Recife, Brazil » City Info » History

The Portuguese settled in Recife around 1534 and ruled it. Initially, the Portuguese were in a terrible state financially. To reduce the uncertainty of their settlements and be assured of their possession of the port, they divided the port into strips, which they called captaincies. These strips were handed over to Portuguese people in business to develop their colonies with their finances.

Most captaincies failed, excluding the Captaincy of Pernambuco, which Duarte Coelho Pereira ruled. He founded the villages of Olinda and Igaracu near Recife.

The village of Pernambuco flourished under the rule of Duarte Coelho Pereira because of its sugar industry. Sugar, exported from Brazil, was a valued food product in Europe, as Beet sugar was only produced here. During the 16th century, Recife was just a small village from where supplies were exported to different regions and countries.

Initially, Duarte Coelho Pereira tried to steer the native people to cultivate the sugarcane, but he realised that they could not adapt to the work. So he was left with no option but to import slaves from Africa, India, and later from the Netherlands. So today, one can see a lot of mixture of African-Indian-Brazilian-Dutch customs in Recife, making it the most culturally diverse city in Brazil.

In the early 15th century, the Portuguese and the Dutch had good relations. Still, later when Spain invaded Portugal, they prohibited the Dutch from entering Brazil, as they were the leading sugar distributors in Europe. It resulted in the Dutch attacking many sugar-producing cities in Brazil, one of them being Recife.

Riots spread in Recife during the 18th century, wherein farmers of Olinda and traders of Recife fought in the War of Mascates. Recife won the war. During the 19th century, Recife became a major commercial centre where people from other states came to sell their goods. When the Brazilian government formed SUDENE in the 1950s, the Recife industrial sector was boosted with advancements in textile, chemical, food and drink, and minerals processing divisions.

In recent decades, the State of Pernambuco has maintained its position of leader in the north-eastern region of Brazil. Today Recife is a major industrial and commercial city. In present times, Recife is known for its colonial buildings, which have their roots in different colonisation’s. The surrounding town of Olinda was declared World Heritage by UNESCO in 1982, leading to increased tourism in the state.