The productive ecosystems of this region hosted a rich pre-Columbian population that left a wealth of archaeological sites. Some hills up to 30 meters high are actually sambaquis or shells middens created by the nomadic populations that lived in the coastal area for thousands of years.
The caiçaras evolved a native culture adapted to the rainforest and coastal environments that combines Amerindian, African and European traits. Handcraft of canoes and musical instruments, artisanal fishing and subsistence agriculture are part of this rich culture. The regional folklore is represented by Fandango Caiçara, a musical-choreographic-poetic and festive expression, that is officially registered as “Brazilian Intangible Cultural Heritage”.
Another traditional group present within this region, but more common on mountain areas, are the quilombolas, or descendants of escaped African slaves. Quilombolas keep many cultural traits related to their African roots while they have evolved a production system adapted to their rainforest environments.
The area also hosts two native groups, like the Guarani and Kaingangs. Guaranis used to thrive in a vast area shared by Southern Brazil, Paraguay, eastern Bolivia and northern Argentina. Today there are few guarani groups that maintain their nomadic traditions, traveling through communities along the Atlantic Forest. The Atlantic Forest Great Reserve host several of these groups both in Paraná and Santa Catarina, and it actually includes the only legally established reserve at Ilha da Cotinga, where they are able to build a prosperous community within their own territory. The Kaingangs tended to live in the inner higher plateau, and they have established a small community inside Guaricana National Park.
The Atlantic Forest Great Reserve also includes some of Brazil’s oldest towns like Cananéia, Guaraqueçaba, and São Francisco do Sul. Also there are four historic cities that are officially protected by the National Institute of Artistic and Historic Heritage, like Iguape, Antonina, Paranaguá and São Francisco do Sul, while Cananéia is officialy protected by the state of São Paulo.
The Portuguese heritage is present in the colonial architecture and typical cuisine, especially in the variety of seafood. One of the most famous dishes, mainly in the north coast of Paraná, is the barreado—shredded meat, cooked in clay pot, accompanied by cassava flour, rice and banana.
Photography by Zig Koch