22 November 2017:
Paraty, Brazil:
Reflections of Gold and Diamonds

By Corey Sandler

Paraty,  our second port of call in Brazil, is about 240 miles east of Rio de Janeiro .

Yes, east.

We are nearing the shoulder of Brazil where it extends out from the South American continent.

Without studying the globe, it is easy to overlook the fact that easternmost Brazil is much farther east than anywhere in North America.

Brazil’s furthest east point, near Recife, it is at about the same longitude on the globe as the center of Greenland. Eastern Brazil is a full hour ahead or later than New York or Florida.

Paraty is a well-preserved Portuguese Colonial and Brazilian Imperial town, with a population of about 36,000.

This place reminds us more than a little of our home island of Nantucket, thousands of miles above us in the North Atlantic. Nantucket, like Paraty, was once a place of immense wealth. And both places came to a shuddering halt about the same time, in the mid-19th century, when their core economies collapsed. Both places went into a near-abandonment and both places have had the wisdom not to allow urban renewal in the modern age.

Paraty is essentially an unchanged Portuguese Colonial port town of the 17th and 18th centuries.

Here is some of what we saw today, on a hot and drizzly day. I found reflections everywhere I looked.

All photos by Corey Sandler. All rights reserved, 2017.

Paraty is located on what the tourism folk would have you call the Costa Verde (the Green Coast), a lush, green corridor that runs along the coastline of the state of Rio de Janeiro.

The town is located on the Bay of Ilha Grande, which is dotted with many tropical islands.

Rising as high as 1,300 meters or 4,300 feet above sea level behind the town are tropical forests, mountains, and waterfalls.

More than 80 percent of Paraty’s territory is protected by conservation strictures of one sort or another, with about two-thirds of the town itself within Serra da Bocaina National Park.

In 1696, extremely rich gold mines were found in the mountains of Minas Gerais, inland.

Paraty became an export port for gold to Rio de Janeiro and from there on to Portugal.

The ensuing gold rush led to the construction of the “Caminho do Ouro” or “Gold Trail”, a 1200-kilometer or 750-mile road, paved in steep areas with large stones, which connected Paraty to Diamantina, a diamond mining center that connected onward to the gold mines.

The Gold Trail was used to transport not only the precious metal to Paraty, but also to convey supplies, miners, and African slaves by mule train over the mountains.

The Gold Trail fell into disuse because of attacks on ships carrying gold to Rio de Janeiro by pirates who frequented the islands and coves of the Bay of Angra dos Reis.

Eventually a safer overland route from Minas Gerais to Rio de Janeiro was created.

And then the gold itself began to run out in the late 18th century, and Paraty declined.

Two substantial sections of the original Gold Trail have been excavated near Paraty and are now a popular tourist destination for hiking.

All photos and text Copyright 2017 by Corey Sandler, all rights reserved.


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