• Kelly Tavares

Little Africa, UFRRJ & Duke University

We were pleased to work and collaborate with Christine Folch, Stephanie Reist, and Prof. John French in an exchange program between the Rural Federal University of Rio de Janeiro and Duke University in North Carolina.

We took the exchange students from both universities on a Historic Tour in the Port area to visit the heart of Brasilian African heritage and the Olympic gentrifying legacy. We visited two archeologic sites where the largest African trade took place, and where the slave cemetery is located at the New Blacks Institute. The experience helped us to understand more about Brasilian culture from its roots and history.


  1. Learn about Brasilian African Diaspora

  2. The Tomorrow and Art Museums

  3. Visit the slave cemetery (archeological site)

  4. Appreciate Kobra’s greatest mural painting



Brasilian slavery traffic endured for 400 years, being the country with largest number of African descendants outside of Africa. The Little Africa Tour is promoted as an opportunity for visitors to learn more about the arrival of enslaved Africans to the city, their lives, and cultural legacies.

The route features the main sites of the African heritage in the Downtown: Praça Mauá, The colonial slavery market at Largo São Francisco da Prainha, the Valongo Port, the arrival point of millions slaves to the city and the country, the 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 enslaved 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/groups) 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.

In Praça Mauá there is a mosaic of historic buildings. The guide will point you out the main ones and tell you curious facts about them according to your interests. Some of them are: the iconic Monastery of São Bento ( XVII century), The jewel of Brasilian Baroque; The National Radio Building, first city’s skyscraper (1929), where the first recorded samba was broadcasted to the whole country. The Tomorrow and MAR Museums and their exhibitions. Appreciate a gorgeous view to the Guanabara Bay where Portuguese fought with French pirates in the XVIII century and where many forts were built to protect the territory against pirates.  Converse about architecture styles and urban remodelings the coexisting of new and old trends and how they influence people’s lives and relations with the city. The square recent remodeling to the Olympic games was turned into one of the best family friendly places in the city, hosting music festivals, fashion, art, and gastronomic fairs year round. Learn a little bit about the hidden aquatic life under the bay waters and their struggle to survive in such a big city get to know where the brand new Rio Aquarium is located.

IMG_3227 collective mural red

The second archeological site visited is the Emperess Wharf or Valongo Wharf remodeled in 1843 to receive Teresa Cristina Emperess, who was the wife of D. Pedro ll. The wharf was covered in 1911 and only in 2011 the area was unveiled and the archeological site revealed and recognized as such. It is recently being recognized by UNESCO as one of the main sites to tell the history of Atlantic Slavery trade. #gallery-2444-4 { margin: auto; } #gallery-2444-4 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 33%; } #gallery-2444-4 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-2444-4 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */

The guides connection with the site

Rio Encantos is a local tour agency that provides educational tours around the African Heritage Circuit. Kelly Tavares is the official guide for this route. She was born and raised in the neighborhood and only after the recent discoveries she was able to create a connection with missed pieces of her heritage puzzle. Nowadays the guide develops tours to an increasing number of visitors.

Photos BY Stephanie Reist

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