Road to Rio’s birthplace

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The Ladeira da Misericórdia was the first public street in Rio de Janeiro, and it led up to Morro do Castelo where the city was ultimately established in 1567. That’s when the then-governor general Mem de Sá transferred the city center there from Urca, along with about 120 Portuguese soldiers, as a strategic security measure to protect the city from invasion. The Ladeira was just a dirt path for the first 50 years until it was paved in 1617.

Morro do Castelo was demolished in 1922 to landfill other parts of Rio, but next to the existing Church of Nossa Senhora do Bonsucesso one can find a small, 40 meter initial stretch of the oldest Carioca street. Despite ending abruptly after the curve, it still features its original cobblestones (in a format known as “pé de moleque”), a job done by two slaves and a mule.

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In September 2017, IPHAN will vote on whether the Ladeira da Misericórdia receives protection as a piece of Rio’s cultural heritage, since it has already given such status to important historical elements in the immediate vicinity. The obvious answer is that it should have had protected status a long, long time ago. At least it no longer looks abandoned as it did in the 1960s

Below are a few historical images of the Ladeira, followed by a short educational video (in PT) on the street.

 

A piece of Santa Teresa’s high society

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A little far from the center of Santa Teresa, the Parque das Ruínas is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful views of the neighborhood, although it is little known and almost always empty [less true these days]. The main attraction is the view overlooking the bay on one side and the city center on the other. With Rio de Janeiro at your feet, the viewpoint is perfect to understand the geography of the city, from the top of Santa Teresa.

It’s recommended for dates, relaxing, reading a book or for a good chat with a privileged background.

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The Park and the ruins are the remnants of the Palacete Murtinho Nobre, erected between 1898 and 1902, and where Laurinda Santos Lobo lived, a society lady and heiress of a very rich family. Her house was one of the most effervescent spots of the cultural life of Rio de Janeiro and the local scene where famous singers performed for prominent figures of the time.

Later, abandoned, the place was invaded, plundered and occupied by beggars and traffickers. It is said that even the doorknobs, which were made of gold, were stolen during this period of abandonment.

In 1993, the State of Rio gave protection status to the property and, in 1997, the Parque das Ruínas was inaugurated. The ruins today have a style that blends bricks with metallic and glass structures.

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The park also has an exhibition hall, auditorium and cafeteria, which work with special events. In the outdoor areas there are shows and a special program for children on weekends. The beautiful views begin right at the entrance to the park and continue to the top of the house. But the best of them all is on the ground floor, at the back of the house, next to the cafeteria. – Source (PT)


The Palacete Murtinho Nobre: ​​from splendor to ruin

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The palace at Rua Murtinho Nobre, 169, in Santa Teresa, was the residence of Joaquim Murtinho (1848 – 1911), doctor for great figures from the Old Republic and famous for restoring the republican finances in the Campos Sales government (1898-1902), in which he was the finance minister. Of refined education, Dr Murtinho was a civil engineer, doctor of medicine (specialized in homeopathy, owner of Mate-Laranjeira) and professor at the Polytechnic School. He also served as vice-president of the Senate.

At the end of the 19th century, knowing about the death of his brother-in-law, Dr Murtinho received his sister and her daughter, Laurinda (1878 – 1946), whom he resolved to support and provide the best education. Thus, after being married, the niece joined her uncle in his taste for dances, soirees, theater and all the cultural and leisure activity available in Rio’s Belle-Époque. More than that, while the old uncle began to move away from social activities, Laurinda became prominent in the social columns and enjoyed great prestige with the political and artistic classes, having been an inspiration for João do Rio’s chronicles.

In 1911, Joaquim Murtinho died without leaving descendants and constituted Laurinda as sole heir of its property: villas in Petrópolis, the Mate-Laranjeiras factory, the shares of Ferro-Carril and, especially, the Murtinho mansion, that in the hands of Laurinda would witness glorious moments. Now rich, Laurinda consolidated her position in society, becoming a patron of artists and opening the halls of the mansion for the most famous dances and lyrical-musical events of the beginning of the last century. Laurinda was a woman ahead of her time: she presided over the Council of the Brazilian Federation for Women’s Progress and used her prestige for feminist struggles. During the 1920s she promoted meetings about Modernism, and raised funds to publicize composer Villa-Lobos in Paris. Determined, she even helped artists that were unknown to society, such as Sílvio Caldas, who played guitar at one of her soirees. During her time in Paris, where she held residence, she also received and helped promote Brazilian artists in search of  international recognition.

