Where did the name Boa Vista [good view] come from? It originated from the Palace of Boa Vista (or Schoonzit in Dutch), which was built in Recife by Maurice of Nassau in 1643, for his rest and leisure. The palace stood on the banks of the Capibaribe River, on Antonio Vaz Island, which today is the Santo Antônio neighbourhood, and as he greatly appreciated the beautiful landscape, Nassau called it so.
During their Pernambuco occupation (1630-1654), the Dutch also built several bridges. One of them enabled the emergence of a village and the traditional streets: Velha, Matriz and Glória. It is worth noting that in the latter the first Jewish cemetery in the Americas was recently discovered, created during the Batavian occupation, as well as the Kahal Zur Israel Synagogue, also the Americas’ first.
When the Boa Vista Bridge was built in the 19th century, the area around it was reclaimed, enabling the creation of Rua do Aterro [Reclamation Street], which has been renamed to Rua Imperatriz Tereza Cristina, as well as Aurora and Formosa – the latter currently call Avenida Conde da Boa Vista. Later, other mangroves were reclaimed, giving rise to the emergence of Pernambuco Gymasium, the Legislative Assembly and Aurora Foundry.
The Boa Vista neighbourhood is home to the traditional Parque 13 de Maio [13 May Park]. Until the second half of the 19th century, when the Riachuelo lagoon was reclaimed, the lands that currently are part of the park belonged to Rato Island – an accidental fluvial-marine landform of uncertain contours. On the south side of the island, mangroves and mudflats lay unused. This land was called the 13 May Public Promenade. At that time, the first project was designed to build a park itself, and included in it were the garden of the Recife Faculty of Law and the land from the Faculty to Princesa Isabel Bridge. Inaugurated in 1939, and measuring 6.9 hectares, 13 May Park was Recife’s first urban park. It was landscaped by Burle Marx. In the 1950s, a quarter of the park’s area was used by the government for the construction of the Pernambuco Public Library and four public schools.
Before World War II, many Jewish families from Europe migrated Pernambuco because of anti-Semitism and serious racist persecution, and initially came to live in the Boa Vista neighbourhood. Situated in the heart of this neighbourhood, the Maciel Pinheiro square became the stronghold of the Jewish colony and the main forum for meetings and discussions between the immigrants. What was heard mostly on the benches and around the square was the Yiddish language spoken by the askenazim – Jewish people from Eastern Europe. Despite being small, the square has a beautiful stone fountain with four lions, masks, nymphs and an Indian armed with bow and arrow.
Maciel Pinheiro Square is the heart of Recife. From it extend several major streets. The first is Rua Imperatriz Tereza Cristina, full of commercial shops and the Boa Vista Parish Church. Another is Rua do Aragão, a place that houses the furniture trade. Rua Manoel Borba is the third from the square. In it are many opticians and the Hotel Central, the city’s first high-rise building. At the end of that street is Praça Chora Menino [Crying Boy Park].
The fourth street from Maciel Pinheiro Square is Rua do Hospício. At its number 81, you will find the theatre Teatro do Parque, and at number 130, the Pernambuco Archaeological, History and Geography Institute, the first regional historical institute in Brazil, founded in 1862. A few metres from Teatro do Parque, at 29 Rua Martins Júnior, is the Israelite Synagogue of Recife, inaugurated in 1926.
The fifth street from Maciel Pinheiro Square is Rua da Conceição, on which are auction houses and the Rosário da Boa Vista church, in whose temple are the remains of Gervásio Pires and Pereira da Costa. Finally, the streets Rua da Matriz and Rua da Alegria represent the sixth and seventh routes departing from the public square. Crossing these streets is Rua Rosário da Boa Vista, a narrow street that leads to Santa Cruz Patio.
Located in this patio is the Church of Santa Cruz, constructed from 1725 to 1732. From the Santa Cruz Patio also extend many important streets. One is Rua Barão de São Borja, on whose corner is the Gouveia de Barros Health Centre, and where once was the Cinema Politeama, the Pedro Augusto College and Oliveira Lima School. From the Santa Cruz Patio is also Rua Gervasio Pires, a long street that is home to the Boa Vista Market. Following this street, it is possible to get to the neighbourhood of Coelhos on one side, and on the other Avenida Mario Melo, which runs alongside Santo Amaro cemetery, in the Santo Amaro neighbourhood.
On Rua Dom Bosco, which starts at Praça Chora Menino and at the end of Rua Manoel Borba, Cinema Boa Vista was built, which is now a commercial store. A little further on, on Rua das Fronteiras, is the Igreja das Fronteiras church, which served as the residence of Dom Hélder Câmara (1909-1999), Archbishop of Recife and Olinda.
Also in the district of Boa Vista, are the streets Riachuelo, Progresso, Giriquiti, Barão de São Borja, José de Alencar, the Valdemar de Oliveira Theatre and others. In other words, so many roads and sites that should be appreciated and preserved. It should be noted that, according to the municipal law of 1979, 13 May Park and the Recife Faculty of Law were declared historic preservation sites in the so-called Venice of Brazil.
Recife, 23 November 2005.
(Updated on 25 September 2007).
Translated by Peter Leamy, July 2016.
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Source: VAINSENCHER, Semira Adler. Boa Vista (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.