Enfhyteusis, land demarcation and land alignment: the performance of Belém’s City Council in urban configuration and land management during the 19th century

ABSTRACT The paper examines the morphological transformation of the city of Belém, influenced by the new land regime inaugurated by the Land Law of 1850 and by the growth of state urban planning. We investigate the actions of the City Council in the urban land tenure and the implementation of an Expansion Plan for Belém in the 19th century. In order to understand the spatial actions undertaken by the City Council, we started from the study of three instruments: emphyteusis, the main form of land transfer used by the City Council; alignment, related to the public-private boundaries and streets definitions; and land demarcation. We investigated the original land documents that record the emphyteusis, alignment and land demarcation carried out by the City Council along the Bragança Road, the main axis of city expansion in the 19th century. From the graphic spatialization of the information contained in these documents and the research in local newspapers, it was possible to verify that the City Council acted as a pioneer state agent, through a systematized land subdivision project. The discussion contributes to the comprehension of the structuring role of the local power in the definition and change of urban morphology and to a new understanding of the Belém Expansion Plan, classifying it as not only a urban beautification project, but as a product of the political-land tenure transition that marks the nineteenth century.