Laurinda died in 1946 at the age of 68, leaving no descendants. Her mother (deceased in 1960, at 92) and stepfather (who passed away the following year) remained in the house. After the stepfather’s death, a long-running lawsuit followed for the possession of the property and its contents, which in 1965 would be definitively transferred to the  Hahnemannian Institute, as Laurinda had determined. In the meantime, as the house was unguarded, it was constantly ransacked, with trucks at the door, taking what was of value in the small palace (which, incidentally, still occurs with properties listed as being of historical heritage and with churches). Without being maintained and subject to bad weather, the beautiful mansion deteriorated, suffering with the invasion of the homeless and finally remaining in ruins, becoming a hide-out and a place for drug use.

After constant complaints from neighborhood residents and at the suggestion of a group of illustrious residents in Santa Teresa, led by the theatrologist Paschoal Carlos Magno, the city council expropriated the house in 1979, but its restoration was no longer possible. He opted then to take advantage of its ruins as an integral part of a new architectural concept. As for the life and glory of the illustrious resident, there is little left of her memory until it was redeemed by Hilda Machado in her book “Laurinda Santos Lobo: Mecenas, artistas e outros marginais em Santa Teresa” (Casa da Palavra, 2002).

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Today, few of her belongings can be seen in the permanent exhibition at the Laurinda Santos Lobo Cultural Center, installed in the former residence of Senator Joaquim Lima Pires, acquired by his family in the 1970s. The history of Rua Murtinho Nobre is an example of government neglect with our historic assets. If they were in a European city, our mansions, which safely hold very important moments of the history of Brazil, would be well-preserved, illuminated, guarded, and serving cultural tourism, which financially supports so many cities in the old continent.

Tardily acquired by the city, what remained of the palace received architectural interventions and became the Municipal Cultural Center Parque das Ruínas, inaugurated in 1997 to house exhibitions, musical, theatrical and literary programs. And so the old place of so many soirees and dances resumed the activities of its past and there it remains like witness of a time that will never return again. – Source (PT)


For additional text (in PT) and images from the era, see the magazine clippings I found below while searching through online archives.

Rio Marathon shows endurance

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With the inspiring landscape of Rio de Janeiro as a backdrop, the Rio Marathon extends along the coastline of the city with a record number of participantes in its 15th* edition. When it was launched in 2003, the event brought together 3,000 people; this time, there will be more than 33,000 runners from 47 countries, who will run on Sunday (June 18th), the route between Praia do Pontal and Flamengo Park. As such, the race assumes the position of Brazil’s largest, surpassing the number of participants of São Paulo’s traditional 2016 São Silvestre marathon by 10%. “It’s incredible to see that, fifteen years later, we multiplied the number of participants by more than ten. I’m very happy and honored to have believed in this,” says João Traven, creator and producer of the event.

Made up of three types – the main route, at 42 kilometers long, the half marathon and the family circuit (6km) -, the competition has turned into a big event, and there’s a lot of fun planned for each of the starting points, such as live music from Alice Caymmi, Serjão Loroza and Davi Moraes. The large size is also evidenced by the impact on the city’s economy. According to the organizers’ calculations, the marathon will bring in an estimated revenue of R$200 million. At the same time, Expo Run, a fair with 25 companies specialized in food supplements and sports equipment, occupies the Sul América Convention Center between Thursday (15) and Saturday (17).

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Excited to take part in the race, even far from being professional marathon runners, amateur athletes are getting ready. Retiree Lindalva Figueiredo, 71, trains four times a week with her daughter, Claudia Figueiredo, 43, on the track around Maracanã. “I started running to control blood pressure. This year I suffered signs of a stroke and, according to the doctor, I’m only here because I exercise,” says Lindalva. For those looking for reasons to start running, this is one of them. – Source (PT)


Contrary to statements in the article above, the Rio Marathon has been ocurring since 1979 (PT). The 15th edition mentioned above refers to the currently named version. The original was created by Eleonora Mendonça, the first woman to represent Brazil in an Olympic marathon, in 1984.

No fortune or future for Rio tea

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Rather than an early morning cup of coffee and another little cup after lunch, a cup of tea. Perhaps this would be a Carioca habit had Dom João’s ambitious project succeeded. In the 1810s, between 200 and 500 Chinese from Macau disembarked in Rio to work (in semi-slavery conditions) farming tea, until then only produced in China. It was a real Chinese business, since the product was a very profitable trade in Europe.

