1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Pará (city)

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

PARÁ (officially Belem; sometimes Belem do Pará), a city and port of Brazil, capital of the state of Pará, and the see of a bishop, on a point of land formed by the entrance of the Guamá river into the Para (86 m. from the Atlantic), in 1° 28' S., 48° 28' W. Pop. of the city and rural districts of the municipality (1890), 50,064; (1900, estimate), 100,000. There is a large Portuguese contingent in the population, and the foreign element, engaged in trade and transportation, is also important. The Indian admixture is strongly apparent in the Amazon valley and is noticeable in Pará. A small railway, built by the state, runs north-eastward in the direction of Braganga (112 m.), on the sea-coast. The Guamá river is enlarged at its mouth to form an estuary called the bay of Guajara, partially shut off from the Pará by several islands and forming the anchorage of the port, and the Pará is the estuary mouth of the Tocantins river. The Pará is about 20 m. wide here.

The city is built on an alluvial forested plain only a few feet above the level of the river, and its streets usually end at the margin of the impenetrable forest. The climate is hot and humid, but the temperature and diurnal changes are remarkably uniform throughout the year. The annual rainfall, according to Professor M. F. Draenert, is 70 in. (Reclus says 120 in.), of which 56 in. are credited to the rainy season (January to June). H. W. Bates gives the average temperature at 81° F., the minimum at 73°, and the maximum (2 p.m.) at 89° to 94°. These favourable climatic conditions tend to make the city healthy, but through defective drainage, insanitary habits and surroundings, and improper diet the death-rate is high. The plan of the city is regular and, owing to the density of the forest, it has no outlying suburbs. The streets are usually narrow, straight and well paved. Among the many public squares and gardens the largest are the Prafa Caetano Brandão, with a statue of the bishop of that name; the Praça da Independencia, surrounded by government buildings and having an elaborate monument to General Gurjão; the Praça Visconde do Rio Branço, with a statue of José da Gama Melchior; the Praça de Baptista Campos, with artificial cascades, lake, island and winding paths; the Praça da Republica, with a monument representing the Republic; and the Praça de Prudente Moraes, named in honour of the first civilian president of Brazil. Another public outdoor resort is the Bosque, a tract of forest on the outskirts of the city. The public buildings and institutions are in great part relics of an older régime. The great cruciform cathedral, on the Praça Caetano Brandão, dates from the middle of the 18th century. In the vicinity, facing on the Praça da Independencia, are the government and municipal palaces—built by order of Pombal (c. 1766), when Portugal contemplated the creation of a great empire on the Amazon. The bishop’s palace and episcopal seminary, near the cathedral, were once the Jesuits’ college, and the custom-house on the water-front was once the convent and church of the Mercenarios. One of the most notable buildings of the city is the Theatro da Paz (Peace Theatre), which faces upon the Praça da Republica and was built by the government during the second empire. Other noteworthy buildings are the Caridade hospital, the Misericordia hospital (known as the “Santa Casa”), the military barracks occupyinganother old convent, and the Castello fort, a relic of colonial days. Pará has a number of schools and colleges, public and private, of secondary grade, such as the Atenco Paranense, Institute Lauro Sodré and Lyceu Benjamin Constant. There is an exceptionally fine museum (Museu Goeldi), with important collections in anthropology, ethnology, zoology and botany, drawn from the Amazon valley. The private dwellings are chiefly of the Portuguese one-storey type, with red tile roofs and thick walls of broken stone and mortar, generally plastered outside but sometimes covered with blue and white Lisbon tiles.

Pará is the entrepôt for the Amazon valley and the principal commercial city of northern Brazil. It is the headquarters of the Amazon Navigation Company, which owns a fleet of 40 river steamers, of 500 to 900 tons, and sends them up the Amazon to the Peruvian frontier, and up all the large tributaries where trading settlements have been established. Two or three coastwise companies also make regular calls at this port, and several transatlantic lines afford regular communication with Lisbon, Liverpool, Hamburg and New York. The port is accessible to large steamers, but those of light draft only can lie alongside the quays, the larger being obliged to anchor some distance out. Extensive port improvements have been undertaken. The exports of Pará include rubber, cacao, Brazil nuts and a large number of minor products, such as isinglass, palm fibre, fine woods, tonka beans, deerskins, balsam copaiba, annatto, and other forest products.

Pará was founded in 1615 by Francisco Caldeira de Castello-Branco, who commanded a small expedition from Maranhão sent thither to secure possession of the country for Portugal and drive out the Dutch and English traders. The settlement, which he named Nossa Senhora de Belem (Our Lady of Bethlehem), grew to be one of the most turbulent and ungovernable towns of Brazil. Rivalry with Maranhão, the capital of the Amazon dependencies, slave-hunting, and bitter controversies with the Jesuits who sought to protect the Indians from this traffic, combined to cause agitation. In 1641 it had a population of only 400, but it had four monasteries and was already largely interested in the Indian slave traffic. In 1652 the Pará territory was made a separate capitania, with the town of Pará as the capital, but it was reannexed to Maranhão in 1654. The final separation occurred in 1772, and Pará again became the capital, continuing as such through all the political changes that have since occurred. The bishopric of Pará dates from 1723. The popular movement in Portugal in 1820 in favour of a constitution and parliament (Cortes) had its echo in Pará, where in 1821 the populace and garrison joined in creating a government of their own and in sending a deputation to Lisbon. The declaration of Brazilian independence of 1822 and creation of an empire under Dom Pedro I. was not accepted by Pará, partly because of its influential Portuguese population, and partly through jealousy of Rio de Janeiro as the centre of political power. In 1823 a naval expedition under Lord Cochrane, then in the service of Brazil, took possession of Maranhão, from which place the small brig “Dom Miguel” under the command of Captain John Grenfell was sent to Pará. This officer conveyed the impression that the whole fleet was behind him, and on the 15th of August the junta governativa organized in the preceding year surrendered its authority and Pará became part of the newly created Brazilian empire. An uprising against the new government soon occurred, which resulted in the arrest of the insurgents, the execution of their leaders, and the incarceration of 253 prisoners in the hold of a small vessel, where all but four died from suffocation before morning. Conspiracies and revolts followed, and in 1835 an outbreak of the worse elements, made up chiefly of Indians and half-breeds, occurred, known as the “Revolução da Cabanagem,” which was chiefly directed against the Portuguese, and then against the Freemasons. All whites were compelled to leave the city and take refuge on neighbouring islands. The Indians and half-breeds obtained the mastery, under the leadership of Antonio and Francisco Vinagres and Eduardo Angelim, and plunged the city and neighbouring towns into a state of anarchy, the population being reduced from 25,000 to 15,000. The revolt was overcome in 1836, but the city did not recover from its effects until 1848. But the opening of the Amazon to foreign trade in 1867 greatly increased the importance of the city, and its growth has gone forward steadily since that event.  (A. J. L.)