Originally the indigenous Tremenbés-people lived in the region of Parnaíba. But at the end of the sixteenth century discoverers came to explore the Rio Parnaíba and it’s rich surrounding nature. An accident caused the real start of the European presence in the Delta of Parnaíba.
When explorer Nicolau de Rezende sailed with his boat along the northeast coast of Brazil, he experienced an accident on the division of Maranhão and Piauí. Because of this he lost the big amount of gold he carried in his boat in the water before the coast. That’s why he decided to land-on. During the seventeen years he stayed, he was never able to retrieve his treasure.
In his footsteps other explorers, adventurers, Jesuits and researchers followed. Although the indigenous people were called ‘rational fish’, because of their swimming talent, the main commercial activity was the cultivation of cattle. Because the Royal Charter of 1701 stated that cows could only be raised at a certain distance from the coast, the economy of the future city was moved to the interior of the state.
To avoid the difficult transport of the animals over land merchants started to use the Parnaíba river as transportation route. A warehouse to guard the animals and the meat was built, and named ‘Porto Salgado’ or ‘Porto das Barcas’. It marked the start of the city centre of Parnaíba, and until today you can spot the often abandoned warehouses on the river banks.
First independent village
Not that far from Porto das Barcas the ancient fazenda Testa Branca marked the second center of Parnaíba. Here the governor of the state Piauí founded the village São João da Parnaíba on the 20th of September 1759. Later, in 1770, the seat of the community was moved to Porto das Barcas. The same year marked the start of the construction of the Church of Our Lady Mother of Divine Grace, one of the few baroque churches in Piauí.
Through time the village gained prominence and it developed itself into a centre of cultural diffusion and new ideas. The intellectual elite started to play an important role on the national political level, and as some things started to happen first in the village, the rich and prestigious farmer Simplício Dias da Silva proclaimed the independence of the colony on the 19th of October 1822. Doing so, Parnaíba was the first independent village in the north of Brazil. That’s why it got entitled ‘The Metropolis of the Provinces of the North’ by emperor Dom Pedro I.
When this news reaches Portugal, the king immediately sends general Fidié and his troops to Oeiras in order to keep at least the north of their richest colony. But at the time they arrive, Oeiras is already proclaiming its independence. On their way the troops of Fidié were attacked several times, until they had to surrender. These events are remembered on the 19th of October as the Day of Piauí. On the 14th of August 1844 the village was officially inaugurated as a city by governor José Idelfonso de Souza Ramos.