Route of the Engenhos and Maracatus in Pernambuco

Rota dos Engenhos em Pernambuco
Rota dos Engenhos e Maracatus em Pernambuco

One of the ways adopted by the Secretary of Tourism of Pernambuco to leverage tourism in the State is the creation of Routes, paths that can be traveled by tourists connecting cities and places with common characteristics.

The newest of these routes (which already reaches twelve) is the Route of the Mills and Maracatus in Pernambuco, which proposes to take visitors on a tour of the rural region of the Zona da Mata Norte of the State, a region taken by, guess what: mills and maracatus; the route covers the municipalities of Paudalho, Carpina, Tracunhaém, Nazaré da Mata, Vicência, Lagoa do Carro and Itambé.

Traveling through the Route of the Mills and Maracatus in the Zona da Mata of Pernambuco is to return to the origins of the State and come across the charm of tradition.

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In the old mills, the big house and the slave quarters are now home to charming inns. Chapels, centuries-old churches, horseback riding, running water baths. Among sacred pieces and antique furniture, the delight of country life.

As is well known, sugar is a protagonist of the History of Pernambuco; and the labor that moved the mills was black; and one of the main cultural manifestations of the black of Pernambuco was the maracatu, an event in which the kings of the community were crowned.

It is no surprise, therefore, that sugar mills and maracatus are so intertwined; nor is it surprising that they have become elements of an important tourist route in Pernambuco.

Although sugar cultivation extended along the entire coast of the state, it was in the cities of the Zona da Mata Norte (the stretch near the coast between the capital Recife and the border with Paraíba) that maracatu groups became more popular, so it is in this region that the Rota dos Engenhos e Maracatus is traveled.

A sign at the entrance of the town informs that, Vicência, 90 km from Recife, calls itself “the land of the mills”.

After a clay road, through sugarcane fields, you arrive at Engenho Jundiá; there, the heir of the property, João Antônio Correia de Oliveira Andrade, makes a point of taking visitors on a tour that is well worth a history lesson, told by those who lived it: he witnessed the mill grinding sugarcane until he was 18, when the mill closed its activities.

With the support of his wife, João tries to preserve the entire property, but says it is neither easy nor cheap; it is a matter of reverence for the family memory and attachment to its past.

Maracatu Rural is a cultural manifestation of Pernambuco folk music featuring the well-known caboclos de lança.

It is also known as Maracatu de Baque Solto. It is distinguished from Maracatu Nação or Maracatu de Baque Virado, in organization, characters and rhythm.

The Rural Maracatu means to its members something more than a game: it is a secular heritage, a source of great pride and admiration.

It is made up of simple people, mainly rural workers who, with the same hands that cut sugarcane, plow the land and carry weight, also embroider caboclo collars, cut costumes, decorate guiadas, relhos and hats; dedicating themselves to the most valuable asset they have: culture.

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Right at the entrance to the big house, two relics are framed and hung on the wall: they are indulgences granted by the Capuchin friars at the beginning of the 20th century. The furniture in the living room, made in 1888, dates from the 19th century. Throughout the space, there are paintings depicting the heir’s family tree.

In the mill, where the sugar cane was ground, there is a mini-museum with objects used at the time. All this can be visited, being necessary to arrange in advance.

Mapa rota dos engenhos e maracatus em Pernambuco
Map of mills and maracatus in Pernambuco

Still in Vicência, it is worth going to the Poço Comprido Mill, listed as an architectural museum by the National Historical and Artistic Heritage Institute almost fifty years ago – and recently a candidate for one of the 7 wonders of Pernambuco.

The mill is now owned by a local mill (Usina Laranjeiras), and is managed on loan by the Association of Sons and Friends of Vicência (Afav).

There, in a cultural center, the community makes bags, sandals and wallets made from banana straw; they also produce necklaces with seeds harvested in the forest. Visiting costs R$ 4, and prior booking is also required.

It was in Poço Comprido where Frei Caneca gathered some followers for the uprising of the Confederation of Ecuador. The big house resembles a chalet and is combined with the chapel (it is the only remaining mill that preserves this junction); the house has a style of construction called nortenha, characteristic of northern Portugal, which combines wood with masonry.

The chapel has baroque images and a pulpit similar to those of some old churches in Recife and Olinda; there is also a cemetery where family members were buried.

This ensemble was restored in 2002 and houses a museum on engenho, ideal for educational tourism.

In Nazaré da Mata, Engenho Santa Fé, built in 1942, has become a pousada engenho.

Tourists can stay in the big house or in lodgings, and the place has everything that is common in rural tourism (regional breakfast, horseback riding, etc.). Daily rates between R$ 60 and R$ 80 (Saturday to Sunday), with breakfast included and meals on the side in the restaurant.

Eight kilometers from Nazaré, Engenho Cueirinha is an even more rural option. The owner Nara Maranhão makes a point of welcoming visitors and integrating them into the countryside routine; she offers horseback riding and carriage rides, forest trails, bathing in spouts, fishing in a pond, cow milking.

The big house is from 1933, with a large veranda, antique furniture and a decoration signed by Dom Pedro II.

Guests can stay in one of the house’s rooms or in one of the chalets located in the middle of a mountain range.

Accommodation costs R$ 130 per person, with full board, including a table with various sweets, at the visitor’s leisure.

Coming to Nazaré, you can’t miss the maracatu; Nazaré da Mata is the land of the maracatu de baque solto, or rural maracatu. At the entrance to the city you can see sculptures of caboclos, representing the 20 maracatus groups that exist in Nazaré, which also houses the Mauro Mota Cultural Center, with exhibitions and products from maracatu groups.

Five kilometers from Nazaré da Mata is Engenho Cumbe, home of Maracatu Cambinda Brasileira.

Founded in 1918, Cambinda is 91 years old and is the oldest in Pernambuco; currently, it has 180 members and, through resources from the Historical and Artistic Heritage Foundation of Pernambuco (Fundarpe), has taught maracatu collar embroidery workshops in the community itself.

More information:
Engenho Jundiá: (81) 9982-6111
Engenho Poço Comprido: (81) 9916-9612
Santa Fé Mill: (81) 3633-1254
Engenho Cueirinha: (81) 9948-1586

Tour and travel guide on the sugar mills of Pernambuco in the northern mata zone

Route of the Sugar Mills and Maracatus in Pernambuco

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