Rio plazas from above

Source (PT)

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The bohemian Praça São Salvador maintains its conserved fountain and gazebo

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With burned out lightbulbs, badly-treated flower beds and homeless people, Praça da Cruz Vermelha, downtown, is worrying due to the lack of security

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Lapa, next to the Arcs, one of the city’s most famous landmarks

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Passeio Público has a grass area and a fountain in a bad state of conservation

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Praça Antero de Quental, in Leblon

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Praça Cuauhtemoc, in Flamengo, and its geometry with circles drawn into the grass

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Praça do Monroe, in Cinelândia, has a fountain with trash, not water

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Praça Varnhagen, in Tijuca

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Praça São Francisco da Prainha

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Street vendors take up Largo da Carioca with tents

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Cinelândia and its Portuguese stone geometry

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Praça Tiradentes

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Praça do Russel, in Glória, in abondon, with an empty fountain

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Praça Nicaragua, in Flamengo

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Brazilian history in flames

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A massive fire raced through Brazil’s 200-year-old National Museum in Rio de Janeiro on Sunday, probably destroying its collection of more than 20 million items, ranging from archeological finds to historical memorabilia. – Source (PT)

I don’t even have words for how sad this is. What was lost goes so far beyond the snippet above (Luiza – the first Brazilian woman, the country’s largest indigenous and scientific collections, and innumerable items from the country’s founding). After the destruction of the Portuguese Language Museum in 2015, one would have thought that proper fire prevention systems would have been installed in the country’s most important historical institutions…

The Pig’s Head – 1924

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Note: The following article from 1924 which I translated is about the tearing down of tenement housing in downtown Rio. It was said to take the homes of anywhere from 2,000 to 4,000 people, who would go on to join the founding residents of Rio’s first favela. The demolition of Cabeça de Porco would also foreshadow the events a decade in the future, such as the Bota-Abaixo, as well as the city’s messy growth in the 20th century. The cartoon above shows a crying pig with a “barata” on it, referencing the then-mayor whose last name means cockroach.  

The Pig’s Head
by Hermeto Lima
Revista da Semana, 1924 [PT]

Imbedded on Rua Barão de S. Felix, up against the Cajueiros quarry, until 1893 there were cortiços (tenement houses), the last of their kind, refuge of capoeiras (hooligan ex-slaves) and murderers of all nationalities. It was the “Pig’s Head”.

A gate or, rather, an immense arch gave access to a large pigpen. From day to day it was dangerous to enter; in the darkness of the night no one dared to do so.

Along the way, hundreds of cottages lined up; rooms that were contaminated, impossible to count their number, would be open coffins, piled up on top of each other and with people inside. Along with all this, were an infinity of buildings, thrown together, with pine board walls and tin sheet roofs. Big stones on them, to keep them there and prevent the wind from carrying them off.

In front of these buildings, a non-paved street. Impossible to cross it from end to end, with such obstacles therein. Here were the tubs of laundry women; there were slings of clothes; a multitude of bamboo everywhere, with enormous twines, where shirts of all kinds and tendrils flutter. Hungry chickens cackle for a grain of corn; stray dogs full of leprosy fight for a crust; trapped enchained parrots scream and, with their paws or their beaks, seek to tear off the parasites that devour their skin; little birds of all species, beset, sprinkle themselves in the mud of their old cages; silent cats, spy frightenly through the cracks between piles of coffins and garbage cans of all kinds. A monkey with skirts, property of an Italian, a mouth-organ player, in an eternal sway, squeaks, showing its teeth. The man with a bear, makes him dance to the sound of a tambourine, whose primitive color no one even knows. A black sorcerer, from Benguela (south of Luanda), with a snake coiled around his neck, jumps and sings to the sound of a maraca.

It’s ten o’clock. The “Pig’s Head” is in its full swing. At first glance, it seems that only women work there, because a swarm of them, of all colors and nationalities – predominantly Italian, Spanish and Portuguese – is seen in a deafening “fervet opus”.

Some wash, others iron, still others in improvised kitchens, stir pots, placed on bricks and not falling only by a whim of the laws of balance.

