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Sugarcane Factories and Processing Plants in Pernambuco

Lúcia Gaspar
Joaquim Nabuco Foundation Librarian
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In Brazil, the planting of sugarcane (the raw material of the factories) began in São Vicente, in 1522, brought from Madeira Island by Martim Afonso de Souza. It was in Pernambuco, however, that it flourished, finding ideal conditions for development in humid lands with massapê (a type of red-clay soil). In 1553, Duarte Coelho Pereira also brought from Madeira ‘cana crioula’ or ‘Creole sugarcane’, which for three centuries was the main species cultivated in Pernambuco. There are indications that there had previously been sugarcane on Itamaracá Island.

At the beginning of the 19th century, Creole sugarcane was replaced by ‘cana caiana’ or Cayenne sugarcane, when the Portuguese brought this variety from French Guyana and introduced it here. Only later were hybrid variations originating in the Antilles, India and Indonesia introduced.

Sugarcane has been planted in the forest zone of Pernambuco, in the so-called ‘zona canavieira’ (Sugarcane zone), for almost 5 centuries. The cultivation area is around 12 thousand km2, situated next to the Atlantic Ocean and has rich soil for agriculture, with no threats of droughts and where the rivers are perennial.

In the beginning, the sugarcane factories’ wheels had to be turned through manpower, like at the cassava flour mills. Later they evolved to being operated by animal power (bulls and mares) and waterwheels. Only from the 19th century was steam power introduced in the factories and this caused a revolution in the trade and production of sugar, plus the fact that in Europe the beetroot was starting to be used in the production of sugar, offering a better-quality product to the consumer market.

Brazil needed to make changes in its production, building railroads and installing modern sugarcane factories.

In the final decades of the 19th century, some of the richer property owners and entrepreneurs improved the technical conditions of their factories, installing machines to produce crystallised sugar. The modern factories became known as ‘central processing plants’.

Central processing plants were no different from the technical point of view of the other factories, but they were from an economic point of view: generally belonging to a society, they neither owned lands nor developed agricultural activities.

From 1871, there was a gradual change in Pernambuco’s sugarcane industry with the decline of the old ‘banguês’ factories (that produced dark-coloured brown sugar) and their replacement by central processing plants. There were few ‘banguês’ that managed to survive until the second half of the 20th century.
The Pernambuco sugarcane zone had a good railway system made up of the old Great Western railroads and by the lines constructed by the processing plants to transport the sugarcane. However, from the middle of the 1960s, the railways became abandoned and replaced by highways.

The first central processing plant installed in Pernambuco was that of São Francisco da Várzea, whose first grinding took place in 1875. Pernambuco had at the time over one hundred factories. Currently, however, there are only 38, including those that are paralysed or deactivated.

LIST OF PERNAMBUCO FACTORIES AND PROCESSING PLANTS IN ALPHABETICAL ORDER

Água Branca*
Aliança*
Aripibú*
Bamburral*
Bananal*
Barão de Suassuna
Barra*
Beltrão*
Bom Destino*
Bom Dia
Bom Jesus
Bosque*
Brasil*
Brejo*
Bulhões
Cabeça de Negro*
Cachoeira Lisa*
Camurim Grande (Santa Inês)*
Capibaribe*
Carassú (later Central Barreiros)
Catende
Caxangá
Central Barreiros
Central Nossa Senhora de Lourdes*
Central Olho D´Água
Coelhas*
Colégio*
Conceição dos Milagres*
Condado*
Crauatá*
Cruangi (formerly Genipapo)
Cucaú
Cursay*
Cuyambuca (MoçaBonita)
Desespero*
Desterro
Dois Irmãos*
Engenho do Meio*
Espírito Santo*
Estreliana
Firmeza*
Floresta (Pinto Factory)*
Frei Caneca
Freixeiras*
Gigantes*
Goiana
Gravatá*
Ipojuca
Jaboatão*
Jaguaré*
Javunda*
José da Costa*
José Rufino*
Laranjeiras
Liberato Marques*
Limoeirinho*
Lustosa*
Mameluco*
Manoel Borba*
Maria das Mercês*
Massauassu*
 Matary
Moreno*
Muribeca*
Mussú*
Mussumbú*
Mussupe*
Mussurepe*
Nossa Senhora Auxiliadora*
Nossa Senhora da Vitória*
Nossa Senhora das Maravilhas
Nossa Senhora do Carmo (formerly Sta. Pânfila)
Nossa Senhora do Desterro
Nova Conceição*
Pedroza
Penderama*
Peri-Peri*
Perserverança*
Petribú
Pirajá*
Pirangi*
Pocinho*
Porto Alegre*
Progresso Colonial (later Jaboatão)*
Pumaty (formerly Central Bom Gosto)
Regalia*
Ribeirão*
Rio Una*
Roçadinho*
Salgado
Sant’Anna d’Aguiar*
Santa Filonila*
Santa Flora*
Santa Rita*
Santa Teresa
Santa Terezinha
Santa Terezinha de Jesus*
Santo André
Santo Inácio*
São Félix*
São Francisco da Várzea*
São João da Várzea*
São José (formerly Coelho)
São Salvador*
Serra-Azul*
Serro-Azul*
Sibéria*
Sibiró Grande*
Timbó* Timbó-Assú*
Tinoco*
Tiúma*
Trapiche
Trapiche do Cabo*
Três Marias*
Treze de Maio*
Trincheiras*
Ubaquinha*
União e Indústria
Uruaé*
Vicente Campelo

* Factory deactivated, paralysed or incorporated by another.

Recife, 3 July 2003.
(Updated on 9 September 2009).
Translated by Peter Leamy, February 2011.

SOURCES CONSULTED:

ANDRADE, Manuel Correia de. História das usinas de açúcar de Pernambuco. Recife: FJN. Ed. Massangana, 1989. 114 p. (República, v.1).

GONÇALVES & SILVA. O assucar e o algodão em Pernambuco. Recife: [s.n.], 1929. 90 p.

MOURA, Severino. Senhores de engenho e usineiros, a nobreza de Pernambuco. Recife: Fiam, CEHM, Sindaçúcar, 1998. 320 p. (Tempo municipal, 17).

HOW TO CITE THIS TEXT:

Source: GASPAR, Lúcia. Sugarcane Factories and Processing Plants in Pernambuco. Pesquisa Escolar On-Line, Joaquim Nabuco Foundation, Recife. Available at:  <http://basilio.fundaj.gov.br/pesquisaescolar/>. Accessed: day month year. Exemple: 6 Aug. 2009.

 

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