The plans included bringing up to one million Chinese to the country and supplying not only the domestic market but also the European market. Contrary to what was planned, the plantations – at Rio’s Botanical Garden, Ilha do Governador and the Fazenda Imperial de Santa Cruz – did not go forward. But the arrival of immigrants became a part of history as the first Chinese contact with Brazil. The circumstances of this trip and its consequences are now recounted in the book “China made in Brasil” (Babilônia Cultura Editorial), by journalists Cristiane Costa and Cibele Reschke de Borba.

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The book doesn’t end in the nineteenth century: it deals with the cultural and commercial exchange between the two countries to the present day. China is the country that most invests now in Brazil. The sum is around R$30 billion [in 2015]. And Rio served as the first port for these exchanges.

“Tea was an important spice at the time. And it was the moment for the globalization of food”, says Cristiane, noting that of the Chinese who arrived in the early nineteenth century, only the names of four are known (Liang Chou, Ming Huang, Chian Chou and Tsai Huang). “These were not ordinary workers. They stayed at the Conde da Barca’s house on an official mission. One hypothesis is that they organized the coming of workers or the importation of seedlings.

Different Palates

As to why tea farming didn’t work, there are some theories. Shu Chang-Sheng, a Chinese man who lives in Rio and holds a doctorate in history from UFF, says that one of them is about the difference between palates: since the Chinese usually drink green tea, the product produced here would not have pleased the Portuguese, accustomed to sweetened black tea. German painter Johann Moritz Rugendas, who traveled through Brazil in the following decade and came to portray the work of Chinese in the Botanical Garden (see main image above), wrote that the tea had the “acrid taste of earth.”

Immigrants might also not have been exactly specialists in this type of agriculture, according to the historian. The labor regime imposed on them – which reminds us of the Chinese currently treated like slaves in Rio’s pastry shops – is another possibility:

“The Chinese had an aversion to closed systems. They may have resisted the concentration camp at Fazenda Real.”

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After the plantations were over, the Chinese spread out. Some turned into peddlers, some went to coffee farms. There are also those that gave rise to the first opium houses downtown, next to Beco dos Ferreiros. Those who worked in the Botanical Garden built homes in Tijuca Forest, in ​​the Vista Chinesa area (above) – hence the explanation for the name of the viewpoint, which was also called Vista dos Chins and Rancho dos Chins. In the Pereira Passos government, a Chinese pagoda was erected at the Vista, in reference to this memory. The project, from 1903, is by architect Luiz Rey.

The country would only see a significant number of Chinese arriving here starting in WWII. Journalists estimate the number of immigrants and descendants living in Brazil is 250,000. Chang-Sheng estimates that in Rio there are about 20,000. Although there is no Chinatown in Rio, one of the strongholds is Saara, where, behind the counter, many children of the first immigrants are seen there, from the end of the 1980s.

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Chang-Sheng says that immigrants come to Rio today with different motivations, working in branches that go beyond commerce and the kitchens of restaurants and pastry shops:

“Most work within the retail and wholesale network. But a kind of transnational Chinese immigrant has arisen, who are executives of Chinese companies moving from China to Brazil, from Brazil to the United States or from here to Latin America.” – Source (PT)


This post was in honor of the Botanical Garden’s 209th anniversary yesterday. To know about tea in Brazil these days, here’s part of an abstract from a 2009 paper on the subject:

“In Brazil, the culture of tea is concentrated in the Ribeira Valley – SP, and almost all the production is exported. Despite the Brazilian product is not of high quality, it has achieved good prices in the international market. The Brazilian production, the production area and the number of tea industries are decreasing in recent years, clearly indicating the need for investments.”

Rio casinos may make a comeback

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Seventy years after being banned in Brazil, casinos are making their bets and returning to the negotiating table in Latin America’s largest country. Yesterday [May 09], one of the world’s gaming industry icons, American Sheldon Adelson, president of Las Vegas Sands, the largest casino company in the United States, met with Rio Mayor Marcelo Crivella. However, the multibillion-dollar entrepreneur, who will be in Brasilia with his team, is not the only one. Also in the city recently was James Murem, who heads the MGM Resorts group, famous for his ventures in Las Vegas.

