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Afogados (neighbourhood, Recife)

According to 17th-century writer Diogo Lopes de Santiago, the reason for its name [Afogados is Portuguese for “Drowned”] comes from the fact that many individuals, especially black slaves, drowned when trying to cross the river Cedros

Afogados (neighbourhood, Recife)

Article available in: PT-BR

Last update: 02/12/2016

By: Semira Adler Vainsencher - Retired researcher at the Fundação Joaquim Nabuco

At the beginning of the colonisation of Pernambuco, the land comprising the Afogados neighbourhood was donated to Jerônimo de Albuquerque by grantee Duarte Coelho. When Jerônimo died, his daughter sold the part that she inherited, and the location (which was covered by mangroves) was resold thereafter. The physical proof of the sale is documented in the deed of 24 April 1593.

Another important reference regarding Afogados is dated 18 March 1633, when the Dutch stormed a fort garrisoned by 130 men, commanded by Captain Francisco Gomes de Melo, at a crossing-point on the Afogados River.

According to 17th-century writer Diogo Lopes de Santiago, the reason for its name [Afogados is Portuguese for “Drowned”] comes from the fact that many individuals, especially black slaves, drowned when trying to cross the river Cedros – an arm of the Capibaribe River that extended from one side of Madalena down past Ilha do Retiro, bordering the suburb and reaching the heart of Recife. During high tide, the river became very violent and furious. Hence, many individuals who were unaware of the danger, or who had no patience to wait for the tide, ended up drowning while crossing.

Certainly for this reason, on 17 February 1531, coloniser Pero Vaz de Souza wrote in his logbook that seven men of the ship Capitania had drowned on the Recife bar. And Dutch writer Barlaeus, in a piece published in 1647, recorded the path of the Capibaribe River’s arm with the following comment: “it passes in front of the village Fluvius Afogadorum: River of the Drowned.”

In 1737, the governor of Pernambuco ordered the construction of the Afogados bridge and a reclamation, beginning at the place where today stands the Five Points Fort. This became known as the Afogados Reclamation, and was later referred to as Eighty-ninth Street, and presently is called Rua Imperial.

Another state governor undertook improvements in the landfill: he ordered the removal of sand from a piece of land, causing holes to appear, and then ordered them to be filled with water. These holes then became large fish ponds, known as the “viveiros do Muniz” [Muniz’ nurseries], named after the owner of the land: Antônio José Muniz. Leafy gameleira trees were also planted on part of the reclamation. It is worth noting that a small part of the fish ponds gave rise to the today’s Sergio Loreto Park. But the street that descended to the São José Market kept its old name: Rua do Muniz [Muniz Street].

In the mid-18th century, as recorded in the book The New and Unknown World by Dutchman Arnoldus Montanus, the settlement of Afogados already had a compact cluster of houses – well-constructed in a Flemish style – a chapel, and a tannery where 14 slaves worked. Around 1785, the chapel was transformed into the church of Our Lady of Peace. But the Our Lady of Peace parish was only created in 1873.

During the Dutch invasion, a military prison was established in Afogados under the command of Captain Manuel da Mota Araújo. This prison was attacked by 400 mascates [army of the Peddlers’ War], on 7 September 1711, who tried to take the village.

There were further large battles during the constitutionalist campaign of 1821. A periodical of the time published an article denouncing Governor Luís do Rego Barreto for attacking the village, killing innocent children and defenceless women with bayonets and then ransacking the homes of peaceful inhabitants, violating the sanctuary of churches and images on the altars.

Other fierce fighting occurred between the Republican forces – defending the village of Afogados – and a large contingent of imperial army troops, coming from Rio de Janeiro to suppress the Confederation of the Equator revolutionary movement (1824). During the communist putsch of 1935, large battles were also fought in the Afogados neighbourhood.

Several printing presses existed in Afogados, where Pernambuco magazines and journals were produced. In the second half of the 19th century, in particular, the periodicals O Verdadeiro [The True] and Liberal Afogadense [Afogados Liberal] were printed, both written by journalist Antônio Borges da Fonseca. The magazine Alvorada [Dawn] (published in Recife in the early 20th century) was produced by young men from the area.

With the construction and paving of new streets and avenues, the Afogados neighbourhood has developed greatly. In addition to many residences, the area is virtually autonomous, with several schools, a hospital, health centres, banks, a metro line, supermarkets and other businesses.


Recife, 22 July 2003.
(Updated on 24 August 2007)
Translated by Peter Leamy, July 2016.

sources consulted

AFOGADOS. Igreja Nossa Senhora da Paz [Foto neste texto]. Disponível em: <goo.gl/3qJJkw>. Acesso em: 02 dez. 2016.

COSTA, F. A. Pereira da. Arredores do Recife. Recife: Fundação de Cultura Cidade do Recife, 1981.

GALVÃO, Sebastião de Vasconcellos. Diccionario chorografico, histórico e estatístico de Pernambuco. Rio de Janeiro: Imprensa Nacional, 1908. 4v.

GUERRA, Flávio. Velhas igrejas e subúrbios históricos. Recife: Fundação Guararapes, 1970.

how to quote this text

Source: VAINSENCHER, Semira Adler. Afogados (bairro, Recife). Pesquisa Escolar Online, Fundação Joaquim Nabuco, Recife. Disponível em: <http://basilio.fundaj.gov.br/pesquisaescolar>. Acesso em:dia  mês ano. Ex: 6 ago. 2009.