Day of Black Consciousness in Rio de Janeiro; port of entry of one million slaves becomes historic landmark

4Note from BW of Brazil: On November 20th in Rio de Janeiro about 1,000 people came together to celebrate the Day of Black Consciousness. Along with annual performances by cultural groups, the day was also historic for the official recognition of an historic landmark which served as the port of entry of over one million slaves in Brazil. Of all the countries in the Americas, Brazil received the most Africans being in the neighborhood of 4-5 million which represents between 38-40% of all Africans brought to the New World. See the story and photos below (Also see festivities in São Paulo and Salvador).

Celebration of the Day of Black Consciousness brings together 1,000 people in downtown Rio

by Erica Magni

Among the events that tool place on Wednesday in Rio to celebrate the Day of Black Consciousness, two of them brought music, dance and emotion to the public. At the Monument of Zumbi dos Palmares, at Avenida Presidente Vargas, programming began early, at 6am, with fireworks and participation of the Filhos de Gandhi. There was the traditional washing of the monument, attended by about a thousand people at the celebration.


The tribute brought together groups from different parts of the state, such as Arraial do Cabo, Buzios, Magé, Nilópolis and Nova Iguaçu, that presented to the public Afro-Brazilian cultural dances – maculelê, jongo, capoeira, samba and other rhythms.

Few people know that the monument was inspired by a statue called Cabeça de Ifê (Head of Ife), from the collection of the British Museum in London. But a replica of it could be admired since yesterday at an exhibition in the new Galeria Scenarium on Rua da Lavradio. The replica belonged to the Gallery collection Objets Interdits in Paris, and was recently acquired for the collection of Grupo Scenarium.


In Zona Portuária, Cais do Valongo officially became a Rio de Janeiro historical landmark, with the unveiling of a plaque indicating this piece of the city as a center of “resistance, freedom and heritage.” The pier – which landed a million slaves in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries – is a candidate for Patrimônio da Humanidade (World Heritage), a title awarded by UNESCO.

Cais do Valongo
Cais do Valongo

Title may come in 2015

The ceremony at Cais do Valongo was an initiative of the Projeto Rota do Escravo (Slave Route Project) (connected to Unesco) and city hall. The director of the Department of Cultural Diversity of UNESCO, Ali Moussa Iye, inaugurated the plaque. Born in the Republic of Djibouti, Africa, Iye said he was thrilled.

Ritual of washing at Cais do Valongo
Ritual of washing at Cais do Valongo

“I’m honored that the city has given prominence to such an important memory to a space that is so important in black memory,” he said, adding that he is a fan of feijoada and the Brazilians.

Landing of slaves in Cais do Valongo, painted by Rugendas in 1835
Landing of slaves in Cais do Valongo, painted by Rugendas in 1835

Taking advantage of the occasion, the anthropologist Milton Guran, of the Brazilian Committee of the Slave Route Project, asked the Instituto do Patrimônio Histórico e Artístico Nacional (Institute of National Historical and Artistic Heritage or Iphan) preserve the archaeological site, rediscovered in 2011, starting from the revitalization works of Zona Portuária. The expectation is that the title is granted the title of Patrimônio da Humanidade (World Heritage Site) by UNESCO in 2015, in time for the celebrations of the 450 year anniversary of Rio.

“It doesn’t suffice affirmative action for blacks. We have to understand what happened in the past so that atrocities never happen again. 10% of African slaves arriving in the Americas came by way of Cais do Valongo over a period of 400 years,” he said.

In a tour de force for the title, Mayor Eduardo Paes sent to Iphan an official letter asking preserving of Valongo. The chief of staff of the agency, Monica Costa, said, however, that the monument is now protected:

“Cais already has federal protection to be an archaeological site.”


Cultural center is reopened

The celebrations for the Day of Black Consciousness continued in the afternoon, in the Zona Portuária with the reopening of the Centro Cultural José Bonifácio (Jose Bonifacio Cultural Center). Dedicated to black culture, the space, restored, is now part of the Circuito Histórico e Arqueológico da Celebração da Herança Africana (Historical and Archaeological Circuit of the Celebration of African Heritage). The opening of this center of remembrance, installed in a house from the nineteenth century where the first public school in Latin America functioned in the past, was attended by Mayor Eduardo Paes and Minister of Racial Equality, Luisa Bairros.


The most memorable moment was commanded by the Guardas de Congado (Guards of Congado) from the city of Oliveira of the state of Minas Gerais. The group had a ritual of singing and dancing and blessed the audience. The cultural center now houses the project “África Diversa (Diverse Africa)” with debates, workshops and performances, and the exhibition “Uma década de Igualdade Racial (A decade of Racial Equality).” On the site will still exhibited parts found during excavations at Cais do Valongo.


“The most fantastic thing of this space (the port area) is that we can combine urban qualification with cultural significance, with the story of the arrival of the negro,” said Paes.


After the Guerra do Paraguai (Paraguay War) (1864-1870) (1), upon learning that he would be honored with a bust, Dom Pedro II suggested that the money be applied in schools. So the Escola Pública Primária da Freguesia de Santa Rita (Primary Public Parish of Freguesia of St. Rita School), of 1877, came about in a mansion designed by architect Francisco Bittencourt da Silva.

8Source: O Globo


1. The Paraguayan War (Spanish: Guerra del Paraguay; Portuguese: Guerra do Paraguai), also known as the War of the Triple Alliance (Spanish: Guerra de la Triple Alianza; Portuguese: Guerra da Tríplice Aliança), and in Paraguay as the “Great War” (Spanish: Guerra Grande, Guarani: Ñorairõ Guazú), was an international military conflict in South America fought from 1864 to 1870 between Paraguay and the Triple Alliance of Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay. It caused approximately 390,000 deaths, the highest rate of fatalities related to the number of combatants of any war in modern history. It particularly devastated Paraguay, which suffered catastrophic losses in population and was forced to cede territory to Argentina and Brazil. Source

About Marques Travae 3747 Articles
Marques Travae. For more on the creator and editor of BLACK WOMEN OF BRAZIL, see the interview here.

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