Igaraçu - Pernambuco
« Cities of Pernambuco
Population: 82.277 inhabitants (Census 2000)
Distance from Recife: 26 km
Accesses: BR-101 Norte (North), PE-15 e PE-01. Visit maps of Recife and Pernambuco.
The place where today is located the city of Igaraçu was originally inhabitated by the tribe of indians Caetés indians.
In 1535, sent by the King of Portugal to settle the region, Duarte Coelho arrived to the place and started a battle against the indians over the possession of the land. By order of Duarte Coelho, a stone landmark was planted between the captaincies of Pernambuco and Itamaracá; this stone marks the starting of the colonization process in Brazil. In 1537, the Vila de Igaraçu (Igaraçu Village) was founded; the name means "Big Canoe" in the indian language. Igaraçu is registered in the books of Pernambuco as the first settelement point of the country.big canoe". The municipal district is considered the first settlement center of the country.
Igaraçu is located about 30 km north of Recife, in the northern end of the Metropolitan Region; Igaraçu has one of the most impressing heritage of civil and religious architecture in Brazil. In Igaraçu, one finds the oldest church in Brazil, the Church of Saints Cosme and Damião, dedicated in 1535; the Saints are believed to be responsible for a miracle in 1685, when an epidemy of yellow fever left many dead in Recife, Olinda, Itamaracá and Goiana, but Igaraçu remained practically unhurt.
Igaraçu had a strong presence in several libertarian fights, such as the Revolução Praieira, in 1848. During that revolution, the troops of Colonel Manoel Pereira de Morais occupied the Convent of Santo Antônio, built by the Franciscans in 1588; today, the place houses the Museu Pinacoteca (Gallery Museum), which exhibits one of the most representative collection about the Brazilian colonial period.
Igaraçu celebrates its political emancipation on March 9th.
Just like it was in the 16th century, the industry which revolves around sugar cane is still the most important sector of the economy of Igaraçu. In the past, the only product was the white sugar, sent to Europe to replace the dark beet sugar. Today, mills employ advanced technology to produce sugar and alcohol (mostly etanol, used as fuel in Brazil).
Lately, the cultivation of tropical flowers (more resistant than those produced in temperated climates) has been gaining space. Igaraçu is one of the nine cities in Pernambuco responsible for making the State the biggest producer of tropical flowers in Brazil.
Other relevant activies are the cultivation of subsistence cultures of vegetables (photo), fishing and tourism (see below).
Igaraçu is located in the Metropolitan Region of Recife, most important economic area of the State.
Besides the municipal district of Igaraçu, the Metropolitan Region also comprehends the cities of Recife, Olinda, Jaboatão dos Guararapes, Abreu e Lima, Paulista, Itapissuma, Itamaracá, Cabo de Santo Agostinho, Ipojuca, Camaragibe, São Lourenço da Mata, Araçoiaba and Moreno.
Igaraçu is considered one of the most important cities to preserve Brazillian Culture and History. Its streets, churches (picture) and buildings of the colonial period take visitors to a travel in time. The oldest church in Brazil, the Igreja dos Santos Cosme e Damião (Church of the Saints Cosme and Damião), is in Igaraçu.
The Convento de Santo Antônio (Convent of Santo Antônio), with one of the most complete galleries of the colonial period, is a mandatory visit; the collection contains paintings and panels which date back to the 17th and 18th centuries. The Convent was restored in 1999, a job which took 44 specialists, who worked for more than two years in the restoration of the wooden structure, glazed tiles, roofs, altars and other relics that make up the complex architecture of the building.
One of the most important religious events of Pernambuco takes place in Igaraçu: the Festa de São Gonaçalo do Amarante, in January of every year. During the event, people play traditional games, such as Levadas and Buscadas (Brought and Taken), and enjoy artistic shows and typical food.
Igaraçu has also attractions for eco-tourists. The Refúgio Charles Darwin is a strip of the Mata Atlântica (Atlantic Forest) which preserved the original flora and native animals. The park is 100 hectares large, with a few observation trails.
A visit to Igaraçu may be completed with an extension to Itamaracá, another touristic and Historic city of Pernambuco; actually, to get to Itamaracá by road, drivers must pass by the vicinities of Igaraçu.
Source of information: IBGE and Government of the State of Pernambuco
Credits of photos: Government of the State of Pernambuco