In 1502, when the navigator André Gonsalves
was sailing in the canal that separates the island
from the continent, he had never imagined that what
he was looking at was an island. He had always thought
that that land was a cove and a landslide of the
On January the 6th, he discovered that it was an
amazing island, and because of this special date
in remembrance of the Magic Kings, he named it ANGRA
DOS REIS (Angra means Cove and Dos Reis, of the
HALF A MILLENIUM AGO
The island was visited in following expeditions
since 1502, and there are written records of them
for the years 1552 and 1557.
Ilha Grande (Big Island) belongs to the TAMOTO´S
(natives) nation. In the TUPI language, is IPAUM
GUACU, which means Big (Guacu) Island (Ipaum).
According to the explorer Segundo Anchieta, 150
natives were living in the island. They had amazing
abilities to hunt even under the water. The also
spoke a different dialect from the ones of the
PIRACY, TRAFFIC AND SMUGGLING
Ilha Grande has had historical importance, registrating
outstanding piracy events, traffic of slaves and
smuggling of different merchandising between the
centuries XVI and XIX.
When gold and silver were discovered in Peru in
the last part of the XVI century, the Spanish traffic
between America and Europe took Ilha Grande, Santa
Catarina (Florianópolis) and San Sebastian
as strategic points to supply food and water.
Pirates and adventurous used to sail the area
looking for Spanish boats which always had values.
Besides food and water, they also found hiding
places under the heavy vegetation and the irregular
coasts. This was some kind of “shelter”
for the boats and for this reason ABRAO means
“shelter” or “refuge”.
When the mining fields were discovered in Brazil,
lots of working people were needed. For this reason
in the last part of the XIX century, millions
of African slaves were brought to work here and
the island was used as a hiding place by slave
dealers. During and after this, the island became
a very important and strategic point to conquer.
The Island had been under the domination of Spain,
Portugal and Netherlands. These last ones left
a genetical heritage in the island. You can find
in the island people with native features and
blue eyes and blond hair.
Later on, the French forces came and in 1827 Argentina
attacked DOIS RIOS, FAROL DE CASTELHANOS and LAS
PALMAS COVE with 3 boats, being rejected by Brazilian
The traffic of slaves was developed
between 1510 and 1540 by English, French and Dutch
boats. They stayed for certain period although
there is just one register of this activity in
1837 for 524 slaves coming from Africa to work
in Dois Rios.
THE BEGINNING OF THE COLONIZATION
The first records date from 1591
and were made by the English sailor Anthony Knivet.
In 1764 European publications indicate some houses
in the Abraão Cove that belonged to the
Spanish Juan Lorenzo. Old canyons can still be
found in Morcego Beach.
Das Estrelas (of Stars) Cove, is the area where
there are more records of houses. In 1809 it was
a farm area with at least 24 houses.
PEDRO II THE EMPEROR and
the "Lazareto" Hospital
Towards the middle of the XIX century, Brazil
was living under the Empire of PEDRO II. A new
“Lazareto” (a type of hospital) was
needed to take care of ill immigrants. The boats
had to disembark there people with cholera and
other diseases. Several projects were designed
but in December of 1863 the Emperor visited Angra
Dos Reis and fascinated with the beauty of the
island he ordered later the construction of the
hospital in the island.
In 1884 the Crown decides to buy two farms, one
in Abraão, which belonged to a Dutch man,
and the other in Dois Rios, to start the building
of the hospital which was finished two years later.
These works significantly contributed to the development
of VILA DO ABRAAO which was included in the Angra
dos Reis district on the 9th of May, 1891.
The hospital was a model hospital divided into sections
of 3 different categories. There were storehouses,
bacterium laboratories, nursing, pharmacy and beautiful
gardens all around.
PEDRO II himself was hospitalized twice there in
1886 and in 1889 when he was a prisoner waiting
for the exile.
The hospital worked till 1913 and looked after 4232
boats. From 1913 to 1939 was empty and it was used
after only for military exercises.
THE REPUBLIC AND THE PENAL COLONIES – THE PRISON
After the proclamation of the Republic
in 1889, the Lazareto suffered lots of modifications.
One of them was the building of the aqueduct which
could transportate 1000 liters of water per day.
Today, its ruins can be visited.
In 1903, the penal colony was officially in Dois
In 1940 the Lazareto in Dois Rios was transformed
into the Candido Mendes prison. This prison sheltered
common prisoners brought from Angra Dois Reis who
were those that worked in its construction.
The hospital which also took the name of Candido
Mendes worked until 1954 and was demolished by order
of the State Governor Carlos Lacerda. The aqueduct
was the only work that remained.
The prison worked until 1994. Until then, the island
did not receive tourists. It is for that reason
that Vila do Abraão does not have so many
tourist facilities although is quickly growing.
The lack of massive human presence during all these
years was the reason for its preservation, making
this place a true paradise in the world.
If you want to learn more about Ilha Grande History