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Gilberto Freyre International Airport (Guararapes)

Construction of Guararapes International Airport began in 1950, during the administration of President Eurico Gaspar Dutra. It was inaugurated, however, on 18 January 1958, by President Juscelino Kubitschek de Oliveira.

Gilberto Freyre International Airport (Guararapes)

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Last update: 29/11/2016

By: Semira Adler Vainsencher - N/I

The first airfields of Guararapes Airport were built on land that belonged to the former Ibura Sugarcane Factory. In the 19th century, upon becoming “dead heat” (when it stopped grinding), these lands gave rise to a village in the south of Recife, which grew and became a suburb.

The name Guararapes came from the fact that the airfields were alongside the slopes of the Guararapes Mountains, the region where the two decisive battles were fought during the Pernambuco Insurrection. In these battles, it should be noted, the Dutch were defeated by Brazilian troops led by Fernandes Vieira, Henrique Dias, Vidal de Negreiros, Felipe Camarão and Antônio da Silva.

Located today in the Minister Salgado Filho Park, in the neighbourhood of Imbiribeira, construction of Guararapes International Airport began in 1950, during the administration of President Eurico Gaspar Dutra. It was inaugurated, however, on 18 January 1958, by President Juscelino Kubitschek de Oliveira.

At the airport, it is worth admiring the three murals by painter Lula Cardoso Ayres, depicting the landscapes, customs and folklore of Northeast Brazil. The murals show men and women working on a sugarcane plantation; others harvesting coffee and cotton; show backwoodsmen, the caatinga [semi-arid vegetation] and clay dolls; the maracatu Queen and entourage, the figures of Bumba-meu-boi and caboclinhos. In the restaurant, located on the first floor, there is another large panel by the painter showing fish, poultry and meat, food and beverages.

Although a little hidden, there is a ceramic piece by Francisco Brennand depicting scenes from the rural Northeast: cattle, plants and fruits, domestic animals like dogs and ducks, women dancing, men playing instruments and children playing.

The panels by Lula Cardoso Ayres and Francisco Brennand document four centuries of Northeastern civilization in its beautiful colours and forms. There is also a tile panel, by Paulo Leite, on the history of aviation and its father – Santos Dumont.

In the airport, there is a sign which reads:

On 17 June 1966, on a special stopover, the four-engined “Santa Cruz” Boeing 707-320 B, from TAP (Transportes Aéreos Portugueses) landed at this airport on the first flight from Lisbon to Rio de Janeiro, part of the first air crossing from the South Atlantic by heroic aviators Gago Coutinho and Sacadura Cabral of 17 June 1922

Another plaque records a tragic event that occurred at the airport:

A tribute from the city of Recife to those who fell at this Guararapes Airport, on 25 July 1966, victimized by the folly of their peers:

Admiral Nelson Fernandes
Journalist Edson Régis.

Glorified by their sacrifice, their names will always be remembered, reminding later generation of the violent and tragic terrorist attack, committed in stealth by enemies of the Homeland. Recife, 25 July 1967. Thinking of them is the same as remembering them with gratitude.

With the enactment of Law no. 10.361 on 27 December 2001, during the administration of former President Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Guararapes International Airport was renamed Guararapes/Gilberto Freyre International Airport, a tribute paid by the Government to the Pernambuco sociologist and anthropologist.

In recent years, with increasing demand and large development of airport services everywhere, the airport needed to undergo major changes, and its facilities were expanded and modernised.

Upon completion of the work, the airport has a new passenger terminal, a parking garage (in postmodern style, resembling a circus big-top), with 2,020 parking spaces. Its runways were extended, and has a built area of 42,000 m2. The new terminal will also have a covered 500-metre-long moving walkway that will go to the subway station.

With the completed work, the Guararapes/Gilberto Freyre International Airport – now the largest in the North and Northeast of Brazil – has the capacity to receive 5 million passengers per year.

Recife, 7 April 2004.
(Updated on 24 August 2007)
Translated by Peter Leamy, July 2016.

sources consulted

FRANCA, Rubem. Monumentos do Recife. Recife: Secretaria de Educação e Cultura, 1977.

OLIVEIRA, César Cavalcanti de. Aeroporto Internacional dos Guararapes: considerações sobre sua expansão e modernização. Revista Pernambucana de Desenvolvimento, Recife, v. 5, n. 1, p. 43-76, jan./jun. 1978.

ROCHA, Tadeu. Roteiros do Recife. Recife: Mousinho, 1959.

how to quote this text

Source: VAINSENCHER, Semira Adler. Aeroporto Internacional dos Guararapes/Gilberto Freyre.Pesquisa Escolar Online, Fundação Joaquim Nabuco, Recife. Disponível em: <>. Acesso em: dia  mês ano. Ex: 6 ago. 2009.