Originally just called Embu, it started out as a mission founded in 1554 by the Jesuits. The town has now become the home of a regular arts and craft market following the success of a local religious artist Cassio M’Boy in the late 1930s.
The Jesuits aim was to convert the native population to Christianity. Once converted the Jesuits would intervene to save their flocks from being enslaved by the Portuguese settlers or Bandeirantes; locals were much cheaper than imported African slaves. The Jesuits were not too successful, missions being destroyed by the Bandeirantes, and their flocks captured. The Bandeirantes even went so far as to impersonate Jesuit priests, singing Masses to encourage local Indians out of hiding! By 1760 the Portuguese crown banned the Jesuit order from Brazil for interfering in Colonial affairs, like preventing slaves being taken by the colonists!
Another interesting fact, not widely advertised, is that the local church of Nossa Senhora Rosario is the final resting place of Wolfgang Gerhard, the alias adopted by Joseph Mengele.
It being Christmas the town square was home to a Christmas Fair, in addition to the regular craft shops and stalls. We had dinner one evening in a German restaurant in town, going back the following day to explore the craft shops. It is a really nice place to visit and the shops are fantastic.
The weather was not so good, requiring sunglasses AND umbrellas but that didn’t dampen the experience at all. The craft shops sold some really nice, original stuff which would look really great in our house … oh, wait …….
I am not much into ‘shopping’ but just browsing was really very enjoyable. And we have an excuse to come back when we need decorations!!!