Almost all of them sing more or less obscene songs. Some babble with the others or scold their children, who whimper there close-by.

The men, very few, work in the shoe repair shops, of which there are ten. From time to time, from one of those dens, emerges a mulatto with a pair of trousers, a belt, and a jersey, known among the hooligans, stretching and opening his huge mouth. Having just woke up.

On one side of the street is a barber shop. The owner, a giant black man who is said to be a deserter from the navy, shaves the customer’s face while telling a group about his exploits.

In front of the barber shop, a cellar draws the attention of those who go to the “Pig’s Head”. An old black man is seated at the door, which he closes as soon as someone enters or leaves. And his work must be painful, because it is a constant come-and-go of people who seem endless.

That’s where “monte” (game of luck) is played.

Naked children of all ages are everywhere; some roll around, crawling through the mud on the street; others, with their bare chest, whimper, confusing the mucus of the nostrils with the saliva and the tears they shed.

Girls, ages 12 and 13, wearing rags, carry other children in their arms or pull them along by the arm, so that they walk fast.

Boys aged 12 to 14, in groups, plan robberies, practice immoralities or tell tales, in a language capable of making a monk blush.

A den of famous criminals, when one fights there, there is no police that dare to haul him away from there.

Armed robberies or assaults are planned right there, in the open, without fear of denunciation.

Suddenly, a ghastly commotion.

There are two black women who wrestle because one wants to take the lover of another, or because she invaded the tub of the other one.

And people join in; and sides are formed, to see which of the two is the bravest. Screams, voices, trills of whistles that reach the street and the ears of the police. But they shrug and says,

“Well, it’s in the Pig’s Head.”

At other times, it is not women who fight. It is men, and then the story takes another shape. There is a hideous shooting, which, once it is over, it is not uncommon to find 2 or 3 corpses lying on the ground.

And then the news runs: – It was “Caboclo” that killed “Barba de bode”. The others had nothing to do with the fight. They were passing by at the time of the shooting.

And thus was life in the “Pig’s Head”, where about two thousand people lived.

In the monarchical regime, it was said that several authorities tried more than once to do away with this tenement, but soon higher orders appeared that neutralized that intention.

In vain, the press complained against that Babylon without assurances and without hygiene and whose property was of many, each one even more prestigious in the political world.

The Republic was made. On December 20, 1892, Mayor Dr. Candido Barata Ribeiro was appointed. One of his first acts was to do away with the “Pig’s Head” however possible.

At 8 o’clock on the morning of January 26, 1893, an infantry force of the police, commanded by Captain Marcellino and another of cavalry, were marching to Rua João Ricardo. A crowd of firefighters and about 300 workers from the Inspectorate of Public Works, the Chief of Police, Dr. Bernardino Fereira da Silva, the Mayor, Dr. Barata Ribeiro, Dr. Corrêa Dutra, second auxiliary delegate, and other authorities followed.

No one knew what that apparatus meant.

Having arriving in front of the “Pig’s Head”, it was like the barbarians entering Rome.

The infamous tenement was invaded and 300 workers with pickaxes in hand began their destructive work. When the dust from the walls was too much, the Fire Department would come to the rescue to complete the task.

The threats of the troublemakers and the lamentations of the women were worthless. Within a few hours, the “Pig’s Head” that had lasted for 53 years was reduced to a heap of debris.

Only then could one see well the many alleys, the nooks, the stores, and the corridors in which it was subdivided.

After a few months, its owners filed a lawsuit claiming compensation for damages and lost profits.

The action was evaluated at five thousand contos that the City had to pay, without a word nor a peep.

That was how much the “Pig’s Head” cost.

But it came down.

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(about 30 years after it came down)

Forgotten sambas and voices of WWII

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Over at BBC Brasil, there’s a lengthy article (in PT) on the forgotten voices and sambas of Brazilian soldiers in WWII, including a 20-minute documentary (in PT, with PT subtitles) called Os Sons Esquecidos dos Praçinhas (praça means soldier, as well as plaza). Most of the documentary, however, relates to reporting the war rather than war-related sambas, although there are some old-school styled sambas here and there.

