Belém (lit. “Bethlehem”) is a city on the banks of the Amazon River estuary, in the north of Brazil. It lies about 100 km upriver from the Atlantic Ocean separated from the larger part of the Amazon delta by Ilha de Marajó (Marajo Island).
Founded in 1616, Belém was the first European colony on the Amazon but did not become part of the Brazilian nation until 1775.
It is also known as Cidade das Mangueiras (city of mango trees) due to the number of those trees found in the city. The newer part of the city has modern buildings and skyscrapers.
It is called “Ver-o-Peso” following a colonial era tradition, since the tax collector’s main post was located there, which was called “Casa do Haver-o-peso” (“Have-the-Weight House”, or “measure the weight house”, in a free translation from archaic Portuguese). It was in the “Haver-o-peso house” that the taxes over goods brought from the Amazon forests, rivers and countryside should be paid to the Portuguese crown, but only after their weight was measured, hence the name, which later suffered a contraction.
Nowadays, the Ver-o-peso complex contains the Açaí Fair, a free open market where açaí berry merchants sell the fruit in natura for açaí juice shops, the Clock Square, with an iron-cast clock tower brought from England, the Ver-o-peso docks, where native fishes from Amazon are unloaded from boats and sold fresh, the Iron Market, a gothic prefab structure where fish is sold, the Solar da Beira space, a colonial building where art expositions often take place, and the neoclassical Meat Market, across the street, with iron-cast stairs and cubicles. There’s also the free market, where craftsmanship, natural essence parfums, typical food and native fruits are sold.
It is located a few meters away from Feliz Lusitânia complex, a gathering of XVI and XVIII centuries buildings including a fortress, an old hospital transformed into a museum, and two churches: a baroque one where there is a sacred art museum, and Belém’s cathedral.
All this area has been declared national patrimony by the National Historical Museum (Brazil). Around ten years ago, Ver-o-peso was bidding a place into UNESCO’s list of world’s human patrimonies, but it wasn’t included and since then the City never tried again.