Welcome to what the locals call “Paradise.” That’s their name for this bit of sand that owes its place on the map to its sugarcane past. But that was long ago when the population was small, the beaches were bare of any development, and everything moved at a much slower pace. Today, the tourism spotlight shines bright on Maceio. So let’s take a closer look at some highlights.
A Few Of The Facts
Well, first of all, Maceio is the capital of one of Brazil’s 26 states that, together with the country’s one federal district, form the Federative Republic of Brazil. And, it’s been the capital of the state of Alagoas since 1839. Now, it’s also the largest city of this coastal state. Maceio straddles a spit of sand that is flanked by Lake Mundau and a stretch of the Atlantic. Her permanent population numbers approximately 350,000 though that number spikes in season when visitors pour in from around the country and from abroad. They usually arrive in December or January, during Brazil’s summertime, for the warm, tropical temperatures that are ideal for days in the sun.
“Maceio” is actually a Tupi Indian word that means “the place where the water flows out of the soil” or “the land that covers the marshes.” What it should really be is “land with world class beaches and high-rises for visitors.” There are even urban and often-crowded beaches like Ponta Verde and French Beach as well as those more remote like Sonho Verde. Some say Gunga Beach is actually the prettiest of them all. Of course there’s always Lake Mundau with its celebrated nine islands.
For those wishing a little less sun and a bit more sights, there’s the village of Marachal Deodoro. Only approximately 12 miles from town, there are shady streets and passageways that seem little changed for generations.
Other Items of Note
The Rei Pele Stadium, also called Trapichao, houses more than 20,000 fans usually there to cheer on their favorite football team. Constructed in 1970, evidently more than 45,000 fans squeezed into it for the inaugural match played here, which set the record for the highest attendance. Another important site is the Maceio Metropolitan Cathedral. Its Portuguese name is “Nossa Senhora dos Prazeres” which translates to mean “Our Lady of Pleasures.” Dating back to 1840, it’s located on Pedro II Square. The Cathedral closes at certain hours of the day so be sure to check the times before heading out.
The Centro section off Praia da Avenida is home to an offering of fine examples of neoclassical architecture including government buildings. There’s also the Praca dos Martirios, a square surrounded by other governmental buildings and the Igreja Bom Jesus dos Martirios church.
And Speaking Of Manatees
We were, weren’t we? You know, sailors who’d been at sea a long time became confused when spotting manatees. You can’t really blame them for their blind enthusiasm because it could be only a love-starved sailor who mistook a manatee for a mermaid. Remember, even Columbus was confused, according to legend and lore. Manatees, also known as “sea cows”, are blobby bags of blubber that grow to be 15 feet long, weigh up to 1320 pounds and consume daily up to one-fourth their body weight. According to experts, these not-particularly-attractive animals expel a sizeable volume of gas whilst digesting their strict diet of plant matter and are rather more buoyant due to this unfortunate affliction. Hence, Mother Nature gave them heavy bones as ballast to help them sink. Well there are manatees here in Maceio, native to the Amazon and, if you’re in luck, you just might see one galumphing along beneath the waves. By the way, the Brazilians call them peixe-boi, which means fish-bull. That’s probably how we got “sea cow.”
On A Lighter Note
Maceio is famous for its lace. Rendas, as they call it. And those who practice this art form, or craft if you wish, are called rendeiras. This cotton lace is designed into everything from blouses to table linens with the finest form called file. These items make wonderful gifts for those back home as they’re easy to pack and lightweight. The lace, not your friends. And they’ll serve as a colorful memento of your visit to the Brazilian beaches of Maceio. Also, your support for these artists helps members of this community guard these traditions to pass them down to the generations that follow.