Delmiro Augusto da Cruz Gouveia was born on 5 June 1863, on the Boa Vista farm, in the area of Ipu, Ceará, the first child of Delmiro Porfírio de Farias and Leonilda Flora da Cruz Gouveia.
In 1868, he moved with his mother to the town of Goiana, in Pernambuco, and four years later to Recife.
From a poor family, he had to begin working early to support his mother. He was a ticket seller at the Olinda urban tram station named ‘maxambomba’, working also at the Apipucos station in the Recife neighbourhood of the same name, where he later acquired, when wealthy, a palace that today is the property of the Joaquim Nabuco Foundation, where the Directory of Documentation works. He also worked as a barge operator.
Interested in the buying and selling of the leather, skins and wool of goats and sheep, he went to the interior of Pernambuco and married, in 1883, Anunciada Cândida de Melo Falcão, in the town of Pesqueira.
He dedicated himself to the business and exportation of leather and skins, initially as an employee of the Lundgren family and later on his own. He kept a large number of clients throughout the regions of Northeast Brazil, becoming known as the King of Skins.
He founded, in 1896, the Casa Delmiro Gouveia & Cia (Delmiro Gouveia and Company House), destroying the competition in the sector and cementing himself as the King of Skins.
Fond of the state capital, he was politically engaged and involved himself in other ventures. He was responsible for the urbanisation of the Derby neighbourhood, in Recife, where there had only been mangrove swamps: opened streets, roads, built houses and a large market without comparison in Brazil, Mercado Coelho Cintra, with 264 rentable stalls for traders in foodstuffs and other merchandise, inaugurated on 7 September 1899.
The low prices in the market bothered the competition, causing misunderstandings with the mayor of Recife at that time, Esmeraldino Bandeira and, as a result, conflicts with the powerful Rosa e Silva, president of the Federal Senate and vice-president of the Republic, which culminated in a fire at the market at the beginning of 1900.
Nowadays, after a reform carried out in 1924, the building of the old market houses the headquarters of the Polícia Militar de Pernambuco (Pernambuco Military Police).
Authoritarian and with a difficult temperament, the manner he made his money created many enemies.
In 1901, persecuted and with marriage problems, he took refuge for a year in Europe.
Separated from his wife, in 1902, at the age of 39, he kidnapped a teenager named Carmela Eulina do Amaral Gusmão, fleeing to Alagoas and staying at Vila da Pedra, a place approximately 280 km from Maceió which, at the time, only had six houses. He began to buy and export leather and skins, using the port of Jaraguá, in Maceió.
In 1909, he began the studies for the economical viability of the Paulo Afonso waterfall. In 1913, on the Alagoas side, he built a small power plant, extending its electrical network to his farm.
He inaugurated, in 1914, a small textile mill to produce thread, with the brand-name Estrela (Star), which soon dominated the national market and became strong in the markets of Argentina, Chile, Peru, then later in Bolivia, Barbados and even the Antilles and Newfoundland.
The mill was a model of organisation, with various pavilions that housed the looms, a workers’ village, medical clinic, cinema and skating rink.
Not wanting to remain isolated and to help develop his industrial activities, he built around 520km of carriage-bearing roads and introduced the automobile to the semi-arid region.
His production was exported through the port of Piranhas, using the railway that connected Jatobá (nowadays Itaparica) to Piranhas to transport it there.
He brought electrical energy to the population where the factory was situated and later to Vila da Pedra.
He began to envisage and develop projects for the implantation of a hydroelectric dam that could meet the energy demands of Recife, which caused misunderstanding with the then-governor of Pernambuco, Dantas Barreto, who accused him of trying to take advantage of the government and, for this reason, broke off all relations with the industrial magnate.
His difficult temperament, the stress with which he lived, as well as a lack of governmental support, brought him a series of a tense moments which culminated with his assassination by a gunman on 10 October 1917, at 54 years of age, on the balcony of his house in Vila da Pedra, the municipality which is now called Delmiro Gouveia.
Recife, 19 August 2004.
(Updated on 24 August 2009).
Translated by Peter Leamy, January 2011.
MELLO, Frederico Pernambucano de. Delmiro Gouveia: desenvolvimento com impulso de preservação ambiental. Recife: CHESF; Fundaj, Ed. Massangana, 1993. 32 p.
PERNAMBUCO imortal: personagens: Brasil 500 anos, as mudanças do século XX. Recife: Jornal do Commercio, 2002. (Fascículo, 12).
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Source: GASPAR, Lúcia. Delmiro Gouveia. Pesquisa Escolar On-Line, Joaquim Nabuco Foundation, Recife. Available at: <http://basilio.fundaj.gov.br/pesquisaescolar/>. Accessed: day month year. Exemple: 6 Aug. 2009.