The list of companies interested in taking advantage of casino activity in the country has been growing every month. Even one of Las Vegas’ best-known figures, former mayor Jan Laverty Jones, was in Brasilia, as she is now one of the top executives at the company that owns Caesars Palace. In recent months, the group owner of the Red Rock network, with spaces in California and Michigan, was also in Brazil.

But it’s not just Americans. Europeans from Portugal’s Estoril Sol and even those from Austrian state-run casinos in Vienna were in Brasilia presenting the casino and entertainment industry as a tool to boost the tourism industry in Brazil.

Investment in Resorts

The legalization of casinos, however, is a subject surrounded by controversy in Brazil. Many groups criticize the proposed legalization, arguing that gambling could lead to money laundering, the creation of criminal organizations and addiction. On the other hand, the government itself has already convinced itself that the legalization of casinos will help in the development of the economy. According to MP Elman Nascimento, the Chamber’s special committee president analyzing the subject, US$24 billion in investments is expected.

“Brazil is one of the only democratic countries where casinos aren’t allowed. These groups are interested in investing in the country, creating an integrated casino resort. There is a high willingness to invest. But it’s necessary to ensure that these investments take place in the country. In addition to the groups from the US and Europe, there are also companies from Argentina and Uruguay with an eye on the country”, Nascimento said.

In the meetings, businessman Sheldon Adelson said he intends to start an $8 billion project in Brazil. The American billionaire’s idea is to create a complex along the lines of the one in Macau, which now generates more than ten thousand direct jobs and brings together convention and shopping centers. According to a source, the tycoon has said in his meetings that to start the venture, the city needs to have a 4 to 5 star hotel infrastructure to absorb customers.

Yesterday, Mayor Marcelo Crivella met the businessman for a meeting at the City Palace in Botafogo. Before the meeting, Crivella said that the reason for the meeting was “to bring investments” to Rio, without mentioning the word casino.

“He’s one of the big investors in real estate. Let’s talk about tourism. He’s surely has one of the biggest American fortunes and a lot of interest in Rio. So he can help us with Porto Maravilha. I’m going to show him the infrastructure that was created, and who knows, maybe we can install hotels, food courts, cinemas. He is one of the great entrepreneurs in Las Vegas,” said Crivella.

Hotel Nacional in Focus

Adelson’s advisor declined to comment. According to another source, groups from abroad are already talking to hotels in Rio de Janeiro and looking for land. One of the talks at an early stage calls for the possibility of a casino in the former Hotel Nacional, in São Conrado (pictured at the top), owned by HN Construtora, and recently reopened under the management of the Spanish group Meliá.

“A pre-arrangement was made for the construction of a casino in the hotel, for a $50 million project”, said one of the sources who declined to be identified.

Hotel Nacional did not return a request for comments.

There are now two proposals to legalize casinos in Brazil: one in the House and another in the Senate. In the House, the substitutive report from the Commission on the Regulatory Framework for Games was already voted on and is on the table of the president of the House, Rodrigo Maia. In the Senate, the bill is wih the Constitution and Justice Commission. According to sources, the two projects will converge as one, as a way to speed up voting in Congress. The idea is that the text goes to plenary after the vote on Social Security reform.

It’s already certain that, by uniting the two proposals, the project will federalize the criminalization of all types of games, such as bingo and the animal game lottery. According to the House’s proposal, states with up to 15 million inhabitants may have a casino; places with between 15 and 25 million, two; and states with above 25 million, three. The Senate proposal mentions up to three establishments per state.

“It requires a uniform legislation, fraudulent exploitation of the game, without authorization, becomes a federal crime.” This brings security for the investor. For the project, the casino machines will be linked to the Federal Revenue system, which will have online monitoring”, said Nascimento. – Source (PT)


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Between 1934 and 1946, there were 71 legal casinos in Brazil. Eventual owner of Cassino da Urca, Joaquim Rolla, won the casino in a card game [1]

Brazil has been described as the sleeping giant in several publications and in relation to its huge potential to turn into one of the world’s biggest regulated markets. Gambling has already been a big thing in the country. According to the Brazilian Legal Gaming Institute (Instituto de Jogo Legal – IJL), the approximate amount of US$6.4 billion is generated annually from illegal gambling services. What is more, the Jogo do Bicho market could be worth around $3.8 billion. In terms of stakes placed, the local market could be valued at around $17.6 billion, the IJL has noted in a report on Brazil’s gambling market.

