beautiful contrast with white clouds and a deep blue sky.
On the right side was a detached building, with a pointed roof, which consisted of two layers. There was a small cross on top of it, so it mush have been a church. The building was closed, but it was a church indeed: Igreja da Nossa Senhora das Mercês, constructed in 1648. This church was dilapidated into a ruin, but was reconstructed in the past century.
Coins and jewelry
We halted for a while at a street vendor, who offered a variety of antique Brazilian coins and handmade jewelry. The beads of these necklaces were dried seeds of various trees, among them the famous Brasil tree. Brazil is named after this tree.
Behind the church, we had a magnificent view on San Marcos Bay. A lagoon was visible, a small fisherman’s boat floated on the clam waves. Since both São Luís and Alcântara are coastal cities, visitors are ensured of fresh seafood, for a low price. There are many types of fish that we never have seen before in Europe, and there are shrimps, mussels, and oysters. A feast for fish and seafood lovers.
By Adriano Antoine Robbesom