History of Pernambuco and Recife is marked by conflicts

Historical cartographic map of the city of Recife from 1665
Historical cartographic map of the city of Recife from 1665

Pernambuco and its capital Recife, have a turbulent history.

Recife's history began in 1537: the king of Portugal divided the great colony into strips of land. 

the lands, called Hereditary Captaincies, were donated to wealthy entrepreneurs so that they could prosper in the name of the Crown.

However, by dividing the lands, the king also divided the huge investments needed to do a country as vast as something manageable and, above all, profitable. 

Few Hereditary captaincies lastedbut Duarte Coelho managed to be successful in Pernambuco having Olstill as its capital.

The strongest consumer culture in Pernambuco was the sugar cane.

In 1630, Holland conquered the area and made a great mark in the history of northeastern Brazil.

hereditary captaincies
hereditary captaincies

They ruled over a large area that ran roughly from Sao Luis do Maranhao to Salvador, in Bahia. Under the inspiring government of John Maurice of Nassau, Recife's urban planning was carried out by designing a street plan and building bridges, bringing in prominent architects.

When John Maurice had to leave Recife, then there was turmoil: a small army of Portuguese soldiers and local rebels took the place expelling the Dutch completely from northeastern Brazil.

A History of Pernambuco and Recife is marked by conflicts between indigenous and Portuguese, dutch domination and even an attempt at independence.

Discover the history of Pernambuco and Recife, one of the oldest states in Brazil.

History of Recife PE

History of Pernambuco and Recife

Indigenous people in Pernambuco

The territory in what is now the state of Pernambuco was inhabited by several indigenous tribes such as Caetés, Cariris and Tabajaras, among other ethnic groups.

Each had its own language and customs and were often enemies with each other. This fact was important to the Europeans, as they made alliances with different indigenous peoples in order to conquer the territory.

Colonization of Pernambuco

Through the Hereditary Captaincy system, Duarte Coelho took possession of the Captaincy of Pernambuco, initially called Captaincy Nova Lusitânia.

In 1535 the town of Olinda was founded and in 1537 it became a town.

Likewise, in 1537, the city of Recife was founded.

Not all Hereditary Captaincies were successful, but thanks to the cultivation of sugar cane, the Captaincy of Pernambuco prospered.

At first, the Portuguese used indigenous slave labor in the sugarcane plantation.

However, the planters began to use black enslaved people on the plantations, due to the lucrative slave trade with the Portuguese colonies in Africa.

Territory of the Captaincy of Pernambuco

A Captaincy of Pernambuco it comprised a much larger territory than the present one. It incorporated what we now call the states of Paraíba, Rio Grande do Norte, Alagoas, Ceará and part of Bahia.

Map of the Captaincy of Pernambuco
Map of the Captaincy of Pernambuco

Reef withdrawal in 1595

By the end of the 16th century, the Captaincy of Pernambuco had become one of the richest in the colony. This fact attracted the attention of English, Dutch and French who organized expeditions to take the then capital, Olinda.

It is important to remember that, at this time, Portugal was united with Spain, in the period known as the Iberian Union.

In turn, Spain was at war with England and Holland.

Thus, it was as much to invade Olinda as Seville. The English, allied with the Dutch, took Recife in 1595 and took several valuable products such as sugar, wood and cotton.

O Saque do Recife, also known as the James Lancaster Expedition in 1595 and the Lancaster Pernambucana Expedition, refers to an English military expedition that took place in April 1595, during the Anglo-Spanish War, whose objective was to plunder the port of Recife, in the vicinity of Olinda, in Pernambuco, Brazil Colony, which at the time was part of the Iberian Union.

Led by English Admiral James Lancaster, it was the only English privateering expedition that had Brazil as its main objective, and represented the richest booty in the history of privateering in the Elizabethan period.

The expedition sailed across the Atlantic capturing numerous ships before reaching its destination, Pernambuco, Brazil's richest captaincy. Lancaster took the port of Recife and stayed there for nearly a month, defeating a series of Portuguese counterattacks before leaving.

The amount of sugar, redwood, cotton and looted high-priced goods was robust, forcing him to charter Dutch and French ships that were there to take the goods to England, making the expedition an absolute military and financial success.

From there, the Captaincy organized two companies for the defense of Recife and Olinda.

Dutch occupation (1630-1645)

The Dutch invasion begins in Bahia in 1624 and were expelled from the capital thanks to the action of a Portuguese-Spanish armada a year later.

Olinda, then the richest city in Colonia Brazil, was sacked and destroyed by the Dutch, who chose Recife as the capital of Nova Holanda. Nicolaes Visscher's map shows the siege of Olinda and Recife in 1630
Olinda, then the richest city in Colonia Brazil, was sacked and destroyed by the Dutch, who chose Recife as the capital of Nova Holanda. Nicolaes Visscher's map shows the siege of Olinda and Recife in 1630.

However, they returned to the charge to conquer a piece of the sugar trade by invading Recife and Olinda in 1630.

Despite fierce fighting – Olinda was set on fire – the Dutch settled in those lands until the outbreak of the Pernambucan Insurrection in 1645.

Map of Mauritius de Recife Pernambuco 1639
Map of Mauritius de Recife Pernambuco 1639

Peddler War

The Peddlers' War took place between 1710 and 1711 between planters concentrated in Olinda and Portuguese traders who lived in Recife.

Many historians point to this war as the first rebellion of a nativist nature in Brazil.

After all, the conflict placed on opposite sides the white elite already born in Brazil and the Portuguese who had just arrived from the metropolis.

Confederation of Cariris

The Confederation of Cariris or War of the Barbarians was a series of battles that took place between the years 1683 to 1713.

After the expulsion of the Dutch, the Portuguese colonizers continued to expand towards the northeastern hinterland. They sought to increase sugar and cotton crops, as well as pasture for cattle.

However, some indigenous tribes such as the Cariris, Crateús and Cariús united and started attacking the farms.

In order to defeat them, the northeastern owners had to bring pioneers from São Paulo to fight them. The Confederation of Cariris ended only in 1713 when the last pockets of resistance were exterminated in Ceará.

Pernambuco Revolution – 1817

In the first half of the 19th century, several territories on the American continent rebelled against European domination.

In this way, inspired by Enlightenment ideas and the independence of the United States, a group of insurgents plans the emancipation of the now province of Pernambuco.

At first, the participants were successful in setting up a provisional republican government, establishing freedom of worship and of the press.

They were harshly repressed by the troops sent by Dom João VI. As punishment, four participants were executed and the territory of Alagoas became an independent province.

Confederation of Ecuador – 1824

The Confederation of Ecuador was a separatist and republican revolt that took place in Pernambuco in 1824. It must be understood within the context of the First Reign, when Dom Pedro I was ruling.

The Emperor had called a Constituent Assembly to draft the Magna Carta of the new country. However, dissatisfied with the result, he decides to dissolve it and grants a Constitution with a centralizing tone.

The Confederation of Ecuador was severely repressed by the imperial troops attacking Recife and some of its leaders, such as Frei Caneca, were executed.

Beach Revolution – 1848

The Praieira Revolution was a movement of a liberal character. It defended the freedom of the press, the nationalization of the retail trade and the end of the Moderating Power.

The protests began at the headquarters of the newspaper Diário Novo, located on Rua da Praia, and its members were known as “praieiros”.

The combat started in Recife, but soon spread to the Zona da Mata in Pernambuco.

The rebellion would only end two years later with imperial intervention and several of its leaders were amnesty.

Veja Oldest churches in Pernambuco and the first church in Brazil

History of Pernambuco and Recife

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