Santa Cruz, Fortaleza de

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Santa Cruz, Fortaleza de

Fortaleza de Santa Cruz, a fort at the northeastern lip of Guanabara Bay's narrow mouth, which since the sixteenth century functioned as the first line of land-based defense against enemy naval attack on the city of Rio de Janeiro. The fortifications constructed over the centuries on this site, christened Santa Cruz in 1632, command an enviable artillery position. In the colonial period the fort easily repelled several pirating expeditions, allowing Rio de Janeiro to develop in relative peace. The fort's cold gray granite environs also surrounded one of Brazil's largest and oldest prisons. It held both military and civilian convicts, including such notable figures as Tiradentes, Plínio Salgado, and Juarez Távora. The prison's conditions were harsh, some cells being so small and crowded that inmates had to squat once inside. These cruel conditions encouraged rebellions.

The revolt in 1892 of Sergeant Silvino Honório de Macedo, a promonarchist noncommissioned officer, threatened to topple President Floriano Peixoto's republican government. Silvino plotted a successful mutiny in Santa Cruz, armed the prisoners there, and subverted other garrisons around the bay. It required a full-scale army assault on Santa Cruz finally to overwhelm the insurgent inmates. No longer a prison but still an army barracks, Santa Cruz now also serves as a historical museum.

See alsoForts and Fortifications, Spanish America; Rio de Janeiro (City).


Sources on Santa Cruz's history are sparse, even in Portuguese. Augusto Fausto De Souza provides a brief history of the fort in "Fortificações no Brazil," in Revista do Instituto Histórico, Geográphico e Ethnográphico do Brazil 48 (1885): 5-140. General Dermeval Peixoto provides a description of conditions in Santa Cruz at the turn of the century in Memórias de um velho soldado (1960).

Additional Bibliography

Barman, Roderick J. Citizen Emperor: Pedro II and the Making of Brazil, 1825–1891. Stanford, CA: Stanford University, 1999.

Vaiinfas, Ronaldo. Dicionário do Brasil imperial, 1822–1889. Rio de Janeiro: Objetivo, 2002.

                                       Peter M. Beattie

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Santa Cruz, Fortaleza de

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