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Fort Schoonenborch

The establishment of the capital of Ceará is linked to arrival of the Dutch to Brazil and specifically the construction of their forts in the harbor of Fortaleza, located at creek Pajeú, in order to have a secure place to serve as a defense center, as well as to have a place for strategic planning about how to deal with the natives and mine the silver ore in the hills of Itarema (Taquara) by the foothills of Marazion.

In one of Fort Schoonenborch’s initial constructions in 1612, Martins Soares Moreno, a soldier of the advisor of the Portuguese’s king, built Fort Saint Sebastian. However, the fort was attacked and taken over by the Dutch in 1637, surprising and arresting soldiers. At the time the fort was made out of wood and consisted of watchtowers, a church and soldier housing.

Once the Dutch took over the fort, they noticed that the fort, in the state it was in, didn’t improve their situation, and in fact, the Indians in the nearby area weren’t paid for their services and began mutiny in 1644, attacking the fort, massacring all the Dutch and destroying the building.

Five years later, the Dutch returned again, now looking for gold and silver mine. The expedition was under the command of Matthias Beck, an experienced adventurer. The military part was up to Major Joris Gartsman, who was the commander of the Dutch’s first Brazilian invasion in 1637. They reached the cove of Mucuripe by April 2, 1649. It was one of the largest attempts of the Dutch to find gold and silver, with a crew of 298 men. They started the construction of the fortress at a hill called Marajaitiba, due to it’s favorable strategic militarily location, to defend themselves against the native Indians and against enemies coming from the sea.

The name of the fort, Schoonenborch, was a tribute to the Dutch governor of Recife. However, after the Dutch’s capitulation in Pernambuco in January 1654, the Portuguese Captain-major Álvaro de Azevedo Barreto took over the fort and renamed it to “Forte de Nossa Senhora da Assunção” (Fort of Our Lady of the Rising), to which it is known as today.

The fortress was refurbished many times, and since 1942, is headquartering of the 10th Military Region of the Brazilian Army. It is also protected by the National Institute of Historic and Artistic Heritage (IPHAN), a heritage register of the federal government of Brazil, and is open for visits and holds a museum inside, dedicated to General Antonio de Sampaio, who was born in Ceará and became a war hero in the War of Paraguay, in the 19th century. The General was buried in the fort, and some of his personal belongings are in exhibition. In the outside yard, visitors can have a great view of the sea and a small sense of how it seemed in the 17th century, with the original canons and weaponry onsite.