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Alto José do Pinho (Neighborhood, Recife)

At the beginning of the 20th century, Alto José do Pinho, initially known as Alto do Munguba — a small tree, abundant in the area — was just a steep hill at the entrance to the Casa Amarela neighborhood.

Alto José do Pinho (Neighborhood, Recife)

Article available in: PT-BR ESP

Last update: 18/05/2022

By: Maria Bernadete Sobral - Teacher at the Santa Maria Municipal School
Isabela Cabral de Melo Dantas Pirauá - historian and researcher

At the beginning of the 20th century, Alto José do Pinho, initially known as Alto do Munguba – a small tree, abundant in the area – was just a steep hill on the entrance portal to the Casa Amarela neighborhood. Covered with native grass, with low trees and few huts of rammed earth practically without water, without food and without any social assistance to the residents, it remained so until the year 1940, when its population began to grow, with people arriving both from Casa Amarela and from various places in Pernambuco to work at the Macaxeira Factory, also coming from Paraíba and Alagoas, due to the drought and lack of employment in the countryside. The area of Alto measured 41.5 hectares and belonged to the heirs of the family of Mr. Pantaleão de Siqueira, from the extinct Engenho São Pantaleão do Monteiro. Time went by and the population grew. There were painters, mechanics, shoemakers, farmers and embroiderers. The residents were charged for the mocambos in which they lived, the jurisdiction of the land, and the numbering of the streets was done in ascending order, to facilitate this collection. Alto was renamed Alto José do Pinho in 1988, because there was a former resident, a bohemian and guitar player, who became an excellent guitar maker, made of “pure pine” wood; thus, people looked for José do Pinho a lot. Some say he was also a very well-known collector of the ground rent of the mocambos.
People lived a life without luxury, living in huts of beaten ground, without water, without electricity and without fairs and markets. There were many fires, as the huts were made of wood and dry grass, the stove was made of wood and there were also lamps; in this way, incendiary sparks were thrown. The population frequented the Casa Amarela, Encruzilhada and Água Fria fairs, or went to downtown Recife to supply their homes with what was essential to their survival. There were also “miudeiros”, professionals who went up and down hills, leading to the community trays of offal (ox guts), slaughtered in the Peixinhos Slaughterhouse. Stevedores, very important figures for bar owners, grocery stores and bakeries, begin to exist, as manual support to the merchant. People sold many products, offering them from door to door. And we cannot fail to refer the midwives, always ready to guide the births of Alto José do Pinho, since there were no doctors or hospitals.
The Alto José do Pinho begins to be paved from the 1950s. There will be buses serving the population, public telephone (1952), founding of the Dona Maria Teresa Corrêa School (1956), cinema (1949) and a large square called "October 4th" (1953). The center of the neighborhood was the place of important meetings and leisure, a bus terminal and police station. Public lighting took place in 1960. Fountains were created to supply water to the population – first private and then public fountains. In this scenario, the “mocambeiros”, who previously raised mocambos, now made masonry houses, and the community struggled to get rid of land rents and improve their financial conditions.
Today, the community recalls all the struggle experienced over the years to improve life in this beloved neighborhood. The great Bom Sucesso Club still serves as a mainstay for the neighborhood's living history and, since 1989, every year, it holds meetings of the Friends of Alto José do Pinho Association and prints in its spaces a large collection of photographs, newspapers and testimonials about the history of Alto, all under the careful and affective look of Mr. Marcos Simão, fervent fan of his neighborhood. There is also a living flame in the hearts of the older residents of a contest called Meu Bairro é o Maior (My Neighborhood is the Best), which TV Jornal sponsored in 1976, with Alto becoming champion for three consecutive years (1976, 77 and 78). This recognition made the heart of the community explode with happiness. In all these events, we can only commend the presence of the Upper José do Pinho Commission, in the figure of Mr. Mizael Correia and then with Mr. Biu Guarda (Severino Antônio Bezerra), who represented power and order and did so with understanding and respect.
