The Charque and the Cultural Patrimony
The city of Pelotas was founded in 1758 and achieved its emancipation in 1812. During 260 years of history, the Princesa do Sul (Princess of the South), as Pelotas is known, acquired a culturally rich history. The emergence of the “charque” industry – charque being very similar to jerky beef – marked the beginning of the history of the city.
Charque was produced in facilities called charqueadas where workers would slaughter the cattle, salt the beef and hang it into strings to dry in the sun. Because of that, it was only possible to produce charque between the months of November and April. The wealth from the owners of charqueadas allowed their children to study abroad, especially in Europe. When the youngsters returned from their studies, they would bring not only the European customs and fashion but also their culture and political thoughts.
The charque industry began to fall due to the abolition of slavery that took place in 1884. Right after this period, the expansion of charque production to other cities in the state of Rio Grande do Sul ended up accelerating the decline of charqueadas in Pelotas.
The name Pelotas comes from the rustic boats, made of leather and four cork sticks, which were used by indigenous people in order to get across rivers in the region. The slaves also used this type of boat in the beggining of the era of charqueadas.
Pelotas holds one of the richest cultural and architectural heritages of the country. Houses, public buildings, streets, squares and monuments have defined the landscape of the city according to the needs of its community. The cultural heritage is shaped by the historical continuity of a community that recognizes itself and takes on its ideals and values that transcend generations, being a potential for socioeconomic development that allows several actions and enterprises that lead to job creation, income generation, and the stimulation of the local economy.
The city of Pelotas presents a long trajectory of debates related to the preservation of its cultural heritage. Such concepts allow us to have a broader vision of the historical development of the city by recognizing that no culture is more important than others.
Today, Pelotas is the third most populous city in the state of Rio Grande do Sul preserving its past while aiming for the future. Throughout its history, the city has received many immigrants from 28 different ethnic groups, mostly Portuguese, Spanish, French, Italian, German, and African. As a result of the intensive miscegenation of the inhabitants of Pelotas, the city reflects a rich cultural patrimony. In order to maintain this patrimony alive, the city invests in the preservation of its historical buildings and in events to raise awareness of the importance of cultural preservation.
When it comes to Pelotas economy, the city affords a very diversified potential for tourism. Tourists can choose to enjoy the historical heritage, the rural areas of the region, nautical activities and other famous events such as the Brazil’s National Sweets Fair Fenadoce, and academic events provided by the many universities of the city. Pelotas has five universities, four technical schools, two theaters, a public library, twenty three museums, two daily newspapers, three TV channels, one airport and one river-lake harbor located on the banks of São Gonçalo Canal. Therefore, Pelotas is known for its cultural history and its capacity to train qualified professionals.
Pelotas is located near the border between Brazil and Uruguay, which facilitates the access to other Mercosur countries.