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Brazil Tours

Iguape

iguape
Ecotravel & Tours / Brazil – Colonial Iguape (São Paulo State) is located about 200 km south of the capital, close to the mouth of the Ribeira de Iguape river. It is one of the main entrances to Juréia - Itatins and the Lagamar - Complex (Lower Ribeira Valley).

Because of its location, close to the limits defined by the Treaty of Tordesillas, the Iguape region was the stage for constant disputes among Portuguese, Spanish and also French pirates who landed there in order to refill their vessels or to commercialize their products. There are some indications that the foundation of Iguape was attributed to Rui Garcia de Mosquera, a Spanish refugee who achieved to establish a good relationship with the local Indians (Tupiniquins).

Another unproved history tells that in 1498 a Spanish group would have landed in the region giving the name Iguape to a tiny village, in reference to a name the local Indians gave to a common plant in the region. Some years later, a French pirate vessel would have attacked Iguape and fire to the village, destroying all official documentations. It is unknown if those facts really happened but there is no doubt that the first years of Iguape's history were strongly influenced by the presence of the Spanish.

With the discovery of gold end of the 16th century at Serra de Paranapiacaba, Iguape was increasingly visited by adventurers searching for gold along the rivers. In 1635, there existed already the so-called "Casa da Oficina Real", the first money producing institution in Brazil and today Iguape's local museum. The news of the discovery of gold at Serra da Paranapiacaba, in the interior of Vale do Ribeira, intensified the navigation at the Ribeira do Iguape river resulting in the formation of new villages such as Registro, Eldorado Paulista, Iporanga, Jacupiranga and Sete Barras.

Around 1780, the gold cycle had come to an end and many families left the region. Nevertheless, since the beginning of the 18th century the fertile grounds of the Ribeira valley were converted into large rice plantations. The rice, which had an excellent quality, was intensively commercialized in Iguape and from there exported to Europe.

From 1820 to 1900, Iguape experienced a period of large prosperity reaching its economic peak. Five rice factories were working day and night, filling in average 10 large vessels per week. Banks were financing the business, six newspapers circulated in the city, the population was accustomed to attend shows from Europe and France maintained a permanent consulate in the city.

At that time, Iguape was as important as Rio de Janeiro or Salvador. Consequently the city had no difficulties to obtain the necessary resources for the construction of one of the biggest and most polemic hydraulic installations on the Brazilian coast: The "Valo Grande" channel.

Aside from rice, also other products from the Ribeira valley were transported by boat until a fluvial port at the shore of the Ribeira river close to Iguape and from there, via a terrestrial connection, until the marine harbor where they were loaded into big ships. With the intuition to facilitate and to cheapen the transport, Iguape solicited permission to king D. Pedro II in order to open a 4 km long and 2 km wide channel, connecting the fluvial port in the west with the marine port in the east. The request was approved by D. Pedro and after hard work the construction was concluded in 1855.

The construction, which had the idea to improve Iguape's economic conditions did not consider the fact that the voluminous waters of the river, now having figured out a shorter connection to the sea, were flooding away the sandy banks of the river, invading the areas close to the river and threatening the whole region because of inundations.

With the natural destruction of the port, business turned unviable resulting in a quick economic decadence of the region. Most people had to leave Iguape and those who decided to stay experienced serious difficulties to survive with the fishing of fish and shrimp, significantly reduced in the coastal waters due to the large quantity of sweet water.

Due to the Japonese immigration, the village of Registro became the regions economical centre during the 20th century. Banana plantations started to substitute rice fields along the Ribeira de Iguape river and tee plantations were introduced along the slopes of the hills. Until today, these remained the main economic activities of the region – Rainforest Tours / Brazil.

See also: São Paulo - Curitiba (guided tour)
                 São Paulo - Curitiba (trail maps)