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South America Destination Guide

Alcantara

Alcantara

Across the Baia de Sao Marcos from Sao Luis is a colonial architectural treasure slipping regally into decay. Built in the early 17th century with extensive slave labor, Alcantara was the hub of the region's sugar and cotton economy and home to Maranhdo's rich landowners.The Brazilian Space Agency maintains a launch site in Alcântara.

Founded by French explorers in the 16th century, Alcântara was later conquered by the Portuguese, who used the small village as a base to take São Luís from the Dutch in 1646.The Sao Luis Fumtur office has information on Alcantara. As you walk around this picturesquely decrepit town, look in particular for the beautiful row of two story houses on Rua Grande; the lgreja de NS do Carmo (1665); and Brazil's best preserved pelourinho (whipping post), on Praca da Matriz. The Museu Historica on Praca da Matriz, displays sacred art, festival regalia and colonial furniture (open daily except Monday). On the first Sunday after Ascension Day (usually in May), Alcantara celebrates the Festa do Divino, one of Maranhao's most colorful annual festivals.

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