Valongo Wharf in Rio de Janeiro


By Contested Histories Initiative

Construction works in Rio de Janeiro’s Port Region to prepare for the 2014 World Cup, and 2016 Olympics led to the rediscovery of one of the most significant landing points in the Americas for an estimated one million enslaved people between 1811 and 1831. In February 2011, Valongo Wharf was re-excavated by archaeologists. Since this date, an ongoing debate has emerged over how to sensitively memorialise the site. In July 2017, Valongo Wharf was awarded UNESCO World Heritage status, but plans to build a memorial or other commemorative structure on the site have not yet reached fruition. The debate has centred over whether the memorial should highlight the experience of slavery or the cultural contribution of Afro-Brazilians to Brazilian society. Concern that the voices of Afro-Brazilians were not being heard in the decision-making process culminated in 2019 when Brazil’s government dissolved a committee formed to oversee the site’s management.

For the case study click here.