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Peixinhos Slaughterhouse (Matadouro De Peixinhos)

Through a municipal decree in 1980, signed by Mayor Gustavo Krause, the Slaughterhouse became an historic site.

Peixinhos Slaughterhouse (Matadouro De Peixinhos)

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Last update: 30/03/2020

By: Virginia Barbosa - Librarian of the Fundação Joaquim Nabuco

“This land bathed in the blood of animals, sweat of men,
will no longer be the slaughterhouse but
henceforth will be the Birth House of Popular Culture [...]”
(poet  Oriosvaldo Limeira de Almeida)

According to Pereira da Costa, as early as the Dutch occupation of Pernambuco, there were notices about a corral where cattle were killed, perhaps the origin of a “matadouro” (slaughterhouse) in Recife. In a legal document from a piece of land for the São José de Ribamar Church, dated 1752, there is information that this area was situated “on the corral field next to the well called Cajueiro”, in the vicinity of the current Fort of the Five Points (Forte das Cinco Pontas).

From the 16th to the 17th Century, there were some public and private corrals and slaughterhouses in Recife. It is also known that in 1824, the government bought a piece of land from Elias Coelho Cintra, located in the very south of the Boa Vista neighbourhood, at the time known as ‘Curtume do Coelho’ (Coelho’s Tannery) or ‘Sítio dos Coelhos’ (Coelhos’ Farm), to serve as the general slaughterhouse for butchers from Recife, Boa Vista and Afogados. At the back of the São Gonçalo chapel were also private slaughterhouses. Other cattle corrals in the sands of Five Points were moved to Cabanga in a decision made by the Municipal Chamber in 1831, the year that rules were established regarding the slaughter of cattle, the sale of meat in public and private butcheries, and the schedules and entry times for cattle drives coming from the countryside into the city.

The change in address of the cattle corrals had to wait until 1844, when through Provincial Law nº 135, a loan was authorised and the place was chosen – the sands of Five Points – for the construction of a public slaughterhouse and holding pen for the cattle. The project was designed by the Municipal Chamber’s engineering coordinator Antônio Feliciano Rodrigues Sete, but because of the site’s unsuitability – flooding during high tides – the project was never realised.

In 1855, the same Chamber decreed the construction of a slaughterhouse in Cabanga, almost at the extreme southern end of Imperial St. The same year, on 26 August, the first cattle cull occurred. On the Five Points sand area, where the slaughterhouse and corrals used to function, the Recife-São Francisco central railway station was built, whose construction began on 7 September 1855.

The slaughterhouse built in Cabanga operated until 1919, when it was moved to a location on the banks of the Beberibe River, on the Recife/Olinda boundary in the neighbourhood of Peixinhos. It is said that this name – ‘Peixinhos’ (Little Fish) – was given by the site’s first residents, who reported that a river was used as much for washing clothes and bathing as for catching little fish, of which there were large numbers. Even after they identified this river as the Beberibe, the reference to the “rio de peixinhos” (“river of little fish”) was already in the imagination of the local residents.

The construction of this new slaughterhouse was from December 1912 to November 1919. However, it is known that in 1874, its cornerstone was laid and there is information that from then until 1912, more than one contract was made to build it, but none of them were fulfilled.

The first step in its establishment was made by Mayor Archimedes de Oliveira (in office from 1908 to 1911), when he signed a contract with civil engineer and Law graduate Joaquim José de Almeida Pernambuco. The building was composed of: a directory wing, circulation room, slaughter room for cattle, goats and sheep, slaughter room from pigs, refrigeration installations, sanitary section, cleaning plant, room for preparing offal (particularly the denser organs of some animals), sausage factory, oven and crematorium, all housed in 15 blocks. The material used in its construction was imported: the iron came from France and served to form the roofing’s structure; the wall tiles, ceiling tiles and glass came from Europe. Its construction, like that of the Fábrica Fosforita Olinda S/A (Olinda Match Factory Ltd) in 1957, attracted a large number of workers, which gave rise to the population of Peixinhos.

