African-Brazilian heritage site awarded preservation grant

TV Jurerê
04:00:PM - 14/Aug/2017
African-Brazilian heritage site awarded preservation grant
Fernando Frazão/Agência Brasil

Rio de Janeiro - Cais do Valongo, the main port for slaves landing in America, now recognized as a heritage site by UNESCO

14/08/2017 | 4PM

The Pretos Novos heritage institute, which houses the Pretos Novos cemetery, a black African heritage site in the port area of Rio de Janeiro, has won an African Brazilian culture award sponsored by Petrobras in a special category for cultural asset preservation. Presented two weeks ago at a ceremony at Petrobras Rival theater, the award includes a $32,000 grant to be used for the conservation of its property, an invaluable asset that has been severely underfunded.

Between 1772 and 1830, the Pretos Novos cemetery (“Pretos Novos” is Portuguese for “new blacks”) was the burial place of enslaved black Africans who, after extenuating voyages on slave ships, died within the first days of their arrival in Brazil.

Between 20,000 and 30,000 slaves are estimated to have been buried there. In 1996, Merced and Petruccio Guimarães, the new owners of the mansion that now houses the institute, decided to renovate the property. During excavations, they found the bones of black people buried there in the past, when the place was part of a large slave market in Rio's port area.

More than 5,000 archaeological fragments were found there. Twenty-eight bodies were identified among uncremated bones, mostly of men aged between 18 and 25 years. Spearheads, rings, necklaces, glass beads, clay artefacts, earthenware, and shells are part of the collection.

In addition to providing a location for archaeological studies and research, the Pretos Novos institute, founded and run by Merced Guimarães, serves as an information center for culture and arts, with an art gallery and a library.

Until last year it was partly funded by a $27,000 annual contribution from Rio's local government through the port area urban development company (CDURP).

However, at a meeting with local culture representatives on June 28, 2017, the Rio city government announced it could no longer afford to honor payments earmarked to fund tens of projects awarded in a program launched in 2016.

Font: Agência Brasil