Following the arrival of enslaved Africans in the 1800s, the foundations of Brazil’s famous slave port, Valongo Wharf, began to take shape. In 1811, Prince Dom Joao VI ordered the construction of the slave hub. After the Brazilian government passed a law prohibiting the slave trade, Valongo Wharf became a thriving market for slave trading until 1831.
According to Chicago Journals, slave raiders were heavily impacted by anti-slavery legislation and began illegally smuggling enslaved Africans to work on plantations. Valongo Wharf was actively involved in slave trafficking and bargaining for cheap labor for commercial sugar, cotton, and indigo farms.
Valongo is derived from the word vale longo, which literally means “long valley” because it was located between two hills. Because of its designated cells and storehouses, it was the largest port in Brazil’s national capital, Rio de Janeiro, to which sailors transported enslaved Africans.
The Valongo Wharf was buried beneath the earth for 173 years until it was discovered during archaeological excavations to prepare the area for the 2016 Olympics.
Researchers with prior knowledge of the port made it a point to locate the remains of Valongo Wharf, which had been hidden from public view since the nineteenth century. In 2017, UNESCO designated the largest slave port as a World Heritage Site, making it a vital resource for Afro-Brazilians and their African ancestry.
Historians have documented how early visitors to the port city described Valongo Wharf as a desolate place unfit for human habitation. Its presence was regarded as a blight on humanity and the essence of the world’s largest port. It was essentially an entry point for slaves being transported from Africa to Rio de Janeiro, and it attracted dozens of slave owners.
The Valongo Wharf was destroyed by the arrival of Princess Teresa Cristina of Bourbon-Two Sicilies and her subsequent marriage to Emperor Pedro II. The slave hub was designated and prepared as the landing site for the princess in 1843. Valongo Wharf was closed to the public for the last time because of its dark activity at the time. The place was covered with a landfill and the place was renamed Princess Wharf.
Historians believe it was a deliberate effort by authorities to erase Valongo Wharf’s dark past. The street’s name was changed from Valongo Street to Empress Road. The wharf’s cries and harsh treatment were eventually replaced by the European princess and her court.
Between 1560 and 1852, it is estimated that 4.8 million enslaved Africans were brought to Brazil, making the country the hub for the European slave trade. Slaves were primarily brought from central Africa, as well as the west and east of the continent. The Brazilian economy was based on cotton, coffee, and sugar cane, and it required more cheap labor to maintain and survive.