As many other gaming options, brick-and-mortar casinos are also prohibited in Brazil. It has been estimated that around 200,000 country residents travel to neighboring Uruguay to gamble at local casinos.

Bearing all the above figures in mind and the fact that gambling is strictly prohibited in Brazil and only conducted illegally, the IJL has suggested that the country annually loses $2 billion in what could be contributed to coffers in gambling taxes.

With population of 208 million people, Brazil could be the world’s largest regulated gambling jurisdiction. – Source


 

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Cassino da Urca

Opening in 1933, Rio’s Urca Cassino (today a design institute) was the place to be, until a presidential decree banned gambling in Brazil in 1946. At the height of its success, from 1939 – 41, it was considered to be the world’s best and most happening night club. It was while performing there that Carmen Miranda was noticed by an American show biz magnate, starting her international career.

Others to pass through the Cassino included the likes of Bing Crosby, Josephine Baker, Orson Welles, and Walt Disney.

The Carioca hinterlands

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A resident of Jacarepaguá, Magalhães Corrêa wanted to call attention to the problems of the sertão, and show it wasn’t just some far away place in Brazil’s northeast.


Rio de Janeiro, 1930. Capital of Brazil. Getúlio Vargas, having recently came to power after the coup, reflects and nurtures the nationalist spirit that dominates the country. While the capital thrives with political, structural and social transformations, not far from there life is quiet, limited to a few inhabitants who live with luxuriant fauna and flora. It’s the Sertão Carioca, in the words of the illustrator and self-taught naturalist Armando Magalhães Corrêa, conservator of the National Museum.

While roaming through this sertao – where, after numerous walks, he bought a small farm – Magalhães Corrêa wrote chronicles and composed beautiful illustrations with the tip of a feather. These were published between 1932 and 1933 in the newspaper Correio da Manhã. In 1936, after encouragement from newspaper editor, Ricardo Palma, and intellectual Roquette Pinto, the Imprensa Nacional gathered all the material in a book titled O Sertão Carioca. Although acclaimed at the time, Magalhães Corrêa did not come to be considered an important author, but from the 1990s he began to be object of academic articles. Still, the book is valued more for its details than its style. In one of the prefaces, Roquette Pinto himself states: “The picturesque with which the artist knew how to describe the different and individualized professional types of the Sertão Carioca, makes us forgive the sloppiness of the style.”

Today [2015], almost eighty years later, the Biblioteca Nacional is working on the reissue of the book as part of Rio’s 450th anniversary. It is currently waiting for funding from the Rio de Janeiro Research Foundation (Faperj). If it is published, the work will certainly be sold at prices lower than those practiced by the used bookstores on Estante Virtual, who charge between R$150 and R$300 for a copy [1].

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With descriptions of characters, places and trades that were erased from Jacarepaguá, Barra and Recreio, the “Sertão Carioca” of the 1930s today seems incongruous amid the construction sites and condominiums that occupy the region. After all, it was the West Zone’s very isolated character that attracted its first residents and enterprises. These now culminate in the housing boom and boost in construction, among other factors, for the 2016 Olympics.

What’s still seen a suburb by part of the city’s elite – still the same as in 1936 – has become its center: the Olympic Park, when completed, will be at the heart of Sertão Carioca. Although, in a way, the words of Ricardo Palma, publisher of the Diário Carioca, in the preface of the book are valid:

“Yes, even though Cariocas from the Avenida, from Posto 4, from the chic tea parties and cinemas are amazed, there is a “sertão” in this wonderful land, like in the Amazon, Matto Grosso, Goyaz, Minas, Bahia. Although less wild …”

It’s this “tame” (ex) sertão – in the words of anthropologist Candice Vidal, from the Pontifical Catholic University of Minas Gerais – that we will pass through on this trip through old Rio. We will visit some places mentioned by Magalhães Corrêa in search of vestiges of the Sertanejos that lived there and of the names that today resound like lost places – restinga de Itapeba, ilha do Marinho, represa dos Ciganos —; trades supplanted by ‘progress’ – clog-makers, weavers, ax-makers, wire-makers, potters, fertilizer-makers; And  now-obsolete artifacts – tipiti, biquilha, leira, alforge, bitola. If to us they sound almost foreign, these words were also not well known by readers in the 1930s: no wonder Magalhães Corrêa inserted a “Vocabulary employed and spoken in the backwoods of Rio” at the end of the book, which contains about five hundred terms.

