Areia is home to the first mills in Paraíba and has a lot of history

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Areia PB
Areia PB

Nicknamed the “Princess of Brejo”, Areia prides itself on rarely exceeding 25 degrees in a Paraíba in full drought. In the winter, thermometers easily go below 10 degrees. 

In the Paraíba town of Areia, this experience is accompanied by visits to mills, visits to museums and the opportunity to embark on an authentic gastronomic expedition; between rural roadside restaurants and more sophisticated ones.

The city of Areia is a great place to visit.

The historical and urban complex is listed by the National Historical and Artistic Heritage Institute. The essence of the 18th and 19th centuries lends charm to the mansions, where it is customary for residents to leave a vase of flowers propped up in the window.

The historic and urban complex is listed by the National Historical and Artistic Heritage Institute.

To reach the municipality, just 130km from João Pessoa, you have to climb the Serra da Borborema.

If in summer the breeze helps to cope with the high temperatures, in winter, it is the visitors who defend themselves with trousers, boots and jackets.

Tourist Map of Paraíba
Tourist Map of Paraíba

The mountains are in the brejo of Paraíba. This is the explanation for such highland temperatures. The region’s coldest winter recorded 12°C.

The mountains are in the Paraíba wetlands.

Brejo, in this case, does not refer to swampy areas. The name of the region comes from “brejos de altitude”, as the high areas of the north-east are known where a wetter climate prevails.

Map of the cities of Brejo Paraíbano
Map of the cities of Brejo Paraíbano

‘Caminhos do Frio’ takes place in six mountain towns of Brejo Paraiba, which are Areia, Bananeiras, Serraria, Pilões, Alagoa Nova and Alagoa Grande.

In 1625, Areia was known as Sertão dos Bruxaxás, an allusion to the Bruxaxá tribe.

Later this village was elevated to the status of a town, with the name of Villa Real do Brejo de Areia.

Areia was the first city in Brazil to free slaves ten days before the golden law was made official on 3 May 1888.

The municipality is at an altitude of over 600 metres and has a pleasant climate all year round, being one of the coldest in Paraíba.

In winter, the temperature reaches 12 ºC. The city has a peculiar architectural ensemble, both urban and rural, formed by churches, museums, public buildings, farms and mills that manufacture rapadura, brown sugar and the famous cachaças.

Areia na Paraíba
Areia na Paraíba

Sugar kingdom

“Sugar has sweetened so many aspects of Brazilian life that national civilisation cannot be separated from it.” In few places in the Brazilian Northeast does the phrase by Pernambuco sociologist Gilberto Freyre make as much sense as in Brejo Paraiba.

In Areia alone, more than 100 mills were active between the mid-19th century and the late 1960s. Today, the few more than 20 that have survived maintain the tradition.

Areia is home to the first mills in Paraíba to use steam engines, such as Engenho Vaca Brava, opened in 1860 and considered the oldest in the region.

Aurélio Leal, its owner, specialises in telling stories of the time when farms were equipped with slave quarters and slaves milled sugar cane. Even today, the cachaça produced at Vaca Brava is stored in umburana and jequitibá barrels.

Tourist attractions of the city of Areia PB

Areia has a strong culture that comes from sons who left a memorable legacy to the history of the city and the country. The city is remembered as the land of the painter Pedro Américo, the writer José Américo de Almeida and Father Azevedo, inventor of the typewriter and so many other illustrious sons.

Known as the “Land of Culture”, it hosts the first theatre built in the state of Paraíba, the Minerva Theatre, built in the mid-19th century, and other historic buildings that make the regional culture emblematic.

1. Engenho da Cachaça Triunfo

Engenho Triunfo is an important historical monument of Paraíba and a walk through the history of sugar cane.

The mill, which was built in 1850, has several historic buildings, such as the big house, the chapel and the slave quarters. In addition, the mill offers guided tours and tastings of cachaça, one of the main products manufactured on site.

Cachaça Triunfo began in 1994, from the dreams of Antônio Augusto. Despite not being the son of any Senhor de Engenho or having the knowledge to make cachaça.

Triunfo Cachaça Factory in Areias PB

He sold the farm and bought a small mill and a still, those were the first steps. He bet on his dreams, faced the challenges, learnt about cachaça and today, Triunfo sells more than 250 thousand bottles per month and also exports. There are 69 direct jobs and more than 1000 indirect jobs.

During the visit, the tourist gets to know the whole process of the production of Triunfo cachaça, tastes the sugarcane juice, juices, cachaça ice cream and gets to know the brand’s product shop. The place also has a lake with pedal boats for children’s outings.

