A wharf in Rio de Janeiro where nearly a million African slaves are estimated to have landed through history has been declared a Unesco World Heritage site, the media reported on Monday.
The Valongo wharf, constructed in 1779, operated for three centuries and became the biggest entry point for African slaves in Brazil, reports the BBC. Remains of the wharf were discovered by chance in 2011, when a couple doing refurbishment in their house came across a mass grave, with bones and skulls.
According to the Unesco, the Valongo wharf should have the same place in history as Hiroshima and Auschwitz “to make us remember those parts of the history of humanity that must not be forgotten”.
Brazil was the main destination for African slaves in the Americas. After the long journey across the Atlantic, emaciated African captives were kept in the wharf area to recover and gain weight, so they could be sold on at slave markets, the BBC reported.
A few blocks from the wharf is a cemetery where, between 1770 and 1830, thousands of slaves were buried. Slave trade in Brazil was banned in 1831, after Brazil declared its independence from Portugal. But it continued illegally until slavery was abolished in 1888.
Around four million slaves used to work in plantations and domestic workers from the 17th to the end of 19th century. That equals to 40% of the slaves taken to America.
After Brazil was declared a republic in 1889, the Valongo site was used as a landfill and eventually a square was built over the wharf.