The history of the area in which Pousada dos Anjos is located goes back many centuries and possibly millennia. From time immemorial the site was a resting-place for the Guayana Indians when they trekked between the mountains and the sea shore.
In the 16th century, indigenous people taught the Portuguese to use this strategic passage and it remained a vital link to the vast hinterland of Brazil throughout the colonial period.
The first stop on the Guayana trail was called “Pouso Pareçã” by the earliest Portuguese travellers to leave a written record.
The Guayana trail became the usual route between Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo and Minas Gerais, given the difficult ascent of the steep escarpment now called Serra do Mar starting from São Vicente, not to mention the presence of pirates along that part of the coast.
Pouso Pareçã, later called Aparição, eventually became an entrepôt for explorers, religious missions, Indian-hunting expeditions, trailblazers, and adventurers in search of precious metals. Under the Portuguese Empire, a run of strikes in the many goldmines scattered across the vast interior, located in the states now called Minas Gerais, Goiás and Mato Grosso, made Aparição a logistical crossroads affording transport, communications and customs control.
Later it was the turn of black gold, i.e. coffee, to influence the shape and layout of hundreds of towns and roads throughout the region. Once again the point of passage was Aparição, where the mule trains stopped on their way to and from the Port of Parati.
The first man to leave written impressions about such a journey was Anthony Knivet, who came to Brazil as a seaman on a privateer skippered by the famous explorer Thomas Cavendish.1 Shipwrecked following Cavendish’s attacks on Santos and São Vicente (1591-2), Knivet says he was captured by the Portuguese and spent almost ten years in Brazil. He was wounded in an attack and left by Cavendish on the island of São Sebastião because he was too ill to walk. He eventually recovered, only to be taken prisoner and enslaved by Salvador Correa de Sá, Governor of Rio de Janeiro.
Knivet took part in several military and geographic surveying expeditions led by Martim Correa de Sá, the governor’s son, keeping the official log and later writing the first account of the ascent from Parati.
According to him a 1596 expedition comprising 700 Portuguese and 2,000 Indians to fight the Tamoyo stopped at Aparição (see below). They then proceeded inland, spent 40 days struggling up a river, and another month crossing an infertile wilderness. They finally arrived on the Javari river sick, starved and thirsty, with 140 fewer men than they had started with.
The group camped in a deserted Tamoyo village until the food ran out (two months), then repeated the process in another village (three months). Most of the expedition returned home, but Knivet and a small group pushed on. They were captured by Tamoyo, and Knivet's Portuguese companions were eaten. Knivet survived by pretending to be French.
After some months he convinced 30,000 Tamoyo to migrate to the coast south of Santos. They defeated the local Carijó, who appealed to the Portuguese for help. Martím Correa de Sá found them, captured them without a fight, killed 10,000 of the weak and belligerent, and enslaved the rest (including Knivet). That was the last of the Tamoyo branch of the Tupinambá.2
When they camped at Aparição, Knivet wrote, “there came a Cannibal to us, called Alecio ... This Indian brought eighty bowmen with him, offering himself with all his company to go with our Captain. The next day we departed on our voyage through the mountains. At night [arriving at Aparição] the Captain, seeing Alecio the Cannibal lying on the ground, took away the net that I had to sleep in and gave it to the Cannibal, I being fain to lie upon the earth. I complained to some of the Portugals of the wrong that the Captain did use unto me. They answered that his father sent me in that voyage only to be made away. I replied, God’s will be done.”3
Around 1660, Salvador Correa de Sá e Benevides, grandson of the former Governor of Rio de Janeiro, ordered the widening of the Guayana trail and its transformation into what was to become the Gold Trail and Royal Road.
Itinerário Geográfico, a guidebook “with a true description of the roads, trails, farms, villages, places, towns and mountains between the town of São Sebastião do Rio de Janeiro and the Gold Mines” written by Francisco Tavares de Brito (Seville, 1732), who was sent by João V’s private secretary, Alexandre de Gusmão (Santos, 1695-Lisbon, 1753), to help map the South American lands claimed by the Portuguese and prepare diplomatic negotiations with Spain, states that Guaratinguetá “is on the route from Parati known as the Old Trail [Caminho Velho], which runs from Parati to Bananal [Fazenda Muricana], climbs the impassable mountain range and comes to rest at Pareçã”.
Historian José Luiz Pasin defines Pareçã, or Aparição, as “a rural neighbourhood of the municipality of Cunha at the top of the mountain range and an obligatory resting-place for travellers on the ascent from Parati to Facão [Cunha]”.
In a travel diary written in 1717, Dom Pedro Miguel de Almeida Portugal e Vasconcelos, Conde de Assumar and Governor of São Paulo & Goldmines, mentions “the road they call the Old Trail, from Parati via the ranges of Muquipioca and Viamitinga to the champaign they call Aparição”, all these presumably being old names of Serra do Facão.
