Oh beautiful, beautiful Paraty has lodged itself deep into my heart.
There are two important things to note about our trip to Paraty. The first is that we had the good fortune to visit during FLIP, the Festa Literária Internacional de Paraty, a five-day literary festival that descends on Paraty each year.
We arrived in the evening and the town was decked out in tents, decorations, food vendors, street musicians, pop-up exhibitions, cachaça samplings... My evening photos are horrible (fault of the little point-and-shoot camera) but I am including them anyway to give you a sense of the scene.
The other important piece of our experience in Paraty is that we were there with my dear friend Daniella Costa, who I met last summer when she was doing research at Penn, and who has been an incredibly gracious host to me here in Brazil. Daniella's dissertation addresses historic preservation in Brazil and the United States, and Paraty is one of her major case studies. It was a huge treat to be there with her to guide us through the historic streets.
Most of the colonial buildings in the historic center of Paraty date to the 18th century with 19th century additions like the ironwork and the lighting. The town reminded me in some ways of Charleston, South Carolina -- especially the old neighborhood south of Broad -- in its scale and its peninsular orientation to the sea. In Paraty, though, the buildings are brilliant white with different colors of trim -- quite gorgeous. I was surprised to learn from Daniella that the town was repainted this way in the 1960s! Originally the façades were solid colors, painted with pigments naturally occurring in the area like earthy greens, yellows, and pinks. Blue would have been the most exclusive color. We await her dissertation for more info on this!
The town was built to flood with the tide. Daniella told us there are two explanations given for this: either it was intended as a method of street cleaning, or it was a mistake!
I am completely obsessed with the doors and windows that open in multiple ways allowing for different configurations in the same wall opening.
Aside from the amazingly well-preserved colonial streets, the churches are what I wanted to learn from in Paraty.
Igreja Santa Rita dos Pardos Libertos commands the waterfront view of Paraty and many a postcard view as well. It dates to 1722, and was a space where freed people of mixed ancestry worshipped. Today it functions primarily as a museum of religious art, but it is still used for mass during the festival of Santa Rita (which is the weekend after FLIP!). I couldn't take photos inside, but I managed to capture one of the most interesting elements to me -- this "door within a door" at the entrance to the church. I asked what this was for, and learned that it was a wind screen. Originally, worship was candlelit, and these doors could be closed to block the wind while still allowing the main exterior doors of the church to remain open.
Igreja Nossa Senhora do Rosário e São Benedito dos Homens Pretos, built in 1725, was originally a church for the enslaved community in Paraty. Sadly, sadly it was closed (even though it is supposed to be open on Saturdays!) and pleading with the tourist office in shaky Portuguese didn't do the trick this time. Still, seeing the structure from the exterior was crucial for beginning to understand how different communities would have experienced urban zones and spaces in Paraty.
Here is Matriz Nossa Senhora dos Remédios, the church for the elite white population, dating back to 1787. Look at this wavy baroque entrance and choir balcony! Above the altar are gallery-level openings that struck me as similar to the windows of the domestic architecture in the town. These were places for the most elite families to view the service. (I've seen these in multiple colonial churches thus far on my trip.)
Capela de Nossa Senhora das Dores from 1800 was for elite white young ladies of Paraty. It is small, but has a commanding view of the waterfront. The interior was heavily restored. When we were there it was home to a pop-up exhibition of the English Shakespeare House for FLIP.
Finally, on a different note, another interesting aspect of Paraty that Daniella illuminated for us is that today there is very little interaction between the historic center and the population that lives just beyond it -- the "real" Paraty. Wealthy families from elsewhere in Brazil are buying the historic real estate and running the programming at places like the Cultural Center. Some locals who live outside the city center don't actually need to come into the historic center for their daily routine. A common ailment, I think, in historic zones that are somewhere between a museum and a usable built environment.
I can't wait to come back to Paraty someday!