An introduction to Pernambuco: the part of Brazil that I’m visiting

I’ve written about how Brazil is a huge country with enormous variety when it comes to culture – each state has a really different feel from the next.

With that in mind, I thought I’d better tell you a little about the state that I’m traveling to: Pernambuco.

The flag of Pernambuco state:  Blue representing the grandeur of the Pernambucan sky, white for peace, the rainbow representing the unity of the people, the sun representing the force and energy of Pernambuco, and finally, the cross representing “faith in justice and mutual understanding”.

Pernambuco is particularly rich in history, being one of the first places in Brazil to first be occupied by the Portuguese.

The original settlers decided the place would be ideal for growing sugar cane, and they were right. Industry boomed and this small state soon accounted for over half all of Brazilian exports!

The new wealth attracted more and more European settlers and the community diversified into an eclectic mix of Portuguese, Dutch, Jewish, Indian and African people. This melting pot of different influences gave rise to an incredibly rich and diverse culture, of which the population are immensely proud. Over the coming years, the people here survived wars and famines which served only to unite them further.

Pernambuco is a small state, up in the North-East corner of Brazil.

Perhaps it was this regional pride and sense of collective spirit which led to the Pernambucanos initiating the struggle for Brazilian independence. In 1817, a revolt in Pernambuco became one of the first protest movements with the aim of establishing an independent Brazilian government and by 1824, Brazil had secured its independence from the Portuguese crown.

Equally insiriational is how Pernambuco led the way in the fight for the abolition of slavery in Brazil around 50 years later. I think it says a lot about the character of the people from this region that they were at the forefront of both the independence and the anti-slavery movement and I know from personal experience that these people are particularly good at street protests! I’m already feeling quite proud myself to be part of such a historically important Brazilian state, where the attitude is so liberal and forward-thinking!

Recife and Olinda

Recife, is the state’s capital and is where I will be staying. It’s sister-city of Olinda, is built on a hill, famous for its picture-postcard views and some of the most incredible architecture to be found in all of colonial America.

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A view from the historic city of Olinda, with Recife’s skyline in the background

Recife and Olinda are widely regarded to hold two of the best Carnivals in Brazil. There is a sort of rivalry between them whereby every year they compete to see who can throw the more impressive show. Once a year in Recife, 2 million people flood the streets in what the Guinness Book of World Records recognises as the largest street party in the world. Meanwhile, in Olinda, carnival-goers march down the narrow, colourful alleyways carrying giant puppets, which are the famous mascot’s of this city’s parade.

These giant puppets are the characteristic mascots of Olinda’s carnival

The carnivals of Recife and Olinda are unique among the carnivals of the other large Brazilian cities, being un-ticketed and free of charge. The people of Pernambuco don’t put a price on fun! Again, perhaps this is demonstrative of a certain sort of unique, egalitarian, progressive attitude that is embedded into the mindset here.

Some other highlights from Pernambuco state

The Sertão, or inland arid region, is one of the poorest areas in Brazil but well-known for its and tradition craftworks and artisan sculptures. Though Brazil isn’t famous for its wines, the best vineyards in Brazil can be found here.

The Fernando de Noronha islands also belong to the state of Pernambuco. This practically untouched volcanic archipelago is home to a uniquely well-conserved eco-system, teaming with wildlife, thanks to the strict limitations on the number of tourists allowed to visit each year.

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The archipelago of Fernando de Noronha is nothing short of spectacular!


Though this small corner of Brazil may not be as famous or as frequently visited as São Paulo or Rio de Janeiro, Pernambuco is brimming with attractions. Its diverse culture and inspiring history make it well worth a visit for anyone trying to escape the traditional Brazilian tourist-trail!


A picture of me, taken from the historic city of Olinda, with Recife’s skyline barely visible in the background!

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