Address: Sítio Macaíba, S/N, Rural Area of Areia

2. Engenho Várzea do Coaty

It exists since 2008 and is located in the rural area of Areia, district of Santa Maria. A space with history and regionality.

The Casa Grande is from 1920 with English architecture and one of the first houses built with cement. Another peculiar feature is that the tourist equipment still has the caritó room, dedicated to virgin girls who did not marry at a young age and which gave rise to the expression “stayed for the caritó”, originating in the 16th century.

The tiled floor of the Casa Grande is original, as are the wide walls, characteristic of the buildings of the time. The visit is accompanied by a guide who tells the stories surrounding the family and the attraction.

Várzea do Coaty also houses a regional restaurant that offers forró pé-de-serra and different dishes, such as: Gratinado ao Sol da Várzea (sun-dried meat, white cream and banana grilled in the oven) developed for the Saberes e Sabores project.

The desserts are also natural with homemade sweets made from seasonal fruits and milk, produced from the animals on the property. The food consumed in the restaurant also comes from families in the region who work in family farming.

Address: District of Santa Maria, rural area of Areia

3. Pedro Américo House

The museum has existed since 1943. There, visitors can see the unique original work “Cristo Morto” (Dead Christ) from 1901 and the replicas of the painter and writer from Areia, Pedro Américo: “O grito do Ipiranga” (the original work is in the Ipiranga Museum in São Paulo) and “Batalha do Havaí” (the original work is in the Fine Arts Museum in Rio de Janeiro).

Casa Pedro Américo em Areias PB
Casa Pedro Américo em Areias PB

The Museum also houses the original sketches made by the artist as a child and teenager, as well as photos of Pedro Américo and his family members. The Museum is among the busiest attractions in Areia due to the historical weight it represents.

The site was the place where the writer was born in 1843 and was founded in commemoration of his centenary in 1943.

Pedro Américo followed the trends of Romanticism in Brazil, a period in which artists sought to valorise nationalism, portraying important historical facts contributing to the formation of a national identity.

Opening hours: from 8am to 6pm – every day with half and full visitation fee.

Address: Rua Pedro Américo, 66

4. Praça Ministro José Américo de Almeida

School and Square Ministro José Américo de Almeida in Areias PB

.Square built in 1980 in honour of the writer, politician and minister José Américo de Almeida, author of works such as: A bagaceira and responsible for bringing to Paraíba the First Institution of Higher Education in the state.

5. José Rufino de Almeida mansion

Built in 1818 by the Portuguese Francisco Jorge Torres, entering the mansion is a journey back in time.

The building was the first sobrado built in Vila Real de Areia and is recognised as the only urban senzala in Paraíba.

The building preserves the original structure of the walls and architecture, and even with the restoration, with replicas of the floor and some other spaces such as: balconies, the mansion does not lose its charm;

On the ground floor, there was the trade of various products, from silk to roll smoke. On the first floor lived the family of the Portuguese and in the back area of the house, is located the senzala with 12 cubicles measuring 2m40 x 2m40 each, which housed between 8 and 12 black men and women.

In the centre of the house was the pillory, where blacks were punished with torture to serve as an example to others. Under the roof of the mansion, you can see the formation of the eiras, beirairas and tribeiras.

This architecture represented to society the economic level of the family, the more eiras the family had, the richer it would be, hence the expression “so-and-so has no eira and no beira”.

Currently, the Casarão is the biggest point of visitation in the historical art of Areia.

The space honours the men and women who contributed to the economic, political, religious, social and cultural development of Paraíba.

The cubicles (6 units on the ground floor and another 6 on the 1st floor) today serve as libraries that house books that address the history of Paraíba and Brazil. Areia was the first city in Brazil to free the slaves ten days before the golden law was made official, on 3 May 1888.

Address: Praça Pedro Américo and Praça João Pessoa

Minerva Theatre in Areias PB
Minerva Theatre in Areias PB

Built by slave hands and with an architecture that reflects the golden age of the region, the Minerva Theatre is a must-visit on a tour of the city’s historical monuments. Inaugurated in 1859, all in Baroque style, the building draws attention for the richness of the wooden details, which make it an architectural relic.