The recordings, made by Francis Hallawell, an Anglo-gaucho war correspondent from BBC Brasil, were recovered by the network to celebrate 80 years of content production for Brazil.

Documentary shows the formation of Rio

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The documentary São Sebastião do Rio de Janeiro, from 2015, shows the rich 450-year history of the city of Rio de Janeiro and its profound changes, using archival footage, 3D simulations and testimonials. You can find some more info on the film here (PT).

I was able to finally see it after trying to find it for two years. The documentary is well-done, and a good watch (even if you’re already familiar with the history, like me). Check out the trailer below.

Rio Utopico – Suggestive places

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Rio Utópico is an exhibition that aims to make a spontaneous photographic mapping of communities in Rio de Janeiro whose names suggest a utopian situation. The exhibition will consist of a large map of the city, enlarged on the floor of the room, with groups of photographs of each locality gathered on the walls.

To mount the exhibition, artist Rosângela Rennó worked with young residents of these communities, who were guided to photograph and research the place where they live. The collaboration of the youth is the jumping off point for the exhibition, which will involve an open call for any visitor from the communities of Rio de Janeiro to send images to the exhibition.

The artist will receive the images during the period in which the show is in progress. They will then be selected, printed and added to the exhibition walls from time to time. The exhibition will show how people represent their own places, how they mobilize around the production of images and how the landscape of Rio de Janeiro is much more diverse than we are accustomed to seeing.

I auto-translated the section below showing the event info.

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Law of urban responsibility

Nothing guarantees that the population will see the results of promises made in the Constitution, in the laws, or in the Master Plans, to be able to live in a good city. I insist: there is no mechanism within the public administration that protects society from the inefficiency, segregation and diseconomy produced by badly planned and badly managed cities.

The emphasis on management is not for nothing. Even an ill-conceived neighborhood could have its environmental qualities increased if good public spaces were created and, of course, if they were well maintained.

Well-designed streets, places to socialize, urban afforestation, cleanliness, planning and conservation are underrated formulas for success.

They do not alleviate infrastructure shortages, but when they are not implemented, they corrode everyday life. They create empathy for degradation. “That’s the way it is” or “It’s illegal, so what?”

I heard this from Elizabeth Barlow Rogers, a landscape architect, responsible for the rehabilitation of Central Park in New York. Betsy Rogers transformed a den of crime and violence in the 1980s into one of the world’s most vibrant urban parks by simply doing what she defined with three key actions: cleanliness, beauty, and conservation.

Note that “security” was not listed. By qualifying the urban experience, making it inclusive, and always taken care of, there is an increase in good use.

William H. White, another American urban planner, innovator in the field of human behavior in public space, said: “The so-called ‘undesirable people’ are not the problem. It’s the measures taken to fight them, that’s the problem… The best way to deal with the problem of undesirables is to take action and make it attractive to everyone else.”

We verified this hypothesis when the iron bars at Tiradentes Square were removed, in downtown Rio. The place became alive. Fear had motivated the placement of the bars. Franchised and well cared for, it actually came together. However, it was not the simple removal of the bars that produced this effect, but a set of urban management actions that kept it clean, orderly, beautiful and preserved over time.

I insist on the smallest scale. In an urbanism that moves. In a new pedestrian authority. A less pretentious or revolutionary urbanism. More inclusive and loving spaces. This is no small matter. But how?

Despite the advances of the 1988 Constitution, the City Statute, from 2001, and now the newest Metropolis Statute, from 2015, life in Brazilian cities has not improved. Every 13 years or so, we made laws to say “what”, but never to say “how”.

I propose a Law of Urban Responsibility.

The Fiscal Responsibility Law, made in 2000, said how the government should manage public finances. It’s not perfect, but it has ensured social control and transparency with clear goals, making the administrator responsible. There is a clear understanding of the benefits of this way of taking care of the public good.

For another important collective good – the city – Master Plans are made, which, if not attended to, do not imply responsibility for administrators. Such plans err in failing to set goals. This function has been assigned to Strategic Plans.

