PARATY ——— pronounced PARA-CHEE, is a place that will take you back in time. In the TUPI language PARATY means “river of fish”. It is a preserved Portuguese Colonial (1500-1822) and Brazilian Imperial (1822-1899) 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 coast 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 mountains in the region.
PARATY has a list of attractions for those with sophisticated tastes. First, the discovery of gold in Brazil’s interior in the 1800s made PARATY the 2nd most important port in the country, as the riches made their way down a cobblestoned forest path called the GOLD TRAIL, which still exists. Next, the coffee industry boomed, and then years later, the sugarcane industry which led to those distilleries. In 1973, a freeway connecting Rio de Janeiro to Sao Paulo brought a modern version of the gold boom namely TOURISM. But despite the tourist expansion, PARATY still “retains a soul”. People still walk their dogs in the Colonial centre, greet the baker in the morning and shout playfully to neighbours. There is life here. It’s not just a pretty setting.
However, Paraty’s divine setting also creates its biggest drawback : RAIN. Just a few hours away from Rio de Janeiro, it gets double the precipitation. Once a month, when there is a “full moon” and the tide is high, sea water rises from its normal levels and pours into the Historic Centre District through special openings in the SEAWALLS that separate the city from the harbour, to wash the streets ——- a marvel of ancient city planning. The streets are only flooded for a short time until the tide recedes. The water is usually only 6-10ins deep and a few merchants, near the “seawall”, put out small bridges to span the flooded streets for the benefit of pedestrians.
The town is located on the Bay of ILHA GRANDE, which is dotted with many tropical islands. Rising up as high as 1,300m, behind the town, are tropical forests, mountains and waterfalls. Paraty is surrounded by many parks and nature reserves, including SERRA da BOCAINA National Park, SERRA do MAR State Park (of Sao Paulo), the Park Reserve of JOATINGA & the CAIRUCU Environmental Protection Area, where the village of TRINDADE is located. The municipality also includes an indigenous village and an Afro-Brazilian QUILOMBO.
The flag of PARATY was adopted on August 12, 1967. The overall colours of the flag represent the following traits ——– gold signifies “strength”, silver represents “innocence”, red is “bravery” and green is the colour of “abundance”. Red, white and blue are the three colours that have traditionally been used to decorate the houses of the historic city. The colours are displayed in 3 vertical stripes with a coat of arms in the centre. The large white star, on the red stripe, symbolises the 1st district, and on the blue stripe 2 small stars represent the 2nd and 3rd districts. The 3 stars are placed in a triangular form, in homage to the strong presence of “freemasonry” in the architecture of the city.
After the discovery of the world’s richest gold mines, 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 1,200km road, paved in steep areas with large stones, which connected Paraty, but it was also use to convey supplies, miners and African slaves by mule-train over the mountains to and from the gold-mining areas.
The CAMINHO do OURO 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 was created because of these pirate raids. Finally, the gold, itself, began to run out in the late 18th century and Paraty declined. The CAMINHO do OURO was submitted for inclusion on the World heritage List in August 2004.
The city’s economic activity revived, as a part, for a new boom —– the coffee trade in the early 19th century, until a railway along the PARAIBA do SUL river valley, created cheaper transport to the port of Rio de Janeiro. Another smaller revival came late in the 19th century with the production of CACHACA. The name PARATY, in that period, became synonymous with CACHACA, which is a sugarcane-derived spirit, best known today as the basis for Brazil’s most famous drink, the CAIPIRINHA. Since Paraty has been out of the mainstream, that is why it did not change for centuries, until a paved road was built from Rio de Janeiro to Santos in the 1970s. The city then began a new cycle of activity, which transformed a small, quaint, almost abandoned place living ona very limited economic activity, mainly fishing and agriculture (bananas and sugarcane) into a TOURISM DESTINATION.
PARATY is known for the cobblestone-paved streets. No cars or trucks are allowed in this part of the town (the Historic Centre District), only foot traffic or bicycles. Motor vehicles are only allowed, on Wednesdays, for deliveries. –There are 4 important historic “Baroque” churches and 2 colonial forts here too. There are also many colourful, colonial houses (refurbished in many cases), many of which have been transformed into shops, POUSADAS (Brazilian bed and breakfasts), restaurants and bars. The town is also home to artists, inspired by the scenic surroundings and there are quite a few galleries and handicraft shops. Miniatures of the colourful boats, that dot Paraty’s harbour, are commonly found souvenirs.