Pouso da Aparição was by then the accepted name of the large property with its centrepiece, the Historic House and grounds preserved as Pousada dos Anjos.
The Old Trail between Aparição and Parati (Serra do Facão) is described as follows in 1751 by Antônio Rolim de Moura, Conde de Azambuja, first Governor of Mato Grosso: “From here [Sítio da Piratinga] to Parati it took me two days. On the first I went to Aparição, where I was as cold as in the Kingdom [of Portugal]. The second was entirely occupied with the steep descent to Parati, which in the common opinion is the worst in the known world.”
Martins Lopes Lobo de Saldanha has this to say on his journey to take office as Governor of São Paulo in 1775: “On June 2 I slept at the foot of the range in Souza’s house and on June 3 I ascended, most of the time on foot because it was so steep. I spent the night at Aparição.”
Parati, Cunha, Aparição and the Old Trail fell into slow decline after a New Road (Caminho Novo) was opened up in 1767. By the turn of the century the route was used chiefly by slave traders, who continued to operate in Brazil despite an initial ban that came into force in 1831 under a convention signed with Great Britain by Emperor Pedro I in November 1826 (ratified the following year) whereby “any trade in slaves conducted in the three years subsequent to this date shall be deemed to constitute piracy”.
In 1850, under Emperor Pedro II, Brazil finally outlawed the African slave trade (Lei Euzébio de Queirós). Now only the coffee trade could economically sustain the Old Trail as the main route for exporting production from the Paraiba Valley.
In the 19th century railways replaced mule trains. The Dom Pedro II Railway reached Guaratinguetá in 1877, plunging Cunha and Parati into economic crisis. This was intensified by the 1888 decree abolishing slavery in Brazil. Abolition was a death knell for the Old Trail, which had been conserved by slave labour.
As a necessary point of passage and revictualling on the route between the Atlantic coastline and the vast interior, Aparição is linked to vital economic moments in Brazilian history. Explorers, bushwhackers, bounty hunters pursuing Indians for slaves, smugglers, pirates, soldiers, traders, slaves, gypsies, artisans, miners, governors, aristocrats, farmers and migrants stopped at Aparição for centuries. It became an entrepôt for much of the gold and coffee produced in Brazil, and a point of passage for livestock, beasts of burden, food and slaves, as well as the travellers themselves and all their belongings, equipment and other goods, both necessities and luxuries. Much of Brazil’s geography was mapped out by explorers who used the waystation, which was also an important cog in the nation’s economic machine. The history of Aparição synthesises the history of Brazil.
In the 1932 Constitutionalist Revolution the Historic House now at the centre of Pousada dos Anjos was militarily important because of its strategic location. This revolt, led by São Paulo, was a reaction on the part of liberals and diehard conservatives ousted from national power in 1930 by Getúlio Vargas.
Shortly after the civil war broke out, the Paulistas lost their position at Aparição to federal forces from Rio de Janeiro, which was then the capital of Brazil. The Historic House was used by Carioca troops as a command post and field hospital (photo).
The owners of the farm who lived in the house, a family by name of Jango, were evicted. The house was strafed by the air force, shelled by artillery and attacked by infantry. The battle mainly took place a few miles away, and guests at the Pousada can ask to see trenches and other vestiges of the war. A monument to Paulo Virgínio, an inhabitant of Cunha remembered as a hero and martyr to the Paulista cause, is a pleasant stroll from the hotel.
Not long after the war, the Historic House was refurbished and reduced in size by its inheritor, Moacir Jango. In the 1970s the property was purchased by Darci Reis, who built walls and a weir, and created the pond, waterfall, steps and natural pool using basalt.
Marta Galloti founded Pousada dos Anjos in 1989. It was then the only hotel in Cunha, marking a new pioneering phase in the history of this tiny but strategic place, a historic albeit little known crossroads linking the ocean, the Paraíba Valley, the mines of Minas, the coffee country, and the great cities of Rio and São Paulo. This was the start of a new cycle that is now revitalising the Old Trail and the Royal Road thanks to tourism.
When Marcos Santilli and Katia Scavacini took over in 2005, they moved in to live here themselves. They comprehensively remodelled the hotel to restore its historic value while maintaining the creative and original ideas of Marta and Braga, and their children André, Elisa and Lia. Marcos is a photographer, Katia a tourismologist. They’re happy and privileged to be able to bring up their children in this piece of paradise lost between the mountains and the sea, now under their care.
The ancient Indian resting-place Pareçã, the first waystation on the Gold Trail, was the origin of today’s Aparição, the neighbourhood of Cunha in which Pousada dos Anjos is located, in Serra do Quebra-Cangalha. Visit us to find out why it’s called Angels’ Rest, Pousada dos Anjos!