Bezerros: Creative Capital of Pernambuco
Bezeros, arguably the creative capital of Pernambuco, is home to important artists such as wood block printer J.Borges, and to the Centro de Artesanato which features the work of artisans from the whole state of Pernambuco. It is also famous for its unique form of Carnival, Papangu, which involves the use of elaborate masks. Additionally, Bezerros is the gateway to the Serra Negra mountains, an ecology reserve.
Bezerros: Basic Facts
Bezerros is a municipality in State of Pernambuco, near the city of Gravatá. It is approx 50minutes (approx. 100km) by car from Recife along the well maintained BR232 highway.
It has a population of approximately 57,000, and an area of 492.6 km², in the Agreste (a narrow, mostly hilly, zone between the coastal Zona da Mata (forest zone) and the semiarid Sertão).
History of Bezerros
In 1740 a family of farmers settled in what is now the town of Bezerros. The first two inhabitants of the private estate were two brothers Terciano and Zebóbio Torres who developed farms. Other brothers José and Grancisco Bezerra settled soon after, and all worked in farming.
The daughter of one of the Bezerra brothers disappeared and was given up as lost, but his father made a promise to Saint José that if she were found he would build a chapel. The child was eventually found on the ground beneath a leafy tree. Upon the site of the tree the Matriz Church (Igreja Matriz) was built.
One theory suggests that the city was named after the brothers Bezerra (meaning Calf), the other theory suggests that it is named as such due to the importance of cattle farming in the area. Today the town still hosts live stock auctions each Saturday morning. Here visitors can see traders in typical countryside dress, similar to that that several generations of their families have no doubt also worn.
Attractions in Bezerros
The town has several attractions for tourists. It is the gateway to the Serra Negra an ecological reserve formed of a mountain range that has an average altitude of 1000m and extent of over 10km. It is home to countless species of native flowers, trees, birds and other forms of wildlife. It also includes several caverns. The mountain top views of the Agreste countryside are quite spectacular and can be enjoyed from several vantage points including the chalets of Canta da Serra for those lucky enough to stay in the region or from Bar Mirante for those on a day trip.
The Serra Negra offers great trekking, but it is also possible to explore by bike, horse or jeep. The reserve has an area of Atlantic Forest (Matta Atlantica), and for the more adventurous, there are areas to enjoy radical sports, such as rock climbing.
Whilst in the city do not forget to pick up some locally made products. You can find excellent honey, cheeses, cakes and even locally grown artisanal coffees. The town market is also worth a visit if you are there on Saturday.
Bezerros Centro de Artesanato
The region is also has a lot to offer to visitors interested in the arts and crafts of Pernambuco. It is home to artists like J. Borges and his son, famed for their carvings for wood block printing, most famously seen on the covers of popular literature pamphlets called Cordels. They depict typical Brazilian scenes plus characters from folklore, myths and legends including, of course, the legendary bandits Lampiao and Maria Bonita.
In Bezerros you will also find the Centro de Artesanato de Pernambuco (Pernambuco Artisan Centre) with a permanent exhibition of the work of the most important artists from across the state, and a shop where works can be purchased. A visit to the centre is an opportunity to see great craftsmanship from over 200 artists, and to learn a lot about the folklores and traditions of the state.
Bezerros Carnival & Papangu
The towns carnival is one of the largest and most important in the interior, begins ten days before the main festivities with the Bloco Acorda Bezerros (carnival group called the “Waking up of the Calves”), dressed in pyjamas and carrying dolls, revellers join an improvised dance through the streets in the early hours of the morning. They congregate in the city Centre on Rua 15 de Novembro (15th November Street).
A unique feature of Carnival in Bezeros is the use of masks made by individuals and over 30 workshops. Older generations suggest that the tradition of wearing masks began when men wanted to be able to enjoy carnival by using disguise to avoid their wives. But, the real name for the party Papangu relates to the cornmeal porridge “Angu” eaten during carnival. “Papa” means to eat. The meal is offered by friends and neighbours, and it is said that the mask allowed people to eat greedily without embarrassment. Success of this trick requires the wearer to keep secret the design of their mask in the days before carnival.
The author gratefully acknowledges the many sources that were consulted in the writing of this article. While they provide the foundation, the interpretation and opinion are entirely those of the author.
Paul Barnett is Founder of Recife Guide.