Rio Grande Do Sul, Brazil - Encyclopedia

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'RIO GRANDE DO SUL, or SAO Pedro Do Rio Grande Do Sul (sometimes SAO Pedro and commonly Rio Grande), a city and port of the state of Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil, on the western side of the Rio Grande (as the outlet of the Lagoa dos Patos is called), about 6 m. from its mouth and nearly 780 m. S.W. of Rio de Janeiro, in lat. 32° 7 S., long. 52° 8' W. Pop. (1890) of the municipio (area, about 656 sq. m.) 24,653; of the city, including its suburbs, 20,193; (1900, estimate) of the city, 22,000, and of the city and its suburbs, 30,000. Rio Grande is the coast terminus of the Rio Grande to Bage railway, which now forms part of the railway system of the state leased to the Belgian Compagnie Auxiliare de Chemin de Fer au Bresil. Some of the principal streets are served by tramways, and the Rio Grande to Bage railway has an extension to its shipping wharf called "Estagao Maritima" (11 m.), a branch to some points on the river (11 m.), and a branch to Costa do Mar, on the ocean coast (ii m.). The city is a port of call for several steamship lines, and has direct communication with European ports. The bar at the mouth of the river, however, restricts traffic to vessels of light draught, not exceeding 12 to 15 ft. Extensive improvements, at an estimated cost of about 131 millions of dollars,. were undertaken in 1908 for deepening the bar to admit vessels of 30 ft. draught.

The city is built on a low sandy peninsula, barely 5 ft. above sea-level, formed by two arms of the Rio Grande projecting westward from the main channel, the peninsula being part of a large sandy plain extending southward along the coast to Lagoa Mirim. The level of the plain is broken by ranges of sand dunes, some of which rise not far from the city on the south and south-east. The openness of the surrounding country and the proximity of the sea give to Rio Grande unusually healthy conditions, which, however, are largely counteracted by defective sanitary arrangements. Not infrequently the deaths exceed the births, and epidemics of contagious diseases make deadly inroads upon the population. The city has been developed irregularly, but the streets are for the most part broad, and the principal ones are well paved. Gas lighting was introduced about 1871, and in 1908 acetylene was used for public lighting. In one of the public squares is a shaft commemorating the abolition of slavery, and said to be the only monument in Brazil of that character. There is a notable scarcity of shade trees in the streets and squares, though flowers, shrubbery and some kinds of fruit trees are grown. In pleasing contrast to the drifting sands which surround the city is the fertile Ilha dos Marinheiros (Sailor's Island) lying directly in front of the port; it is highly cultivated and supplies the market with fruit and vegetables. The water-front has been improved by substantial stone walls, which permit the mooring of light-draught vessels alongside.

Among noteworthy public buildings and institutions are the municipal palace, the parochial church of Sao Pedro, dating from the 18th century, the modern church of N.S. de Bomfim, the beautiful Protestant Episcopal church (Gothic), the public hospital (Hospital de Caridade), the hospital of the Beneficencia Portugueza, the public library (Bibliotheca Riograndense), created and maintained by private effort and containing about 30,000 volumes, the old custom-house and the quartel-geral (military barracks). Rio Grande is wholly a commercial and industrial city. Its exports include salted jerked beef (came secca, or xarque), preserved meats, tongues, hides, horns, hoofs, woollen fabrics, Paraguay tea, beans, onions, fruit, flour, farinha de mandioca (cassava flour), lard, soap, candles and leather. Its manufactures include cotton, woollen and jute fabrics, wheat flour, biscuits, cigars and cut tobacco, beer, artificial drinks, boots, shoes and sandals (alpergatas), soap and candles, fireworks, ice, earthenware, hats, cast-iron and leather. The pioneer woollen factory in Brazil, and one of the largest in the country, is in Rio Grande.

Rio Grande was founded in 1737 by Jose da Silva Paes, who built a fort on the river near the site of the present city and called it Estreito. In 1745 the garrison and settlement was removed by Gomes Freire d'Andrade to its present site, which became a "villa," in 1751, with the name of Sao Pedro do Rio Grande, and a "cidade" (city) in 1807. It was the capital of the captaincy down to 1763, when it was captured by a Spanish force from Buenos Aires under the command of its governor, Don Pedro Zeballos, the seat of government being then removed to Viamao at the northern end of Lagoa dos Patos. The city was occupied by the national forces in the ten years' war which began in 1835, and in 1894 it was unsuccessfully besieged by a small insurgent force that had attempted to overthrow the government at Rio de Janeiro.

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