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Ilha Grande History 
Knowing the History

Knowing the PAST can help the FUTURE

This is a summary of the island's history from Brazil's discovery to the present. We are going to describe all the social problems related to the accelerated expansion of the community because of the tourism and the corporation's investments.

The present content is based on stories told by the ancient people of the island and also on historic publications.


In 1502, when the navigator André Gonçalves was sailing in the canal that separates the island from the continent, he had never imagined that what he was looking was an island. He had always thought that  land was a bay and a landslide of the continent. On January 6th, he discovered that it was an amazing island and because of that special date in remembrance of the Magic Kings, he named it ANGRA DOS REIS (Angra means Cove and Dos Reis, of the Kings).


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 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 continent.


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 ABRAÃO means “shelter” or “refuge”.

When the mining fields were discovered in Brazil, lots of working people were needed. For that reason in the last part of the XIX century, millions of African slaves came to work there and the island was used as a refuge of slave dealers. During and after this, the island became very important and a strategic point to conquer.

The Island had been under the domination of Spain, Portugal and Holland. These last ones left a genetical heritage in the island because nowadays you can find in the island people with native features but with blue eyes and blond hair.

Later on, the French forces came and in 1827 Argentinean forces attacked DOIS RIOS, FAROL DO CASTELLANOS and LAS PALMAS COVE with 3 boats, being rejected by Brazilian forces.





The first records date from 1591 and were achieved by the English marine Anthony Knivet. In 1764 European publications indicate some houses in the Abrao Cove that belong to the Spanish Juan Lorenzo and nowadays in do Morcego Beach old canyons can be found.

Das Estrellas (of Stars) Bay is the area where there are more records of houses for 1809 because was a farm area and there were 24 houses.

The traffic of slaves was developed between 1510 and 1540 by English, French and Holland boats. They used to stay for a particular period but there is just one register in 1837 of this activity for 524 slaves coming from Africa to work in Dois Rios.



Towards the middle of the XIX century, Brazil was living under PEDRO II’s Empire and that was the time when a new “Lazareto” (a kind of hospital) was required to take care of the immigrants and the leprous. This place was required to leave there the navigators with cholera and other diseases from the boats. Several projects were being written and on December of 1863 the Emperor visits Angra Dos Reis and fascinated with the island’s beauty he orders later the construction of the hospital in the island.

In 1884 the Crown decides to buy two farms, one in Abrao, which belonged to a Hollander, and the other in Dois Rios, to start the construction which was ended two years later.
Those works contributed significantly to the development of VILLA DO ABRAÃO which was included in the Angra dos Reis municipality on 9th of May, 1891.


Storehouses of the “Lazareto” in the Villa do Abraao

The hospital was divided into sections of 3 categories and there were storehouses, bacterium laboratories, nursing, pharmacy and beautiful gardens all around.

PEDRO II himself was hospitalized there for 2 times, in 1886 and in 1889 when he was a prisoner waiting for the exile.



1st and 2nd Class Pavilions

3rd Class Pavilions

The hospital worked till 1913 and took care of 4232 boats. From 1913 to 1939 was empty and was used again later for military exercises.


After the proclamation of the Republic in 1889, the Lazareto suffered lots of modifications. One of them was the construction of the aqueduct which had a capability to transportate 1000 liters of water per day. Today the ruins can be visited.



In 1903 the penal colony was settled officially in Dois Rios.

In 1940 the Lazareto in Dois Rios was transformed into the Candido Mendes prison. This prison sheltered common prisoners that were brought from Angra Dois Reis and they were the ones that worked in its construction.

The hospital which also took the name of Candido Mendes worked till 1954 and was demolished by order of the State Governor Carlos Lacerda. The aqueduct was the only work that remained.

The prison worked till 1994. Until that moment, the island was not able to receive tourists and for this reason Villa do Abraao stills virgin in lots of activities and grows fastly.

The scarce of massive human presence during all those years was the reason for its intact preservation, making this place a true paradise in the world.



The fishing was the activity that employed most of the island’s population. In 1930 the fishes’ dry process (with salt) was initiated and made by Japanese, even though it was introduce by Greeks.


Till the ‘70s, there were more than 10 drying and canning industries. Some of those old factories were remodeled and today are beautiful inns.


Nowadays, the people are suffering great economic damages because big fishing boats are predating the area.


All prices are mentionated in REALES

(Oficial money in Brazil) Check HERE

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