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Joana Bezerra Island

Nowadays, the city of Recife is made up of three islands: Recife, Santo Antônio and Boa Vista, connected by bridges.

Joana Bezerra Island

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Last update: 05/02/2013

By: Virginia Barbosa - Librarian of the Fundação Joaquim Nabuco

Nowadays, the city of Recife is made up of three islands: Recife, Santo Antônio and Boa Vista, connected by bridges.

Historically, according to records from 1537, the islands that formed the Mauritian City didn’t have names. They were known simply as ‘Ilhas do Porto dos Navios’ (Port of Ships Islands). The owner of these lands was the Captain-MajorJerônimo de Albuquerque. With his death in 1584, each of his sons sold the part they had inherited.

Santo Antônio Island was bought by colonist Marcos André, founder of the Torre plantation.In 1605, he sold part of his land to Antonio Vaz. Because of this, the island began to be called by the name of its owner. The other part, 56 land fathoms, he gave to Franciscan monks who built a convent in the name of St Anthony in 1606, and from there came the name of the Santo Antônio neighbourhood.

Later, Antonio Vaz’s son-in-law, João Feijó, sold the part that his wife inherited to Manuel Francisco and his wife, Isabel Gomes Catanho. In 1627, the Franciscan priest bought thirty land fathoms from the couple. Count Maurice of Nassau took possession of the other portion, in the very north of the island, to build the FribourgorTorres Palace.

The land in the south of Santo Antônio Island was called André de Albuquerque Island, the name of its owner, who was son and heir to Jerônimo de Albuquerque. The São José neighbourhoodis located there. According to Pereira da Costa, “these two islands were separated by a long and wide canal, positioned obliquely, that ran diagonally from the place where today the Arts and Crafts Lyceum now stands, passing through São Pedro Square and then draining into a mangrove swamp that was close to Santa Rita church.”

André de Albuquerque passed the land onto his daughter Luísa de Albuquerque. Before the Dutch invasion in 1630, she had sold them to BelchiorAlvesCamelo. Belchior, a Portuguese native from Ponte do Lima, married Joana Bezerra, daughter of Antonio Bezerra and Isabel Lopes, from an important colonial family.

Besides this island, he bought lots located in the extreme south of Santo Antonio Island, some lands in Madalena, which belonged to Gonçalo de Albuquerque, and “large allotments in the semi-arid regions along the São Francisco River, and other districts in Alagoas”. Part of the lands that belonged to Gonçalo de Albuquerque, son of Jerônimo de Albuquerque, was an island called Joana Bezerra, the name of the Belchior’s wife

On 16 April 1656, Belchiorand his wife Joana Bezerra donated their land from a place called ‘Fora das Portas de Santo Antônio’ (‘Outside the St Anthony Gates’), near Fort of the Five Points, for the Capuchin priests to build a hospice in Recife.

Although when the death of Colonel Belchior occurred is unknown, historian Pereira da Costa tells us that he and his wife were buried in the presbytery of the hospice’s church. This fact became known two centuries after the donation of the land to the Capuchins, when the presbytery’s tiles were redone. At this time, their mortal remains were “removed and placed in a decent mausoleum, on which was written this epitaph: Here lie the mortal remains of Belchior Alvesand Joana Bezerra, joint donors and benefactors of this hospice. Father Prefect Friar Serafim de Catania requested this commemorative tombstone be made on 15 July 1865”.

According to the IBGE Census, Joana Bezerra Island had 12,755 inhabitants in 2000, in an area of 116.0 hectares. Today, some notable institutions can be found: the Desembargador(Chief Justice) Rodolfo Aureliano Forum and the Associação de Assistência à Criança Deficiente (Assistance to Disabled Children Association – AACD).



Recife, 31 de maio de 2007.
(Atualizado em 14 de setembro de 2009).

sources consulted

COSTA, Francisco Augusto Pereira da. Anais Pernambucanos. Recife: Arquivo Público Estadual, 1952. v. 2, 3 e 5.

FONSECA, Antonio José Victoriano Borges da. Nobiliarchia Pernambucana. Rio de janeiro: Bibliotheca Nacional, 1935. v. 1.

ILHA Joana Bezerra. Disponível em: . Acesso em: 28 maio 2007.

how to quote this text

Source: BARBOSA, Virgínia. Joana Bezerra Island. Pesquisa Escolar Online, Joaquim Nabuco Foudation, Recife. Available at:  <>. Accessed: day month year. Exemple: 6 Aug. 2009