Cândido Rondon did more in his lifetime than many do across generations. Starting in the late 19th century, the Brazilian hero created a telegraphic network across the vast expanse of the Amazon rainforest, fought for the rights of native tribes, and pinpointed the exact center of the South American continent, to name a few of his achievements.
During his surveys and expeditions carried out over decades, Rondon calculated that the center of the continent—the spot with an equal area of landmass lying both north and south, and east and west of it—was in the then-remote and sparsely populated region of Cuiabá.
Today, Cuiabá is a low-profile provincial city best known as an agricultural and cattle-trading center, and for hosting a few first-round matches during the 2014 World Cup held in Brazil. But amid the usual markets and government buildings that a city’s downtown holds, in Cuiabá there stands a monument of grander scale. A towering marble obelisk, marking the continent’s geographic center that Rondon calculated.
A marker was first placed at the spot in 1909, and in 1975, the obelisk was constructed. The location was originally an open field used for little more than bullfights, but as the area developed, buildings filled in around it, and the obelisk is now the center of a modern government plaza anchored by the city council headquarters.
Rondon went on to be named Marshal of the Brazilian army, and was later nominated for the Nobel peace prize, for his humanitarian work and peace initiatives during conflicts between Peru and Colombia. The Brazilian state of Rondônia was named after him. He died in 1958 at the age of 92.
Years later, the advent of satellite mapping calculated a more exact geographic center of the continent, only about 28 miles away from Rondon’s original location. However, the Cuiabá city government and certain Brazilian army calculations still asserts that Rondon’s placement was accurate, and the obelisk on the spot that he marked remains one of the area’s most interesting monuments.
Know Before You Go
The monument plaza is located on Barão de Melgaço street, near the corner of Ferreira Mendes, a few blocks from the cathedral and museums in central Cuiabá.