Culture ‘Chão Velho’: history of Manaus’ 352nd anniversary is told through tile and bricks records

The architecture student Clíssia Monteiro, responsible for the profile @chãovelho on Instagram (Priscilla Peixoto/Cenarium)

Priscilla Peixoto – from Cenarium

MANAUS – Who walks through the streets of the Historic Center of Manaus may be used to look and observe the buildings and architectural works of the city that celebrates, this Sunday, 24th, 352 years of history. However, few may be used to looking at the ground they walk on, or, especially, the tiles and floors that are part of this history. It is with a different look down that the architecture student Clíssia Monteiro started to register and publish, on the page ‘Chão Velho’, (Old ground, in in english) these pieces of old buildings of the city. In a chat with CENARIUM, the 29-year-old manauara shared a little about the idea and the challenges of the project.

“Where you step, the past has already stepped!”. The sentence posted on her Instagram page summarizes in a few words the student’s goal of rescuing and preserving part of the history, through the coatings that resist throughout the 352 years of the capital of Amazonas, and that can be found in several old buildings in the city.

An only child and resident of the neighborhood of Compensa, in the west zone of Manaus, Clíssia says that the “trigger” for sharing her admiration for the city’s historical floors arose a little over two months ago.

“I have always been passionate about the beauty of our buildings, houses, and grand constructions, especially around downtown. Growing up, this intensified and I remember that I had the privilege, when I was younger, to frequently visit the city’s museums and historical sites. This influenced me”, says the future architect.

Tiles of the Museum of the City of Manaus, on Gabriel Salgado Street, Center of Manaus (Reproduction/Instagram)

A differentiated look

The university student emphasizes that, when contemplating the architectural beauties, details, and even the messages that the old buildings hold, it is common, most of the time, for admirers to look at the walls, windows, doors, roofs, and usually forget about the floor.

“I notice, in people who go to historic sites, that they just stick to the line of sight and, at most, look up, but I think it would have to be different and start with the floor. For me the ground has a whole history. The ground that you walk on today, many people from the past also walked on it. Your mother, your father, a loved one, a president, a pope, a king, a princess. I think it’s beautiful how the work of so long ago resists and shelters our steps”, explains Clíssia.

Colors and records

Old and deactivated bathroom of an occupational clinic located in downtown Manaus (Reproduction/Instagram)

With a little over 203 followers and almost 40 posts, Clíssia’s shy profile is gaining space with each post. From record to record, the different colors, shapes and sizes of the floors are conquering admirers and teaching a new way of looking at this small, but important, part of the paving of Manaus that still resists.

“It is still something very small, but with a great value. In a little more than two months I already have followers that go into an establishment and send me photos when they realize that the floor may be from an older time. It’s really cool when you realize that the person understood the essence of the project, you know?”, celebrates the student.

Despite not having the direct help and guidance of a History professional, she does her own research and reveals a little of what she knows about the message contained in each floor she finds.

“The old hydraulic tiles were handmade, the one in Rio Negro Palace, for example, the Rubber Baron took an indigenous technique and made the slaves paint the same tile 180 times. And we’re talking about a 15×15 piece, so imagine how valuable each piece is”, explains the university student.

Rio Negro Palace, located at 7 de Setembro Avenue, Manaus Historical Center. (Reproduction/Instagram)

But, unlike the Rio Negro Palace, Clíssia points out that most of the tiles are of Portuguese origin, and she is currently researching to better understand the meaning of the art printed on the tiles of the time. “I still haven’t found a deeper study that addresses the theme, but I can say that, in the old days, the more colorful the floors and even the tiles on the walls of the houses were, the better financial conditions the family had”, she explains.

Challenges and perceptions

Among the places already visited by the manauara in search of good pictures are old bars located downtown and hotels such as the Hotel Casa dos Frades, as well as the City Museum of Manaus, the Justice Palace, the Portuguese Beneficent Hospital, and also some other historical sites outside Manaus, in the cities of Fortaleza and Jericoacara, in Ceará.

About the challenges related to access to the buildings, Clíssia tells that she is not always well received in the places and shares which are the points she would most like to register and share in the networks.

“There is a house downtown that I really want to photograph the floor, but, unfortunately, the owner of the house was not very receptive and did not allow access. There is also a certain bureaucracy to enter buildings that are historic; I send an e-mail, explain my intention, but most of the time there is no return. It gets complicated, because I have no way to enter if the doors are not open”, she laments.

Commercial store located on September 7 Avenue, in downtown Manaus (Reproduction/Instagram)

According to the administrator of @chãovelho, not everything that seems so old is in fact. According to her, perceptions are necessary to distinguish what is truly part of history. The university student reports that several establishments, when undergoing renovations, lose their original floor and with that part of the history of that place is also lost.

“Because I am known among my friends as an old floor hunter, some of them come to me to take pictures thinking that it is something old, but sometimes it is not, and by the size and painting you can see it. It is a shame what they still do here in Manaus, when they take away the real floor and put porcelain tile in its place, with, at most, an imitation or paint that refers to previous years”, she laments.

Support and plans

Despite the initiative that contributes to the preservation of the history, culture and art of the city, having the social networks as allies and disseminators, the young manauara says that she still does not receive support from any authority related to the architectural heritage of Manaus.

In the long term, the plan of the manauara who is in love with the place where she lives is to expand the area of exploration that, for now, includes only the central region of Manaus, and to organize cultural events and exhibitions focused on the theme. “I am passionate about what I do. It is still in the beginning, but it has a value that I can’t even measure. It is my way of valuing Manaus and eternalizing in the networks how special it is”, she concludes.

Take a behind-the-scenes look at how Clíssia records the tiles:

Museum of the City of Manaus (Reproduction)