Today, Alto José do Pinho has two major school institutions: the Dona Maria Teresa Corrêa School, maintained by the State Government, training young people in the Elementary School – final years, High School and Youth and Adult Education, with 733 students and 40 teachers; and the Santa Maria Municipal School, which has been operating since 1977 within the physical spaces of the Dom João da Costa Social Center, maintained by the Christian Ladies for 50 years. The Santa Maria Municipal School has 642 students and 26 teachers, serving children from Early Childhood Education to the 5th grade of Elementary School – initial years. Maria de Lourdes dos Santos (sister Leonarda) was head of the school for 42 years. Today, the leadership is under the care of Professor Suleide Farias de Souza.
The Dom João da Costa Social Center operates non-profit and serves 200 children at risk from the community, offering them pedagogical, psychological and educational schools, such as music, dance and sports. For adults, vocational courses and legal assistance to support social problems are offered, guided by the Faculty of Christian Ladies. In recent years, the Social Center has been coordinated by Sister Luiza Cordeiro and other sisters are part of the assistance group: Sister Valéria and Sister Margarida. In the distant past, there was also Sister Denize, who named the community Health Center and left great memories of her performance in the neighborhood. In 1994, the sisters of the Christian Ladies also founded the São José Operário Chapel, on Rua 11 (Acaiaca), the main street of the neighborhood.
Today, we have many commercial houses, varied shops, printers, small schools, bakeries, markets, construction warehouses, pharmacies and various centers for cultural studies and practices, such as maracatus, afoxés, caboclinhos, samba schools, among others. The community actively participates in this cultural life, which also extends to the school festivals of the locality. Theater, poetry, dance and music exist in the imagination of this people, which reproduces these manifestations from generation to generation.
From the cultural movement Gestures, Attitudes and Rock'n'Roll, in 1992, the recognition of the bands of Alto José do Pinho began, which had been trying to assert themselves since the late 1980s. This was a period of great success, and some bands became known in several countries. One of those that stand out today is Devotoss (formerly Devotos do Ódio), formed by Cannibal, vocal and bass, Celo, drums, and Neilton, guitar. In addition to demonstrating talent and originality over 30 years of career, the band founded a social organization (NGO) — Alto Falante — to support the work they developed. The NGO began to mediate the relations between bands, public agents and companies and inaugurated the community radio, bringing information to discuss the daily problems that afflict residents, in addition to promoting workshops and street football tournaments and articulating festive poles in partnership with the City Hall of Recife. It is today a reference for social work in the neighborhood, having been honored in 2019 by the Pernambuco Legislative Assembly, for the 30 years of performance and the success of the band.
Recently, a movement emerged in Alto José do Pinho named Alto Sustentável, idealized by biologist Hamon Dennovan, son of community leader Jussara Santos. This project is aimed at caring for the environment and social inclusion, working on several fronts, with environmental education and proper disposal of waste. Within this project, there are recycling efforts which involve the entire community and also graphite workshops, recycling, and services for the population, such as haircuts.
With this, one can see the Alto has a cultural history, of struggles of social groups for rights (civil, political and social) and of subsequent achievements, through work and art. There is a strong appreciation of the residents for their history and for the neighborhood's former leaders, who are living memory, being part of the history of the place. It is a community of good, delicate, caring people, who especially love their history and experience every corner of the neighborhood on a daily basis, highlighting and maintaining the tradition of authentic and organized carnival, and who say in a "loud and clear tone" that the best neighborhood they know is this, where they live and reside, Alto José do Pinho.

Recife, November 25, 2019

* This text is part of the project Interacting with the History of Your Neighborhood, a partnership of the Joaquim Nabuco Foundation with the Manuel Bandeira Reader Training Program.


sources consulted

LEITE, Ricardo (org.). Aqui do Alto a história é outra: a narrativa dos moradores do Alto José do Pinho. Recife: Magis, 2009.

how to quote this text

PIRAUÁ, Isabela Cabral de M. Dantas; SOBRAL, Maria Bernadete. Alto José do Pinho (Neighborhood, Recife); In: PESQUISA Escolar. Recife: Fundação Joaquim Nabuco, 2019. Available from: Access on: Month. day, year. (Ex.: Aug. 6, 2021)