Minerva Theatre in Areia PB built in 1859, in Baroque style

It is impossible not to be enchanted by the atmosphere that permeates the building and promotes a return to the time when great European companies performed on its stage to the satisfaction of the mill owners;

7. Mother Church of Nossa Senhora da Conceição.

Igreja Matriz de Nossa Senhora da Conceição in Areias PB
Igreja Matriz de Nossa Senhora da Conceição in Areias PB

The Mother Church of Nossa Senhora da Conceição, built with only one central tower, it is possible to go back a little further in the timeline and witness the original focus of the city that grew together with the exploitation of sugar cane.

On the site of the cathedral, there was originally just a straw house which, after successive renovations, has become a valuable representation of the colonial quality that makes Brejo a laboratory for students and lovers of architecture;

The ceiling of the Mother Church of Our Lady of the Conception of Areia PB
The ceiling of the Mother Church of Our Lady of the Conception of Areia PB

If you like baroque art, you can’t miss the Mother Church of Our Lady of the Conception in Areia, Paraíba, neighbouring Bananeiras.

Its ceiling is entirely painted, a true and legitimate reference of 19th-century Paraiba Baroque art. In addition to the sacred images and the floors of old tiles, which complement the atmosphere of art and culture.

8. Nossa Senhora do Rosário dos Pretos Church

Igreja do Rosário em Areia PB
Rosário Church in Areia PB

.Just as important as the parish church is the Nossa Senhora do Rosário dos Pretos Church, one of the oldest in the state, built by slaves and revealing its own style. From its windows, one can see an Areia of well-ornamented squares and rough stone streets.

Although there is no concrete data, it is known that the Rosário Church is one of the oldest in Paraíba.

Its construction began in the mid-18th century (18th) and was only completed in the 19th century (19th), in 1886, with the arrival of a sum of four contos de réis granted by the government of the province of Paraíba. The first religious festival was held in the Rosário Church in 1886.

In 1873, Father Antônio José Borges, authorised by Vicar Odilon Benvindo, set up the Brotherhood, which still exists today.

In 1952 the Brotherhood of the Rosary had its activities paralysed, having been restarted in 1989.

Slaves were responsible for the labour used in the construction and history of Areia.

9. Art Space

Espaço da Arte is an association that brings together the pieces of 10 artisans from the city of Areia who work with various materials, such as: fabric, ceramics, wood, threads (crochet and knitting) and offer very elaborate pieces such as kitchen sets, canvas paintings, as well as cachaças, rapaduras, honey and liqueurs produced in Areia.

Address: Rua Pedro Américo, S/N

History – Areia PB

In the process of settlement of the interior of Paraíba, Areia originated from a strategic point of stop and shelter of the tropeiros who came from the hinterland towards the coast for the commercialisation of their products.

From the end of the 17th century and the beginning of the 18th century, the town was initially called Sertão do Buxaxá (“land where the cicada sings”). Buxaxás were the Indians who originally inhabited the region.

Around this time, in the place where the town stands today, a Portuguese man built a hostel on the banks of the crossroads of roads frequented by travellers and muleteers who, coming from the high hinterland of Paraíba or Pernambuco, were heading for other towns in the region.

The settler was nicknamed Buxaxá because of his friendship with the natives. The movement through the place attracted inhabitants, forming there, in a short time, a prosperous settlement, which came to be called Brejo de Areia, due to the fact that the stream named Areia runs in the vicinity.

District created with the denomination of Brejo d`Areia, in 1813, subordinated to Vila de Monte-Mor. The municipality was dismembered from the town of Monte-Mor (now Mamanguape) in 1815, and the village was elevated to the category of town in 1815.

In 1846, it became a city and municipal seat under the name of Areia, which is also remembered for the participation of its inhabitants in important political movements of the 19th century.

The population joined the liberation movement of Pernambuco and participated in the revolutions Confederação do Equador (1817) and Revolução Praieira (1848). During the Confederation, the troops of Sergeant Major Félix Antônio Ferreira de Albuquerque left Areia (which was the temporary seat of the province) to fight the legal forces.

These men were joined by the remnants of Pais de Carvalho’s battalions and marched to Ceará, where they were annihilated. In February 1849, the last battle of the Prairie Revolution took place in Areia.

After the unsuccessful attack on Recife, the rebels invaded Paraíba and took refuge in Areia, where they received help from municipal judge Maximiano Lopes Machado and Colonel Joaquim dos Santos Leal.

They entrenched themselves in the city and sustained six hours of combat, which ended in flight and dispersal into the interior.

In the city, the abolitionist campaign was one of the most intense, with the Mocidade Emancipadora Areiense, led by Manuel da Silva, standing out. The Areienses freed the last slave on 3 May 1888, ten days before the proclamation of the Golden Law.  

Tourist Guide of Areias PB and Northeast

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