Paquetá was under the rule of Indians from the Tamoios tribe until the late fifteenth century. It was André Thevet, a French sailor, who first reported its discovery in December 1555. The island was then recognized by the king of France in 1556 and became a focus of resistance to the Portuguese expedition in Rio. Paquetá came to be under Portuguese control nearly a decade later, in 1565, when Estácio de Sá distributed the island’s land among his companions, Inácio de Bulhões and Fernão Valdez.
Divided into two allotments, the southern part, called Ponte, and the northern called Campo, Paquetá was established as an agricultural producer of whitewash and clay to the court in the colonial and imperial periods. This division causes rivalries between football leagues up until today. In the nineteenth century, Paquetá gained political relevance due to the constant presence of King John VI, followed by members of high society, including José Bonifácio de Andrada e Silva, who withdrew from the Court in 1989 and went into exile on the island.
The touristic appeal of Paquetá has been promoted by the regular fleet of boats- which began in 1838- and by the publication of the novel A Moreninha, in 1844. In the twentieth century, the island, which was part of the Islands District (1903) became known as District of Paquetá (1961) until it was incorporated to the city of Rio de Janeiro (1975). Today, the island continues to attract visitors in search of a bucolic atmosphere and a lifestyle in which time seems to run more slowly.
The feast of São Roque is traditional on the island of Paquetá. Every year, on August 16, there are imposing celebrations. Previously, however, such celebrations were bigger, attracting people from all over, be it the capital or the towns and villages of the state of Rio de Janeiro. Numerous boats, sailboats and even small steamers would carry devotees and curious people for the great solemnity. People who came from Petrópolis, Niterói, Magé, Mauá, Rio de Janeiro, and even Teresópolis were excited with the traditional splendor of the celebrations. There were horseback riding, fados mourned by the guitar, auction prizes, stalls with sweets and fruit, It would always end up with fireworks, which dazzled not only the outsiders but also the inhabitants of the quiet island.
Even the king Dom Joao VI and his ministers often headed for Paquetá to cheer its patron. The sovereign was received at the manor house of Francisco Gonçalves da Fonseca, militia officer, situated in Rua dos Muros. When at the island, Dom João VI would be away from the court intrigues, until he had to come back, sorrowful, to his palace in Rio de Janeiro, after a few days of stay in the poetic corner of Guanabara.
Image credits: Augusto Malta, BN Digital