27.07.2017 - Social and Human Sciences Sector

The Outstanding universal value of the « Valongo Wharf Archaeological Site

Valongo wharf © Shutterstock.com / pablo_grillo

The 41st session of the World Heritage Committee, meeting in Krakow, Poland, from 2 to 12 July 2017, has inscribed the “Valongo Wharf Archaeological Site”, located in central Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on UNESCO’s World Heritage List.

The site is in the former harbour area of Rio de Janeiro in which the old stone wharf was built for the landing of enslaved Africans reaching the South American continent from 1811 onwards. The site contains the remains of the most important landing point of enslaved Africans on the American Continent, and is therefore one of the most important wharfs in world history. It was here that as many as 900,000 enslaved African men, women and children were held before being sold on the Brazilian slave market during two decades.

It played a prominent role, during its two decades of existence, as the reception system of the slave trade, both regional, national and of the whole American continent. Thus, a significant part of the population of the African diaspora that came to the New World trod the paving stones of Valongo Wharf.

UNESCO said the site was the “most important physical trace” of the devastating trade on the American continent and 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".

The site had already been declared a Cultural Heritage of the city of Rio de Janeiro by the Rio World Heritage Institute (IRPH) in 2013. At around the same period, the Valongo Wharf received the label “Site of memory associated with the UNESCO Slave Route Project”. Both events reinforced the Valongo Wharf's candidacy to the World Heritage list.

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