Pantanal Escapes

Discover Brazil's Wild Wonderland

Although in Portuguese, this YouTube video shows the history of the small town of Vela Bela da Santíssima Trinidade, north of the Pantanal. This is one of the oldest towns in the region, and was capital of the Mato Grosso territory from 1752 until 1835 - when the capital was shifted to Cuiabá due to the difficulty of travel into the region. Many in the town are descendants of African slaves who were offered freedom or simply left behind when the shift to the new capital occurred. This has left the town with a strong African heritage, and some traditions which date back to slave times, or the old African kingdoms (such as Dança do Chorado and Dança do Congo). The maintenance of these traditions was helped by the town's near isolation until recent times.

The major landmark in the town is the Ruína da Matriz. This is the ruin of a church constructed by slaves in 1769. The deterioration of these ruins led to the construction of a special roof over them in 2006 to ensure their survival from the elements. There are several waterfalls close to the town. The nearby Guaporé river is reputedly also home to pink Amazon river dolphins (or Boto).

Note: If you don't speak Portuguese, you might want to skip the three minutes in the middle of this video (which consists of a slightly over the top speech by the presenter imploring the youth of the town to value their traditions and history).