Angra dos Reis - 500 Years of History

The history of Angra dos Reis travels through the  " great economic cycles" of the history of Brazil. In the beginning of the colonization, it was an area desired by several European people in the search of the exploration and smuggling of tropical products. Geographically it has a privileged marine coast, with 

Prefeitura Municipal - Fotógrafo: Francinete Fróes

a great bay and hundreds of islands, the town was an important commercial store house for the great marine routes that, people coming from Europe and/or Africa, navigated for South America, going in direction of São Paulo, and the bands of the Continent of Rio Grande de São Pedro, that were called the lands located in the end south of Brazil.
The old roads of the population of Brazil strategically crossed the area and constituted important terrestrial highways that, along the colonial period, they were vital to link the areas like São Paulo and  Minas Gerais to the coast of the current State of Rio de Janeiro. Routes of troops, were in the tracks opened in the forest, bringing colonists, who generally settled in the best areas by  the roads, benefitting themselves, when influent, of the sesmarias system and of the current slavery. 

In the first two hundred years, the original culture of the Indians disappeared in the area of the current towns of Angra dos Reis and Parati, and appeared the gradual introduction of large estate (latifúndios) with slavery turned to the production of sugar and liquor, as well as nutritious goods destined to the population. The whale fishing had its importance in this period. 

In the beginning of the 1800’s, the consequences of the discovery of gold in Minas Gerais and Goiás started to affect the place, where the African slaves' traffic increased and the circulation of goods through the coast and interior. 

At that time the famous " Caminho Novo " (New Way) appeared. A road ordered to be built by the El-king of Portugal, that was the connection through the country between São Paulo and the interior of Minas Gerais, linking those areas to Rio de Janeiro, avoiding the old marine course, through the store house of Angra dos Reis and Parati, reared for pirates and avid corsairs because of the gold and diamonds. There was a direct linking to Angra dos Reis, through Lídice and Rio Claro, impelling the prosperity of the area. 

In the century XIX, the town and the " parishes " lived golden periods provided by the coffee, like the Historical Vila de Mambucaba, that reached great economic prosperity with the expansion of the coffee plantation and of the trade that fed the port at that place, getting to exist even a theater. 

With the construction of the D. Pedro II railroad, about 1864, and the posterior abolition of the slavery, we had a crisis period and decadence. According to Lia Osório Machado, researcher of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, " the construction of the railroad was factor of more immediate impact in the area of Angra dos Reis. It broke up with the old location parameters  and  speed,  that

Cais do Porto - Fotógrafo: Francinete Fróes

 is to say, it moved with space and  time; more concretely, the railroad could transport great amount of load between Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, leaving the old tracks  and dirt road back, with troops, horses and litters. Those roads continued to be used, however they lost their role of  the dominant " transport.

The forests closed the mountains again, reappear, in that area of  Serra da Bocaina, an acme of the wild life. In the beginnings of our century, there was a subsistence economy, with a population of few people in many villages surrounded by branches of trees fences, dispersed in small survival tasks, as fishing, cane cultivation, cassava and banana, the manufacture of liquor, etc. 

The population of the main urban centers was decreased, with the exit of many people in search of better lands.  

The new century maintained the tradition that says that the town was always tied up to the great economic cycles of the Country. With Juscelino Kubitscheck's (President of Brazil) development political, the 50’s saw the construction of the shipyard Verolme, of Dutch capital, in the current district of Jacuecanga. The naval industry would be privileged by the interconnection with the National Metallurgical Company in the construction of its metallic ships and for the geographical position of our coast. That enterprise, which ended in 1969, brought a lot of money capital to area, with the many migrants coming and the construction of labor villas, increasing the local trade and the growth of the town. 


In the decade of 70’s a new period dazzled, an authoritarian time, that brought a great mutation to the area, submissive to the designs of the military dictatorship installed in the Country in 1964. From then on, Angra dos Reis turned into an area of national security, losing the prerogative of choosing its leaders and had the social movements suffocated. 

The military officers had as goal the implementation of an authoritarian modernization of the Brazilian capitalism. For this purpose, they developed programs of construction of great works, and some of them  were implanted in our town. 

The Nuclear Plant Angra I (1972-1980), the Oil Terminal of the Bay of Ilha Grande (1974-1979) and the Federal Highway Rio-Santos (BR-101) redefine the town and its spaces, causing a series of transformations, as coming of thousands of migrants in search of new work fronts. The intense growth of the population and the expansion of the town continue in the urban areas, generating the disordered occupation of the hills of the center and adjoining, as well as the creation of great peripheral neighborhoods. 

At this time, the tourist enterprises, motivated by the easiness access provided by Rio-Santos Highway construction, the process of occupation of the best grounds begins along the coast.  

That process provoked countless modifications in the organization of the space of our town, resulting in several conflicts of lands and getting the caiçara (a village surrounded by a fence made of tree branches) population out, so that it was forced to move for less valued areas, as the hills of downtown and distant peripheries. Besides, it brought a decrease of the agricultural area and the number of farmers; the embankments became common and the destruction of the swamps, appearing a great demand for infrastructure works. 

With the re-urbanization of the central border of the city, the amplification of the track of the airport to 1.200 m, the maintainable use of the natural resources principally from Ilha Grande and the valuation of the cultural patrimony, the consolidation of the tourist activity as the main source of resources and generation of income should be the historical mark that the end of the millennium will register to Angra dos Reis. 

Credit: Projeto Memória & História (Project Memory & History) - Municipal City hall of Angra dos Reis.