The Unesco’s World Heritage Committee officially declared the Valongo Wharf Archaeological Site, in Rio de Janeiro (RJ), a World Heritage Site.
The wharf, located at the Jornal do Comércio square in Rio, is a symbol of the pain of thousands of black slaves brought to Brazil for over 300 years.
The site had already been declared a Cultural Heritage of the city of Rio de Janeiro by the Rio World Heritage Institute (IRPH). The listing was announced on Black Awareness Day (20 November in Brazil) 2013.
At around the same period, Unesco representatives began considering the archaeological site as part of the Slave Route, the first place in the world to receive this recognition. Both events reinforced the Valongo Wharf’s candidacy to the World Heritage List.
In 2011, two anchorages (Valongo and Imperatriz) were discovered during the excavations carried out as part of the revitalization of the Rio de Janeiro Port Zone before the 2016 Olympic Games. The sites contain enormous amounts of amulets, rings and bracelets, shells and objects of worship from Congo, Angola and Mozambique. The Valongo Wharf was listed as heritage without caveats, based exclusively on its relationship with events of notable universal significance (in this case slavery and the slave trade).
“The Valongo Wharf Archaeological Site now joins a unique list of cultural assets inscribed exclusively under this criterion, a list that includes Auschwitz and Hiroshima”, explained Adam Muniz, head of the Department of International Promotion at the Brazilian Ministry of Culture.
The president of Brazil’s National Artistic and Historic Heritage Institute (Iphan), Kátia Bogéa, stressed that “in the context of slavery, Rio bears the sad title of greatest slave port in history. Nevertheless, it is also a place where the contributions brought by African people found one of their greatest sources of expression, nuanced by the mix of races inherent to being Brazilian”.