Recife so many

Ronaldo Correia de Brito

Praia de Boa ViagemFrom Boa Viagem beach (Nice Trip beach) to Apipucos neighborhood, where Gilberto Freyre would write lying in a hammock; from Beberibe to Sertãozinho de Caxangá, yonder where Manuel Bandeira had his first enlightenment; from Poço da Panela (Pan Well) to Forte das Cinco Pontas (Fort of Five Points), where Frei Caneca was shot dead because no hangman accepted to hang him, from the hills of Casa Amarela (Yellow House) to the mangroves of Pina, Chico Science’s beat territory, Recife has disclosed itself for five hundred years in the strong light of days. Andalusian light that never let go of the eyes and the memory of João Cabral de Melo Neto, one of the many poets who carried it on the soul. Light with no subtlety or rest, going out only at night when the city falls asleep and dreams to the sound of a sad melody of blocos de carnavais[1].

Recife only reveals itself to those who walk through it investigating layers of history in the narrow streets, bridges, convents and plazas, markets and forts.”

Recife only reveals itself to those who walk through it investigating layers of history in the narrow streets, bridges, convents and plazas, markets and forts. Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance and Moorish influences are unveiled in the architecture the Portuguese brought to the tropics, reproducing the same houses, mansions and churches of the kingdom, in the vast colonial empire. By walking through the streets one has the eyes filled of the baroque, neoclassical, eclectic, art nouveau and art deco, mixed amid the urban chaos, with the modern adding to the landscape invented by man over the centuries.

Recife is more like a bunch of islands: São José, Santo Antônio, Ilha do Leite (Milk Island), Ilha do Retiro (Retreat Island), Boa Vista, Madalena, and the very district of Recife, known now as Recife Antigo (Old Recife), where the city was founded about the same time as Olinda, at the beginning of the Portuguese colonization, with the simple name of Povoado dos Arrecifes (Reef Village).

Olinda (PE)

The river has inventoried the land, divided it into pieces that the bridges join in a sparse seam. The waters of Capibaribe river and the mangroves spread in so many marshes and wetlands that Recife had to be stolen from the river and the sea through landfills which have made it habitable. The Dutch occupied the city and felt at home in the lowlands, naming them Cidade Maurícia (Mauritius town), after the invading count Maurice of Nassau.

By the waters of the Atlantic arrived populations of Netherlanders, French, Germans, black people, Jews, Catholics and Protestants, who joined the natives. For many years, all living languages of Europe and several from Africa were spoken in Recife. In the Synagogue on the old Rua dos Judeus (Street of the Jews), Rua do Bom Jesus (Street of Good Jesus) today, the first in the Americas, one could study and write in Hebrew.

Ponte Maurício de Nassau

In the neighborhoods of São José, Santo Antônio and Boa Vista eyes are filled with the view of Capibaribe river and the bridges, the townhouses on Aurora street, the Republic Square, Santa Isabel Theater, the Campo das Princesas Palace and the monumental Palace of Justice. All amid the waters, as if Recife were a Brazilian Venice, also condemned to end up submerged. In the city that Pernambuco people manly call o [2] Recife, one stumbles in the past on every corner, sometimes dark and ragged, demanding from the memory of the living ones never to forget it.

In this secular and haunted Recife, the same sea breeze that swept forts and cannons still caresses our hair. The same bells that tolled on the top of the towers, witnessing the hours, still marks time. And when night descends on the bridges and on the old streets, with its steps, full of regret, fear or joy, we remember the martyrs of the 1817Revolution and the Confederation of Ecuador, fallen with their libertarian dreams, which only the poets remember.

On the coast and in the woods, in the arid zone and in the hinterland, in big farm houses, slave houses, sugar plantations, sugar mills, farms, stables and pastures, the juice from the mixture of Indians and blacks and whites was stirred in copper pans and clay pots, making emerge the brown color and mestizo, which we are so proud.

Bonecos gigantes para o Carnaval

Perhaps the culinary richness of Pernambuco comes from so successful a fusion, abundant in coconut sweets, baba-de-moça[3] cake Souza Leão,[4] pé-de-moleque [5], mungunzá[6], tapioca[7], alfenins[8], roll cakes, stews of fish, cozidos[9], fried seafood, sururu[10], and the miracle of culinary: sun-dried meat.

And amid the antique looks of Recife, the gilded Baroque churches, the mud to the pier, kids pull out stridence from guitars and, tuned, plug into the future.”

And even richer are the rhythms and dances: the ciranda dance, coco-dance, baque virado do maracatu nação[11], marcha de bloco[12], cavalo-marinho tunes[13] (tunes of seahorse), marchas de la ursa, the sambadas of Maracatu Rural, the beats of caboclinhos[14], street Frevo, Frevo song, brimming with excitement at carnivals and festas juninas (Saint John Festival).

Evening dances in courtyards, patios and tribes. The Ciranda dancers spin, spin, spin listening to the thump of the waves.

Ó Cirandeiro, ó Cirandeiro, ó

the stone of your ring is brighter than the sun.

Maracatus drum, Frevo dancers jump, seahorses spin, caboclinhos harmonicas quaver.

And amid the antique looks of Recife, the gilded Baroque churches, the mud to the pier, kids pull out stridence from guitars and, tuned, plug into the future.


[1] Carnival street revelry, which parades in the streets.
[2] Definite article that refers to nouns of the masculine gender.
[3] A typical Brazilian cuisine sweet, made of yolks, coconut milk and sugar syrup boiled until they become a consistent cream.
[4] A creamy cake made of manioc, coconut milk, butter and eggs.
[5] A traditional sweet from the Brazilian cuisine made of peanuts and jaggery or molasses.
[6] A cream made of corn cooked in sugar syrup with coconut milk, starch and cinnamon.
[7] A starch extracted from the root of the plant species Manihot esculenta, stirred, drained through a sieve, fried into a tortilla shape, and often sprinkled with coconut. Then it may be buttered and eaten as a toast (its most common use as a breakfast dish), or it may be filled or topped with either sweet or salty ingredients.
[8] White dough made of sugar and sweet almond oil.
[9] A dish consisting of boiled beef, vegetables, eggs, potatoes, etc.
[10] an edible mollusk.
[11] A cultural manifestation of the Pernambuco african folk music, formed by a percussion that accompanies a royal procession.
[12] Frevo executed by a stick and string orchestra (usually comprised of guitars, ukuleles, banjos, mandolins, violins, and wind instruments and percussion).
[13] A typical Brazilian folk merriment that consists of a variation of the bumba-meu-boi and is part of the Christmas cycle, paying homage to the Three Kings.
[14] Folk dance performed during Carnival, with groups dressed as Indians, with showy headdresses, feather headdresses on the waistband and ankles, collars depicting hunting scenes and combat.


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