The article continues with several ‘then vs now’ examples. Source (PT)

How Rio’s illegal lottery came about

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How does one describe to a foreigner an institution as Brazilian as the jogo do bicho (animal game), a former zoo raffle that has existed for 125 years, is against the law and has become one of the biggest illegal lotteries in the world?

The question arose during an unpretentious chat, but it motivated political scientist Danilo Freire to investigate the subject in depth.

Using economic tools, he reached unprecedented conclusions about the informal rules and mechanisms of force that helped this illegal betting bazaar survive more than 30 governments in Brazil, from dictatorships to democracies.

Studies on animal game in the country were done, above all, within anthropology and history. Excellent studies, says Freire, but with a focus on symbolic aspects – such as the influence of dreams and everyday facts on gamblers’ hunches – or moments of the game at a given time.

“I tried to analyze the game as a capitalist enterprise because, first of all, that’s what it is. It was created to generate profit,” says the 34-year-old researcher who studied the subject for his PhD in political economics at King’s College London, one of the most prestigious universities in the world.

Rational choice theory – one of the economic tools employed by Freire – assumes that people think in terms of cost-benefit. They always try to improve their well-being, although they don’t make the best decisions all the time and cannot predict the future. But they do their best to increase their chances.

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Papers with old lottery results

“The animal game is a business, and it seems reasonable to me that bicheiros (those who run the games) are rational, and if they were not, they are unlikely to have accumulated the fortune and influence they have. They are people with good business skills and strategic thinking to negotiate, legally or not, with politicians and police, among others.”

Historical circumstances

The embryo of the animal game came in 1892, when Baron João Batista Drummond had an idea to attract visitors to his zoo in Vila Isabel, in Rio’s north zone.

The place had exotic species and beautiful views of the city but was missing people. Among the new entertainment suggestions for the venue, one stood out: a raffle.

In the morning, the Baron chose an animal from a list of 25 animals and placed its image in a wooden box at the entrance to the zoo. Those who participated would earn a ticket with a picture of one of these 25 animals.

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Entrance ticket from 1896, authorizing the visitor to participate in the raffle

At the end of the day the Baron would open the box and show the figure. The winner got 20 times the value of the entrance price – which surpassed, for example, the monthly income of a carpenter at the time.

“Being able to choose the animal was a great idea, because it made the game much more interesting. Eventually this made people start to interpret dreams, license plates and numbers, in very fun ways too,” says Freire, who also has a master’s degree in Political Science from USP and in International Relations from the Institute of Higher International Studies in Geneva.

The lottery was christened the animal game and soon became a craze – tickets began to be sold not only in the zoo, but in stores throughout the city. Repression didn’t take long – authorities criminalized the activity in the late 1890s, for the sake of “public safety.”

Freire points to four facets of late-19th-century Brazil that help explain the emergence of the animal game:

1) A growing urban population, excluded from the labor market;

2) The flow of immigrants with family networks that encouraged participation in commerce;

3) An increase in the circulation of capital, motivated by factors such as the abolition of slavery and nascent industrialization;

4) A weak judicial system regarding criminal repression.

“Cities began to grow, and the end of slavery and the influx of immigrants into the country increased the number of urban poor. The illegal market was the only income option for many people,” explains the political scientist.

“Even though the game was illegal, the law was never enforced very strictly. To this day the game is considered only a misdemeanor, a lesser crime (leading to four months to a year in prison). Thus, punishment wasn’t enough to frighten the bicheiros – profits offset the risk of being arrested.”

Modus operandi

In the animal game, each of the 25 animals corresponds to four numbers: from ostrich (01 to 04) to cow (97 to 00). There are different betting options, and the prize varies with the possibility of winning.

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Table of the first 15 animals

In general, your animal will win if the last two numbers of the thousand announced in the Federal Lottery correspond to the number of the animal. For example: if the lottery drew the number 3350, the winner is the rooster (49 to 52).

You can also bet on the thousand (the so-called “na cabeça” bet): choosing the four numbers and hope the four come out in the first draw. It is the highest move: usually paying R$4 thousand on a R$1 bet.

“The bicheiros try to expand their businesses and offer something that attracts gamblers. When a bet succeeds in one place, it will probably be copied by neighbors and tested in other markets,” says Freire.

