Paraty is a city in Brazil, which takes us to the Colonial Period with its fortresses, streets, large houses and culture. Its history is marked by groundbreaking events, such as the sugarcane, gold and coffee eras. From now on, you are our special guest to recall this journey which made Paraty become a national and historical heritage.
Before Brazil was discovered, the land where today Paraty is located was occupied by native Brazilians called Guaianás, who built a trail connecting the coast of Brazil to the countryside. This trail had attracted settlers from Capitania de São Vicente, who, during the 16th century, started populating Paraty, on a hill near the mouth of the Perequê-Açu River. By the time they settled on the hill, the first buildings were built in Paraty, including the chapel of São Roque, patron of the population of that time. In 1646, the townspeople moved to a plain and bigger place, between the Perequê-Açu River and the Patitiba River, where its Old Town was developed and originated.
This new place was donated by Dona Maria Jácome de Melo, under two conditions: the first one was to build a chapel under the invocation of Our Lady of Remedies, who she was devoted to, and the other one was to not disturb the native Brazilians who lived here.
From then on the hill of the center of São Roque started being called as Morro da Vila Velha.
With the fast population growth and development, many rebellions happened with the purpose of becoming independent of Vila de Nossa Senhora da Ilha Grande, where today is Angra dos Reis. In an act of rebellion, under Captain Domingos Gonçalves de Abreu’s leading, people had demanded Captain Mor, from Capitania de São Vicente, to raise the population status to village – in Portuguese “vila”. So, on February 28th 1667, the King of Portugal, Afonso VI, gave recognition to the cause, and by a royal charter, he conceded it the title of Vila de Nossa Senhora dos Remédios de Paraty.
The Gold Era
The trail made by the Guaianás was the only way to get to the gold mines in Minas Gerais, and as a result to that, Paraty stood out quickly, attracting many Portuguese and other foreigners. In 1660, the first stretch of the Royal Road (Estrada Real), known as the Gold Trail (Caminho do Ouro), was built. It connected Paraty to Ouro Preto, and it had been the main gold trail and source of enrichment of Portugal for a long time. This trail was 1.200 km long and it would take people nearly 95 days to cover it. As time passed by, it received continuous improvements to make it easier to go through. A port of export was installed in Paraty to take gold to Portugal.
Even though it had infrastructure covering the entire way, in addition to the excellent fortress placed there, the Portuguese settlers were afraid of being attacked by pirates while crossing the way which connected Paraty to Rio. So, in 1707, a new road was built connecting Rio de Janeiro directly to Vila Rica (how Ouro Preto was called), disabling the one by Paraty. Consequently, the time taken to cross the gold trail was reduced to only 30 days. Therefore, Paraty had its first crisis.
In the seventeenth century, with the sugar cane cultivation, Paraty became famous for its handcraft production of cachaça. In 1863, there were 12 sugar cane mills and 150 alambics in Paraty.
Its seaport continued being important until the end of the nineteenth century, serving almost as a mandatory stop for those who came from Europe. European opera companies would come to the theater in Paraty, which had also received the national actor João Caetano.
The Coffee Era
In the eighteenth and the nineteenth centuries, Paraty played an important role in the distribution of coffee produced in Vale do Paraíba taken to Europe. The old way which before had been used for transporting gold during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries,, would give place to the coffee transportation. Therefore, in 1844, by order of D. Pedro II, Paraty became a town.
However, a new crisis would soon take place. The arrival of the railroad in Barra do Piraí, in 1864, and in Guaratingueta in 1877 made the old way be abandoned again, and coffee started being distributed from other ports of that time. Furthermore, with the abolishment of slavery and the exodus of rural workers, there was an economy colapse and Paraty was left out of the trade route, coming to a decadence which lasted for almost 100 years. Many of those who lived there left the city as well and migrated to other nearby cities in search of a more prosperous life.
The Tourism Era
Only in the mid-twentieth century, Paraty continued developing because of its tourism, which has become the main source of income and base of the local economy. With the reopening of the Paraty-Cunha Road in 1954, which connected it to the State of São Paulo, and the opening of BR-101 in the 1970s, which connects Rio de Janeiro to Santos, the city was rediscovered and turned into a tourist attraction center. In 1958, the historical set of Paraty was listed by IPHAN – National Institute of Historic and Artistic Heritage (Instituto do Patrimônio Histórico e Artístico Nacional). Today the city has primarily focused on Cultural Tourism, furthermore, many events take place there each year, and it became one of the main tourist centers of Brazil. Paraty doesn’t stand out only for its rich culture, but for its natural resources and its excellent cuisine and night life. Come discover the enchanting city of Paraty.