May 31, 1975

Bridge over Paraíba river, inaugurated in 1905
Bridge over Paraíba river, inaugurated in 1905

In 1975 my parents lived in the city of Itajubá, in the mountainous region where Minas Gerais meets the states of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. My mother’s family lived on the other side of the mountain range, in the city of Resende, a pretty town in the valley of the Paraíba river that now has about 120,000 inhabitants. Living so close, when my parents got an invitation for a wedding in Resende on May 31 at 8 pm, they saw it as a good opportunity to visit the family, perhaps the last one before I was born since my mom was in her final month of pregnancy. I was born on May 31st at 6:40 pm. I guess they missed the wedding.

Although I never lived in Resende, I came to know the town well over the years as we would always spend vacations there at my grandparents’ house. The city began its history, in the 19th century, as a coffee-producing town reaching a population of about 18,000 in 1840s (9,000 of whom were slaves). Coffee-production in the region was a labour-intensive activity, which demanded constant clearing of new land, and with the end of slavery towards the end of the 19th century, it was no longer economically viable and coffee producers moved to the state of São Paulo where land offered better prospects. The local economy then switched to cattle as ranchers occupied the unproductive lands abandoned by the coffee producers. By the beginning of the 20th century Resende produced 1/3 of all the milk in the state of Rio and was the second largest producer of cheese and butter. Located by the main highway connecting São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro and half way between the two, the city attracted other industries and in 1940 the only officer-training military academy moved to the city. My grandmother’s family was originally from Petrópolis, where she was born, a city high up in the mountains near Rio, and her father was attracted to Resende for its cattle potential. I’ve written about my grandmother and her family before.

I never liked Resende much when I was young but now, living as I do in Canada and having taken Alan and Canadian friends there on numerous occasions, I see the city with different eyes. Alan and I love the mountains and when we took our friend Geneviève to Brazil, we had to go to Itatiaia National Park, next door to Resende and where the second highest mountain in Brazil is located. The picture below was taken at over 2,500m high!

Moi, Alan and Gegê on top of the world
Moi, Alan and Gegê on top of the world

Since my grandmother passed away, my parents have been talking about moving so perhaps next trip might be the last we see Resende for a while.

As for today, we went to Kensington Market to enjoy Pedestrian Sunday.

and some pictures from the bottom of the chest:


Author: guerson

Food-obsessed historian and knitter.

5 thoughts on “May 31, 1975”

  1. Happy Birthday Alex! I’m behind on everything because of our road trip but I hope you had a great birthday!

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