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Maciel Pinheiro

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Journaslit, Promotor, Judge


Maciel Pinheiro

Article available in: PT-BR

Last update: 30/03/2020

By: Semira Adler Vainsencher - N/I

Before speaking about Maciel Pinheiro Square, it is necessary to know a little about the life of the honouree. Luís Ferreira Maciel Pinheiro was born in Paraíba, on 11 December 1839, the son of the Portuguese Braz Ferreira Maciel Pinheiro and Margarida Maciel Pinheiro.

Although from Paraíba by birth, he went to live in Recife, and entered the Faculty of Law in 1860. There, he was around Castro Alves, Fagundes Varela, Martins Júnior and Tobias Barreto. He becomes a close friend of Castro Alves. During the Law course he began his life as a journalist. In this sense, it is worth recording an incident: the young aspiring bachelor of Laws – with liberal and republican ideas and radically supporting abolitionism – wrote a scathing article on Professor Tiago de Loureiro on 28 November 1864, receiving a penalty of three months’ imprisonment as a result.

Maciel Pinheiro also wrote a vibrant article on the issue of volunteerism in the Paraguayan war. He would volunteer himself, leaving to fight in this war. Castro Alves honoured him with the poem Peregrino audaz [Audacious Pilgrim]. During the stay, however, Maciel contracted malaria on the battlefields, and despite all his patriotism and courage, his health was greatly affected and he returned to Pernambuco. However, he continued to participate in the public and political life of the State.

Back in Recife, he finished law school, married Isabel de Castro, and started working as a district attorney in Rio Grande do Sul. Due to the lack of adaptation to the low temperatures in the South, Maciel Pinheiro returned to the Northeast. With respect to his professional trajectory, it can be said that he held the following positions: substitute judge in Recife; judge of law in Taquaritinga and Timbaúba (Pernambuco), judge of law in Ceará and Pará.

In 1880, his wife died, leaving him the three small children: Tomaz, João and Luís. He then turned to journalism as a way to escape. Only in 1884, however, did Maciel decide to dedicate himself body and soul to writing articles for the newspapers Jornal do Recife and A Tribuna, through which he defended his abolitionist ideals of freedom and equality. In this second newspaper, it is possible to appreciate valuable articles signed by Maciel Pinheiro, Joaquim Nabuco and José Mariano on 13 May 1888.

Maciel Pinheiro was elected to occupy chair number 22 of the Pernambuco Academy of Letters. He took part in the direction of the newspaper A Provincia, and with José Mariano creates the O Norte newspaper, continuing the struggle for abolitionism and human rights. In the preface to his work – Espumas flutuantes [Floating Foams] – Castro Alves praises the friend with the following words:

Maciel Pinheiro is one of these young men who symbolise the enthusiasm and the courage, the intelligence and the talent in the academies.

Due to the malaria acquired during the war in Paraguay, and to the problems resulting from this illness, Maciel Pinheiro could no longer resist; he died on 9 November 1889, only six days short of witnessing the so-called Proclamation of the Republic. The abolitionist Joaquim Nabuco, a great admirer of the remarkable warrior, wrote the following words about him:

In all the press, there is no one whose pen cuts like a sharp sword like his; there is no other who is both the ardent writer, the inflexible magistrate and the patriot soldier he is. In Maciel Pinheiro, the journalist is the man.

With a summary of the life of Luís Ferreira Maciel Pinheiro, now it is time to talk a little about the square that bears his name. Today’s Praça Maciel Pinheiro was inaugurated on 7 September 1876 in the heart of the Boa Vista neighbourhood, in commemoration of the victory of the Brazilian troops in the war of Paraguay (1964-1870). From the square, or towards the same one, the following streets begin and/or end: Hospício, Imperatriz Teresa Cristina, Matriz, Aragão, Conceição and Manuel Borba.