The structure of the game has three levels of hierarchy. Bicheiros or note takers are the most visible face of the business: they sell the stakes with their notepads and stamps. Managers are accountants who take care of the bicheiros of a certain area, mediating contact and the flow of money to the bankers (also known as bicheiros), the financial elite of the game.

A study by the Getúlio Vargas Foundation estimated that the animal game raked in from R$1.3 billion to R$2.8 billion in the country in 2014 – a number that some considered underestimated.

In the 1990s, it employed 50,000 people in the city of Rio de Janeiro alone – Petrobras, for example, has 68,000 employees.

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A bicheiro’s bench in Rio

Sure to go wrong

But how has this business managed to differentiate itself from other illegal markets and become profitable in the long run? In theory, everything conspired to go wrong: who would give money to a wrongdoer and wait for him to pay it back?

“Those who win and don’t get paid cannot complain to PROCON (consumer protection agency), open a lawsuit or call the police,” recalls Freire.

In addition, raffles were held in hidden places (usually “fortresses”, the bankers’ HQs) and the practice was reputed to be a moral vice and had strong opposition from the Catholic Church.

The researcher identifies two mechanisms that have reduced the stigma surrounding the game: building a strong reputation for honesty and offering specific incentives to clients and employees.

Trust came with measures such as making the raffle results viewable to everyone (on light posts, for example), on-time payments and a fixed multiplier formula for the prizes – if a gambler wins the smallest prize, for example, he will receive 18 times his investment regardless of the amount of the bet.

“Every gambler already knows how much he can win. It’s easier for people to understand and leaves the bicheiro in a situation where everyone knows how much he has to pay,” says Freire.

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Paper with the game results

Since the 1950s, when the bankers of the animal game transferred their operations to “fortresses,” the drawings left the public eye, which could have reduced the trust and profits of the activity.

The business, however, solved this problem of “information asymmetry” by starting to use the winning numbers of the Federal Lottery in its raffles, hitching a ride on the credibility of the official betting trade.

Another strategy to create a good reputation, says Freire, was the financing of cultural activities, especially Rio samba schools.

“They give jobs to residents, generate profits for the communities, increase tourism in Rio and, of course, they become a national symbol”, says the researcher, who also cites the foundation of LIESA (Independent League of Rio de Janeiro Samba Schools) by animal game bankers in 1985.

“Samba schools began to receive state support in the mid-1930s. But the government intervened in sambas and parades. The animal game gave schools some freedom and allowed more elaborate parades and for schools to become more professional.”

Solving internal problems

The illegal business had to deal with problems common to any company: lazy employees, cruel bosses, cash shortages. How does one ensure, for example, that bankers don’t pocket gambling money? There is, of course, a threat of violent retaliation, but it isn’t something common.

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A notepad with bets

A more frequent tactic, says Freire, is the provision of “collective benefits,” such as private security provided by corrupt gunmen and police, small interest-free loans for unexpected expenses such as health care, and gambler tips.

“It would be as if the animal game bankers paid bonuses and shared part of the profits for employees to put in effort. It’s something that many companies also do,” he says.

There is also the risk of “bank failure” – when the business cannot pay the premiums, for example, in case of a very high bet. The solution to potential liquidity problems was “unloading”: smaller bidders get “insurance” by paying part of the bets to a larger bicheiro, who guarantees high bets if necessary.

“Banks and companies do the same thing with shared risk contracts, hedge and insurance operations. The mechanism is the same,” explains Freire – but the mechanism tends to enrich the more powerful bicheiros.

The animal game also grew in collaboration with public authorities. The political scientist says that these criminal partnerships have gained momentum during the dictatorship and have remained during the current democratic period. Politicians, for example, benefit from donations via caixa 2 (slush funds) and the bicheiros’ access to poor communities.

Open questions

After looking at the world’s largest illegal lottery for more than a year, Freire still sees issues that need to be further studied, such as the relationship between gambling and drug trafficking and between bicheiros in different states.

“Bicheiros came long before the growth in traffic. How do they share space? Is there more cooperation or conflict? It’s possible that they only share areas of influence and barely communicate, but perhaps do business, exchange information, and help each other when needed. Something that’s still unanswered,” he says.

And after studying the theme in depth, how does he see, for example, the Senate’s 2014 bill to legalize gambling in Brazil, including the animal game?

“I am in favor of it. If a person bets with his own free will, he can spend his money as he likes.” The argument that legalization would lead to addictions doesn’t seem convincing to me, what’s the difference between playing the game and the Federal Lottery?,” he asks.

