Recife rəsē´fĭ [key] [Port.,=reef], city (1991 pop. 1,298,229), capital of Pernambuco state, NE Brazil, a port on the Atlantic Ocean. It is also called Pernambuco by foreigners. The chief urban center of NE Brazil, it lies partly on the mainland and partly on an island. Dissected by waterways, it is often called the Brazilian Venice. Its fine natural harbor, enclosed by a coral reef, has modern facilities. Recife exports great quantities of the hinterland's products, including sugar, cotton, and coffee. The majority of the labor force is employed in the service sector; tourism expanded greatly in the late 1990s. The city is a transportation center, with an international airport and good railroad and highway facilities. Founded by the Portuguese in 1548 as the port for nearby Olinda, Recife was settled by fishermen and sailors. The city was plundered by the British in 1595 and was occupied by the Dutch (1630–54), prospering under Maurice of Nassau. After the Dutch occupation, Recife replaced Olinda as capital of the Pernambuco captaincy. During World War II, an Allied air base was there. The city has three universities and several research centers and museums; it has long been famed for its intellectual groups and political ferment. In addition to its modern buildings, Recife has a 17th-century cathedral, a Dutch fort, an elaborate government palace, and the ruins of what is believed to be the first synagogue in the New World, which flourished during the Dutch period.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
See more Encyclopedia articles on: South American Political Geography