On the occasion of its inauguration, the square featured a large drinking fountain, beautiful antique lamps that illuminated the whole area, many wooden benches, and its garden was all surrounded by iron railings. Initially, it had several names: Moscoso, Largo do Aterro or Matriz, Boa Vista and Conde d’Eu. However, some modifications were made in this public place. First, its drinking fountain no longer exists: instead, a decorative fountain was installed. In turn, the original railings were removed and subsequently put back. Finally, only many years later was the square named after Maciel Pinheiro, in honour of the talented journalist, poet and abolitionist.

Although small, such a place has a precious trophy: its beautiful stone fountain containing lions, masks, nymphs and an Indian. Describing the source in more detail it is possible to say that a round tank was built at its base. On top of this, four towering lions lay seated gazing at passers-by – as if serenely guarding the cardinal points. On the heads of these animals is erected the first circular water basin of the fountain. From the centre of this basin, four half-naked nymphs can be appreciated standing, very similar to the Venus de Milo. Just above their heads, sprouting from the central column, lies the second circular basin of the fountain. The detailed column rises a little more and then comes the third basin, the smallest of them all. On top of it are three masks of stone, carved on the central column, whose open mouths emanate the waters that feed the round tank, after flowing through the three basins. At the top of the fountain, finally, representing the native population of the country, is a monumental Indian, armed with bow and arrow, reigning, absolute, with its body facing the Parish Church of Boa Vista and the street Imperatriz Teresa Cristina.

Before World War II, as a result of anti-Semitism and serious persecution of Jews, there was a great migration to Pernambuco, mainly by the Jewish-European population. These families settled in the Boa Vista neighbourhood.
Due to its geographical position, Maciel Pinheiro Square became the stronghold of the Jewish colony in the state, representing the main forum for meetings and debates between the immigrants, as well as the Pernambuco residents living around it. In addition to Portuguese, what was most heard here was Yiddish, a language spoken by the Ashkenazi Jews – those from Eastern Europe. On the square’s benches, the latest news on politics, commerce, the arts, literature, and other subjects was discussed. The non-Jewish and less educated people residing in Recife used to refer to those Jews as Russians due to the lack of knowledge.

In addition, it should be noted that on the top floor of a building located on the corner of Travessa do Veras and Praça Maciel Pinheiro lived Clarice Lispector (1925-1977), one of the most important writers of the 20th century, and the one who has the largest number of translated works. Although she was born in Ukraine, she came with her parents to Brazil at the age of two months, fleeing anti-Semitism. Clarice Lispector lived most of her life between Recife and Maceió, and made a point of becoming a Brazilian citizen.

From 1940 to 1980, the commerce at Maciel Pinheiro Square was essentially represented by Jews: Avrum Ishie Vainer – offal; Israel Fainbaum, Germano Vainsencher, Benjamin Berenstein, Adolfo Cornistean, Maurício Gandelsman, Maurício Schver, furniture; Sônia Charifker – confections; Nathan and Frieda Pinkovsky – offal and confections; Júlio Guendler – confections; Fany Genes and Elisa Moreinos – toys.

Today, few old houses – those at numbers 341, 354, 363, 369 and 387 – are preserved. Around the square is a bank – the Brazilian Discount Bank (BRADESCO) – an office of the Metropolitan Urban Transport Company (EMTU), lottery houses, bars and others.

Recife, 18 July 2003.
(Updated on 25 March 2008).
Translated by Peter Leamy, December 2016.

sources consulted

FRANCA, Rubem. Monumentos do Recife: estátuas e bustos, igrejas e prédios, lápides, placas e inscrições históricas do Recife. Recife: Secretaria de Educação e Cultura, 1977.

KAUFMAN, Tânia Neumann. Passos perdidos, história recuperada: a presença judaica em Pernambuco. Recife: Edição do Autor, 2000.

SILVA, Jorge Fernandes da. Vidas que não morrem. Recife: Secretaria de Educação do Estado de Pernambuco, 1982.

ZISMAN, Meraldo. Jacob da balalaica. Recife: Bagaço, 1998.

how to quote this text

Source: VAINSENCHER, Semira Adler. Maciel Pinheiro. Pesquisa Escolar On-Line, Fundação Joaquim Nabuco, Recife. Disponível em: <>. Acesso em: dia  mês ano. Ex: 6 ago. 2009.