In the 1970s, almost half a century after its inauguration, the Pernambuco state government shut down the Peixinhos Slaughterhouse, alleging incompliance with the operating procedures required by the federal government throughout the national territory. Its closure caused unemployment and a great deal of social-economic strife for the Peixinhos community. The place also became an spot for drug-dealing, violence and death until, at the beginning of the 1990s, various community cultural groups began the salvaging of the location.

Through a municipal decree in 1980, signed by Mayor Gustavo Krause, the Slaughterhouse became an historic site. Soon afterwards, the Council transformed part of it by establishing an Urban Social Centre, opened in 1982, with the purpose of attending to the social needs of the community.

During the term of Mayor Joaquim Francisco de Freitas Cavalcanti, in 1985, a large part of the Peixinhos Slaughterhouse’s structure was demolished to the surprise of the neighbourhood’s residents. The denunciation and appeal by various segments of society was able to stop the Council’s actions, however few blocks remained standing and tonnes of iron were removed and sold.

On 17 March 2006, in the presence of authorities and the general public the ‘Centro Cultural Desportivo Nascedouro de Peixinhos’ (Peixinhos Birth House Cultural Sporting Centre) was inaugurated, which was part of the initiatives of the Infrastructure Programme for the Areas of Low Income in the Recife Metropolitan Area, in partnership with the State Government and Recife and Olinda City Councils, to implement urban projects that will cover the entire area around the Beberibe River basin. The Cultural Centre was mainly the fruit of the community’s struggle, which besides reclaiming and revitalising the former slaughterhouse’s facilities, called for the transformation of these spaces for socio-cultural activities.

In its entirety, the Cultural Centre project covers an auditorium, changing rooms, recuperation of the football field, the water tower and its access stairway to the top, the construction of a multisport court and the construction of a playground. On 23 May 2008, the Peixinhos Technological Centre for Digital Culture (CTCD) was inaugurated by Governor Eduardo Campos, which will offer free technical courses and qualifications in audio, radio, TV/Video, Graphic Design, programming and metarecycling, providing better professional qualifications for adults and young people and better job prospects.

Since its inauguration in 2006, The Peixinhos Birth House Cultural Sporting Centre has hosted various activities and cultural events.
Recife, 27 August 2008.
(Updated on 14 September 2009.)
Translated by Peter Leamy, February 2012.

sources consulted

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AZEVEDO, Michelle Pequeno de. Cultura suburbana de Peixinhos: entre o popular e o pós-moderno. Disponível em: . Acesso em: 26 ago. 2008.

BAIRRO de Peixinhos. Disponível em: . Acesso em: 26 de ago. 2008.

CAVALCANTI, Lia de Barros. O sacrifício arquitetado do Matadouro Municipal. 1997. Monografia (Pós-graduação em Arquitetura Brasileira) – Faculdade de Arquitetura e Urbanismo de Pernambuco, Recife, 1997.

FREITAS, Catarina; BAHÉ, Vanessa. Nascedouro cultural é inaugurado em Peixinhos. Disponível em: . Acesso em: 26 ago. 2008.

MATADOURO de Peixinhos. Almach de Pernambuco, Recife, ano 24, p. 209-211, 1922.

MORENALVES, Danielle. Matadouro de Peixinhos. Recife, 1994. Trabalho de Graduação apresentado à Faculdade de Arquiteura e Urbanismo, Recife,  1994.

PERNAMBUCO. Secretaria de Planejamento. Fundação de Desenvolvimento da Região Metropolitana do Recife (Fidem). Plano de preservação dos sítios históricos. Recife, 1978.

how to quote this text

Source: BARBOSA, Virgínia. Peixinhos Slaughterhouse (Matadouro De Peixinhos) . Pesquisa Escolar Online, Joaquim Nabuco Foudation, Recife. Available at:  <>. Accessed: day month year. Exemple: 6 Aug. 2009