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The beginning of the history of Guarujá coincides with the beginning of the history of the country itself. The first records indicate that, on January 22, 1502, Portuguese navigators André Gonçalves and Américo Vespúcio arrived in the region where today is Santa Cruz dos Navegantes beach, traditionally known as Pouca Farinha beach – because of its narrow strip of sand.
In 1534, in an effort to promote the settlement of the island that the indigenous people called Guaibê (an allusion to a very common plant in the place), King D. João III donated the land, in the form of Captaincy of Santo Amaro, to Pero Lopes de Souza – brother of Martim Afonso, the founder of São Vicente.
Due to the rugged terrain and the difficult access to the Plateau, the occupation of the island did not prosper. For almost three centuries, the island of Santo Amaro was unattractive, hosting only a few sugar mills and whale oil extraction factories.
From that time, solid constructions remained that still preserve their original characteristics: the Chapel of Santo Antônio do Guaibê, the Fort of São Filipe (or São Luiz), the Fort of Pinhão (today known as Farol do Itapema) and the Fortaleza da Barra Grande.
Also called Forte São Luiz and popularly known as Forte de Pedra, the fortress was built at the behest of Braz Cubas, in 1552, to protect the area from foreign invasions and also from the attacks of the native Indians, the tamoios. “Crossed fire” with Fort São João, located on the other side of the channel, in Bertioga.
It is considered one of the most beautiful examples of Portuguese military architecture from the 16th century, with walls close to the sea, structures like a stone cistern and meticulous finishes.
German mercenary Hans Staden stayed at the site for nine months, hired by the Portuguese to help defend the site from French invaders and indigenous allies. While hunting alone outside the fort, Staden was captured by Tupinambá Indians and taken to Ubatuba, where he was close to being cannibalized.
The place where the fort was built also housed the Chapel of Santo Antônio do Guaibê and Armação das Baleias.
It was in the chapel built in the 16th century, with stones and whale oil, that Padre Anchieta said mass and promoted the catechization of Indians. Despite the action of time, much of the original structure can be seen. The 16th century stone cruise belonging to the Hermitage today is part of the collection of the Museu Paulista, in the neighborhood of Ipiranga, in São Paulo.
Access to the Hermitage is through the Ruins Trail, a preserved area of the Atlantic Forest, which starts at the Ariovaldo de Almeida Viana Highway (Guarujá-Bertioga road).
Also in the Forte São Felipe complex, there was Armação das Baleias, a place where whale oil used in public lighting was extracted. The factory was installed there due to a series of factors: large numbers of whales, access to abundant drinking water, wood to feed the ovens and build barrels, sheltered cove from the open sea and protection guaranteed by the military fortification.
Throughout history, the place has been visited by personalities such as José Bonifácio de Andrade e Silva (in 1790), the writers Euclides da Cunha (in 1904) and Mário de Andrade (in 1937) and the urban planner Prestes Maia (in 1950) . Although they were not contemporaries, everyone, each in his time, complained about the same thing: the poor conditions of conservation of the place.
Built in 1584, the Barra Grande Fortress was designed to defend the entrance to the port channel. From a military point of view, it “crossed fire” with the fortress built on the other side of the canal, Fort Augusto (where today the Santos Fishing Museum is located).
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