Discover the History of Governador Valadares
Contribution: Prof. Dr. Haruf Salmen Espíndola
by Secretary of Communication and Social Mobilization
In the 19th century, the Rio Doce Valley was divided into Military Divisions as an offensive war strategy against the Botocudo Indians. The main tasks of the barracks were to occupy the territory, promote the systematic persecution of the Indians, expelling them from the banks of the rivers, and, mainly, to protect the settlers and guarantee navigation and commerce on the Rio Doce. In this context of struggle, the locality emerged that later gave rise to the district of Figueira, current Governador Valadares.
The first occupation was in Baguari, where a barracks was installed. In 1818, a second barracks was built a few kilometers below, with the name of Dom Manoel. Around this barracks the Porto de Canoas operated, which served the military service and a small trade. The place received the name of Figueira since the beginning. It was the district of Peçanha. Benefiting from its strategic position, being able to sell the production coming from Vale do Suaçuí and Santo Antônio, it soon became a small trading post.
In 1907, the Vitória-Diamantina (Vitória-Minas) railway station was inaugurated in the town of Derribadinha, on the banks of the Rio Doce, opposite the village of Figueira. Around the station, a village was formed where railroad suppliers and a small commercial movement were installed. But, three years later, with the construction of the bridge over the Rio Doce and the inauguration of the Figueira station, on August 15, 1910, all the dynamic flow was transferred and the position of this village was consolidated as a commercial warehouse in the region. With the railroad, merchants arrived and coffee plantations and hardwood extraction expanded.
Of the old inhabitants of the village, Serra Lima, son of the commander of the barracks Dom Manoel, stood out. Its history is closely linked to the urban design of Governador Valadares. He was a carpenter and worked as a helper. Popular tradition attributed to Serra Lima the authorship of the urban layout of Governador Valadares.
In the early 1920s, urban life in Figueira revolved around a few streets on the banks of the river. The railroad tracks were on the left and the river passed on the right, in a west-east direction. Coffee and wood were the products that supported the Vitória-Minas Railroad's revenue. In addition to receiving the production of coffee and wood, destined for the railroad, Figueira began to rely on drovers from far away, loaded with all sorts of goods, such as beans, corn, flour, brown sugar, cheese and bacon. Back, they took salt, kerosene, fabric cuts, tools and various utensils.
Livestock farming did not yet have the expression it would acquire in the 1940s, but it already had its outstanding feature in wintering, that is, the fattening of cattle for large consumer markets. This influenced the standard type of farm that was formed in the district of Figueira, marked by the absence of investments in rural properties and by the modest and precarious constructions, different from the typical farm of Minas Gerais. Farmers lived in the city and many of them were also merchants.
In 1930, Figueira had a population of 2,103 inhabitants and had the appearance of a poor village, lost in the middle of the forest, which was still standing. However, it would not last long, as the era of charcoal-fired steelmaking had begun and that of sawmills was at hand. In the 1930s, two works were important: the opening of highways from Figueira to Peçanha and Itambacuri, from where there was already communication with the city of Teófilo Otoni. The economic dynamics created by the railroad made it possible to open the first bank branch in 1931.
In 1935, the Emancipator Party of Figueira was formed, destined to lead the pro-emancipation struggle. On December 31, 1937, the Municipality of Figueira was finally created, split off from Peçanha by an act of Governor Benedito Valadares. Decree-law nº 148, of December 17, 1938, changed the name to Governador Valadares.
The exploitation of micagained prominence in the 1930s and 40s, especially during the 2nd World War. Mica was used in the manufacture of electrical materials and precision instruments, serving as a necessary raw material for the war industry. However, after the war, there was a retraction of the market and, then, its exhaustion caused by the technological advance of the electronics industry.
In 1940, the population of Governador Valadares reached 5,734 inhabitants, when the great boom of the regional economy began. The Municipality has benefited from the increasing exploitation of natural resources: wood, precious stones, mica and fertile soils. The city grew in the midst of the regional economy, which produced an accelerated demographic occupation. In 1950, the population grew to 20,357 inhabitants. Ten years later, it reached the spectacular figure of 70,494 inhabitants. In the 1950s, commercial houses were owned