“In addition, as the animal game proves, the fact that the game is illegal doesn’t stop people from betting. The State could even collect money from the animal game. One would just need to know if the bicheiros are interested in paying taxes, which I have my doubts about.” – Source (PT)

Dictionary of the Social History of Samba

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Zé Carioca, a character created by Disney, brings together several stereotypes about the people of Rio de Janeiro, especially those adept at samba, considered for a long time to be the rhythm that attracted “malandragem”.

To deconstruct such figures, Nei Lopes and Luiz Antonio Simas, writers and sambistas, published the best-selling Dicionário da história social do samba (Dictionary of the Social History of Samba) [1].

The option of using social history as the guiding theme aims to provide information about samba in a critical way, highlighting the rhythm as a process that extrapolates the sounds of the pandeiro and relates it to the country’s cultural memory. Whether samba came about in Bahia or in Rio isn’t important to the authors so much because they prefer to show other aspects such as the ambiguous insertion of this musical culture in consumer society and the participation of blacks in the creation and fixation of samba.

In the book, the authors use [393] entries to present parallels between music, dance, cuisine and dress, the famous and anonymous characters, the relationship with governments and the cultural industry, among other themes. In a narrative format, the entries highlight the explicit repression of sambistas at the start of the 20th century, identified with malandragem, such as the Disney character; samba schools, pagodes and rodas as nuclei of resistance, aside from sub-genres that cropped up throughout the past century. – Source (PT)

Rio’s one and only suspension bridge

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Opened in February of 1915, the “Alexandrino” suspension bridge united Ilha das Cobras, where many naval establishments are located, to Rio’s downtown (between current Museum of Tomorrow and Praça XV). The construction was made in the form of a transporter bridge, meaning it had what’s known as a “flying ferry” (pictured below) which could deliver cargo and people from one side to the other.

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With the transference of the Navy Arsenal and the construction of a new Navy Depository on the island, the bridge no longer served its function. It was replaced in 1930 by the current Arnaldo Luz bridge, which lacks the flying ferry and the ability for large ships to travel beneath it. For a brief time, both bridges existed side by side. – Source (PT)

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As part of the newly created Naval Aviation School, deputy director Lieutenant Delamare took a seaplane on a test run with Santos Dumont (in black) as passenger, flying under the Alexandrino. This was Dumont’s first time in a military aircraft, in an era when seeing a plane in the sky was still a very rare sight. The date was January 25, 1917. Fifteen years later, battling multiple sclerosis and sad over the military use of his invention, Dumont would commit suicide. – Source (PT)

Also bringing together the subjects of the bridge and death, monetary prizes were said to be given out to those who would attempt the so-called “pulo da morte”, that is, jumping the 137 feet (42 meters) off the middle of the bridge into the waters below. Most notably, a 16-year old Portuguese boy would complete the feat in 1918 with no promise of any pay whatsoever. Source (PT)


A few notes on the Ilha das Cobras / Island of Snakes. The original name of the island, given by the French in the times of France Antarctique, was Ile des Chévres / Ilha das Cabras / Island of Goats. From there, it became the Ilha dos Monges / Island of Monks, and finally it took its current name, after a report from the São Bento Monastary said the island was full of snakes.

American holiday in Rio – 1920s

Looking at Sugarloaf it’s hard to believe that almost 100 years have passed since the images in this video were recorded. But the film goes on, and next come old cars, clothing from another time and horse-driven carts on the sands of Rio. This compilation of amateur images, which shows a family trip to Brazil in the 1920s, is part of one of the largest historical military archives of the US, Periscope Film.

In the silent film, we can see how the family spent its holiday, running on the beach, going on a boat ride, visiting markets or even doing more banal activities such as playing with their dog. Even so, the familiar context almost always has Rio as a backdrop, in black & white, which acts like a trip through time. – Source (PT)


Some time stamps

01:34 Guanabara Bay; 03:42 Palacio Monroe, former Federal Senate; 4:02 Obelisk on Avenida Rio Branco (formerly Central Avenue); 07:05 Rua Paysandu, Flamengo; 8:05 Corcovado; 10:53 Alexandrino Bridge, near Ilha das Cobras 10:55 Candelaria Church; 11:14 Chinese Vista; 12:00 – 14:30 Recife

Related: Rio on Film – 1930s