Valongo slave market

boutique_vallongo

(The Valongo market, around 1830)

The second largest slave market, in downtown Rio de Janeiro, started in the middle of the 18th century and was known as Valongo. Actually, the name comes from two beaches, that no longer exist, called Vallongo and Vallonguinho and they both formed a small bay where the slave ships would dock. A British clergyman named Robert Walsh, who visited Rio in the early 1800’s, had this to say of the slaves in Valongo,

“They were all doomed to remain on the spot, like sheep in a pen, till they were sold; they have no apartment to retire to, no bed to repose on, no covering to protect them; they sit naked all day, and lie naked all night, on the bare boards, or benches, where we saw them exhibited.”

I’m actually reading Mr. Walsh’s account of his travels and finding it fascinating, as I often wonder what people must have thought about foreigners in Rio centuries ago, slaves included. Having lived in favelas brang me pretty close to how life was in colonial times since I’d be awaken by roosters and calls of fresh bread by the local baker passing by with a basket on his shoulder. Suffice to say, my day was full of a myriad of other examples that correspond to my current and past readings on the era. I’m not sure how I would have dealt with living in a time where slavery existed. One could have tried to ignore it, been openly against it or have simply been a part of it and treated them with dignity. I’m not sure there’s a clear and correct answer.

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