Brazilian port where slaves arrived close to UNESCO status

Source:AFP Published: 2017/7/2 15:58:39

The worn paving stones discovered under a thick layer of modern concrete in Rio de Janeiro don't look like much at first. But it was here that some million slaves from Africa took their first steps in Brazil.

"It's a unique memorial, containing the last remaining vestiges of the slaves' arrival," said anthropologist Milton Guran.

Next week, the UN cultural body UNESCO will consider whether to award what's known as Valongo Wharf world heritage status.

For Valongo, the honor would make it a twin with Ile de Goree, a small island in Dakar harbor that was chosen in 1978 as the emblem of the departure points for slaves from West Africa.

Now on the other side of the Atlantic from Senegal, across the grim route known as the "middle passage," the stones of Valongo Wharf commemorate the slaves' arrival.

Today the Valongo site is not on the water, but well inland, following expansion of the original city. The remains were only discovered by accident in 2011 during massive works to refurbish the port area for the 2016 Olympics.

Valongo Wharf, which was active between the end of the 18th century and the mid-19th century, can now help to shed light on that buried history.

"We knew that the Valongo Wharf was in the area, but we were surprised to find it so well preserved, even after it had been underground for so long," said archeologist Tania Andrade Lima.

Fragments of a mid-19th century refurbishment can still be seen at the wharf when it was made to look more palatable for the arrival of Princess Teresa Cristina Maria de Bourbon, who had come to marry Emperor Pedro II.

Guran sees a far reaching consequence to the UNESCO label, "It will oblige Brazil to recognize its African roots" and will also encourage educational tourism.


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