Paraty or Parati, is a preserved Portuguese colonial (1500–1822) and Brazilian Imperial (1822–1889) municipality with a population of about 36,000. It is located on the Costa Verde (Green Coast), a lush, green corridor that runs along the coastline of the state of Rio de Janeiro, in Brazil. Paraty has become a popular tourist destination in recent years, renowned for the historic town and the coast and mountains in the region.
The town is located on the Bay of Ilha Grande, which is dotted with many tropical islands. Rising up as high as 1,300 meters behind the town are tropical forests, mountains, and waterfalls. It is the southernmost and westernmost city in Rio de Janeiro state.
Paraty is surrounded by many parks and nature reserves, including Serra da Bocaina National Park, Serra do Mar State Park (of São Paulo), the Park Reserve of Joatinga and the Cairuçu Environmental Protection Area, where the village of Trindade is located. The municipality also includes an indigenous village and an Afro-Brazilian quilombo.
The village of Paraty was founded in 1597. It was established formally as a town by Portuguese colonizers in 1667, in a region populated by the Guaianás Indians.
The Guaianás people who lived where the city now stands called the entire area “Paraty”. In the Tupi language “Paraty” means “river of fish”. Even today the Brazilian Mullet (Mugil brasiliensis) still come back to spawn in the rivers that spill into the Bay of Paraty. When the region was colonized by the Portuguese, they adopted the Guaianás name for their new town.
The Gold Trail
After the discovery of the world’s richest gold mines in 1696 in the mountains of Minas Gerais, 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 road, paved in steep areas with large stones, which connected Paraty to Diamantina via Ouro Preto and Tiradentes. Not only was it used to transport gold to Paraty, but it was also used to convey supplies, miners and African slaves by mule train over the mountains to and from the gold mining areas. Two substantial sections of the Caminho do Ouro have been excavated near Paraty and are now a popular tourist destination for hiking.
The Gold Trail fell into disuse because of attacks on the gold laden ships bound for 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 because of these pirate raids. Finally, the gold itself began to run out in the late 18th century, and Paraty declined.
The Gold Trail was submitted for inclusion on the World Heritage List in August 2004.
Paraty is known for the cobblestone-paved streets throughout the Historic Center District. No cars or trucks are allowed in this part of town, only foot traffic or bicycles. Motor vehicles are only allowed in the Historic District on Wednesdays for deliveries. Horses and carts are a very common sight in Paraty and are frequently used all around the city.
Paraty has been able to maintain many of its historic buildings. Much of the architecture of the city has not changed for 250 years or more.
There are four important historic baroque churches in Paraty:
Capela de Santa Rita (Chapel of Saint Rita)
Capela de Santa Rita is the oldest church in Paraty. It was completed in 1722. This was the church of the white elite and freeman, former slaves. It is currently home to the Museum of Sacred Art.
Igreja de Nossa Senhora do Rosário e São Benedito (Church of Our Lady of the Rosary and Saint Benedict)
This church was built and used by Paraty’s African slaves. It dates back to the year 1725. The church has a much simpler, more rustic style than the other three churches in Paraty. Every year in the first week of December the festivities of São Benedito are held in this church.
Capela de Nossa Senhora das Dores (Chapel of Our Lady of Sorrows)
This chapel dates back to 1800. It was used mostly by the rich women of society. Construction was overseen by the presiding priest, Father Antonio Xavier da Silva Braga. The building was later renovated in 1901. The image of Nossa Senhora da Piedade was stolen from this chapel. It was finally recovered in the 1990s, and now can be seen at the Museum of Sacred Art in the Capela de Santa Rita.
Igreja Matriz Nossa Senhora do Remédios (First Church of Our Lady of the Remedies)
Igreja Matriz Nossa Senhora do Remédios is the largest church in Paraty. It takes up over an entire city block. Its construction began in 1646 when a woman named Maria Jácome de Melo donated the land for the construction of the village of Paraty, however she demanded two conditions: The first was the building of a chapel dedicated to Nossa Senhora dos Remédios and the second was that no one would harm the Indians that lived in the area at that time. The church was completed in 1873.