By Chesney Hearst, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Passados Presentes – Memória da Escravidão no Brasil (Past Gifts – The Memory of Slavery in Brazil), a new, free mobile phone application routes landmarks in Rio de Janeiro helping visitors to tour and learn more about the arrival of African slaves to the city, their lives, deaths, descendants, and their cultural legacies.
Highlighting sites in the city’s historic Centro (Downtown) and Port Zone area of Pequena África (Little Africa), the Passados Presentes route features a total of eighteen sites.
The route begins at Mercado de Escravos da Prainha, a site known for the sale of slaves during the colonial period. The next location on the tour is the Cais do Valongo, the arrival point of many slaves to the city and the country. Certain estimates has shown that over half a million Africans landed in the country at that port.
Additionally,on the tour is the Cemitério dos Pretos Novos (Cemetery of New Blacks), where over 50,000 Africans, who died as part of the slave trade, were buried.
Also included on the tour is the area of Pedra do Sal (Rock of Salt). Originally an area where slaves unloaded salt, the region is known as the birthplace of samba in Rio de Janeiro as it became a place where musicians and locals would meet, sing, and dance. The first rodas de sambas (samba circles) took place there and the earliest Carnival blocos and parades were formed in the region. The tradition is carried on today, with lively weekly rodas de sambas on the rock.
The tour ends at the Centro Cultural José Bonifácio (José Bonifácio Cultural Center). The first public high school in Latin American, the center was officially opened in 1877 by Dom Pedro II in an effort to educate the low-income inhabitants of the Port Zone. Closed in 1977, it was converted to the Gamboa Municipal Community Library and has become a center for Afro-Brazilian culture.
Rane Souza, director at RS Language Services, is from Minas Gerais but has lived in Rio for years, for her programs like this are essential for Rio and Brazil. “It’s important that Brazilian blacks are aware not only of the wrongs of the slavery past in Brazil but also of the beautiful African heritage our ancestors brought from Africa. Celebration of black history in Brazil is a powerful tool so that Brazilian blacks see themselves in a positive light and learn to embrace blackness.”
To download the Passados Presentes application for Android and for more information, see the Passados Presentes website.