Jorge Pegoraro – Head of the National Park
The creation of the Iguassu National Park was crowned by a magnificent history that began long ago, specifically in the year 1542, with the arrival of the first Europeans in the region, when the daring, adventurous and persistent Spanish sailor Don Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca, was looking for the River Plate (Rio de la Plata) to reach Asuncion in Paraguay.
Soon, the trip turned into a thrilling rafting adventure through the light and yet unknown “large water” – as the Iguassu Falls were called by the Tupi-Guarani Indians.
“While going down the river called Iguassu, the current was so great that the canoes ran with greater fury. This was because close to where they had embarked, the river fell from a high cliff. The waterfall made such a loud noise that it could be heard from afar- It was the sound of foam as it fell and splashed up high…” This was how it was recorded for the first time in history the existence of the wonderful Iguassu Falls.
Later, in 1886, the abolitionist and railroad engineer Andre Rebouca dared to defend the creation of a National Park in the region. It involved the Iguassu falls and the Seven Falls (Sete Quedas) located on the Parana River, which are currently submerged by the Itaipu Hydroelectric Power Plant. But it all fell in deaf ears. His conservationist ideas were too modern at that time.
Alberto Santos Dumont, a Brazilian inventor, who liked to fly high in his thoughts and creations, visited the border region between Brazil and Argentina. While travelling by steamboat from Buenos Aires, he was invited to visit the Brazilian side of the falls. He stayed for three days in a small wooden hotel, known as the Hotel Brazil. The hotel had never hosted such an important guest. It was located on the banks of the falls. This land was owned by Jesus Val, an adventurer from Uruguay.
It was forever written in the history of the park’s creation, when he suggested to the Governor of Parana that the “lands should not be privately owned”, meaning the lands that surrounded the Iguassu falls. This suggestion was adopted by Governor Afonso de Camargo, through a state decree that established a town and a park in 1916.
Many years passed before the Brazilian President, Getulio Vargas, created the first national Park in Brazil in 1937, called Itatiaia, located in Rio de Janeiro and finally the Iguassu National Park in 1939, the second National Park in the country. It was established five years after the nearby Iguassu National Park in Argentina.
During the 40’s, a small hydroelectric plant was built to supply approximately 3,000 residents. At the same time, they also built the airport, an access road, the Park’s headquarters, staff houses, trails and bridges, plus a luxury hotel.
The conservation actually came much later, during the 80’s, with the development of the first Management Plan done in the country, along with the framework of the Brazilian environmental legislation. Brazil was taking its first steps towards sustainable development. In 1986, UNESCO declared the Iguassu National Park a Natural Heritage site, drawing world attention to the scenic beauty of the falls and also to the rich biodiversity in the region.
By the end of the 90’s decade, the Park underwent a new transformation. Due to the increasing tourism demand and the need to provide quality service to the visitors, the park gave licenses of part of its areas for private tourist activities using precepts increasingly adopted by National parks around the world. This was an unprecedented and pioneering effort.