Rio has been using this methodology since the Cesar Maia administration, when, in 1993, the “Rio Sempre Rio” plan was made. That’s where the vision for and pursuit of the Olympics came from. Then, in 2004, they made “As Cidades da Cidade”, where the “city” of Arts, Samba, and Children come from.

During the 2008 elections, candidates Fernando Gabeira and Eduardo Paes signed on with the Rio Como Vamos initiative for adopting goals.

Having been elected, Paes initially made a 2020 plan and set targets for the end of his first term. In 2013, the State created job titles within the city, known as Goal Management Analysts. And a new plan, with a view towards 2030, and targets for 2016. This methodology was added to the practice of agreements for result and bonuses, giving the city a glimpse of speedier management.

Just when it elaborated a strategic plan with a greater temporal scope, the Plano Rio 500 –  looking towards 2065, and with a greater participation process, and again creating goals for the next four years – the TRE-RJ made Paes and the candidate for his succession, Pedro Paulo, ineligible.

The Marcelo Crivella administration is continuing the methodology and the Strategic Plan.

A collective culture of participatory elaboration of goals in Rio is being consolidated.

But how can results be ensured?

This management model is recommended by the National Front of Mayors and even by international entities, such as the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Based on the 2010 Census, the IBGE launched the unprecedented study “Intra-urban Typology: Spaces of Socioeconomic Differentiation in Urban Concentrations in Brazil”, which shows how acute territorial inequality is. Only 24% of the population in Brazilian urban concentrations live in conditions considered good.

The Constitution and the City Statute failed. There is no use for Plans that do not define goals. There is no point in participating if goals are not achieved.

The Brazilian population needs an Urban Responsibility Law that punishes administrators that don’t strive to make a good city for everyone. – Source (PT)

The Cult of Malandragem

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It doesn’t really seem like Rio de Janeiro is profiting from the cult of malandragem (being a trickster).

There is a part of Rio de Janeiro’s population that has always created for itself – and for the rest of Brazil that pays attention to what is being said there – an image of the city as a national and global center of malandragem. It would be a great virtue. This “spirit”, in its way of seeing things, makes Rio a city that’s superior to others. It makes its citizens more intelligent, more able to deal with life and more adept than other Brazilians in achieving the best for themselves. Imagine that these people are all up there in the hills, or in the “communities” (favelas), as one must say today. Many indeed are, but they are not the ones who are most representative, for their voice does not go far. Those that really carry this flag forward are a portion of the, more or less, middle classes of the Zona Sul, with the decisive participation of artists, intellectuals who sign manifestos, opinion-makers, influencers, communicators and so on. Today, they are the guardians of philosophy who say that to qualify as a “malandro” is one of the greatest gifts a human being can give to himself. While his worst misfortune, a source of shame and complete proof of stupidity, is to be the exact opposite of this – the sucker, condemned to spend his life in humiliation, attainment and “disadvantaged.” Be everything in Rio; but do not, for God’s sake, be an “otário” (sucker, idiot).

The hit song in Rio de Janeiro at the end of 2017 is “Vai, Malandra” (image above). Football commentators, starting with the most popular ones, once again bet that the “natural malandragem” of the Brazilian footballer will be an important strategic advantage at the 2018 World Cup in Russia. The city and state politicians are proudly described as “malandros”. In the arts and in what is called a “cultural milieu” the figure of the malandro, and the philosophy that is built around his merits, are among the main themes of interest. The word “malandro”, in short, is a compliment. The word “otário” is an insult. Nothing improves, of course, the general idea that associates the sucker with someone honest, a keeper of one’s word, taxpayer, a follower of the rules of the road, well-bred, etc – all this, more and more, is seen as a weakness, as well as stupidity, a lack of “jogo de cintura” (artful dodging) and other serious crimes. A decent citizen, in this climate, is a defective citizen.

The attitude of the cult of the “malandragem” does not seem to be having good results in the practical life of Rio de Janeiro. Until the other day, three former state governors were in jail at the same time for corruption – one of them, who was not lucky enough to put a Gilmar Mendes in his pocket on the way there, is still in the slammer. No other state in Brazil, at any time in history, has achieved anything like this. The year 2017 is ending with more than 130 policemen murdered in Rio, an average of one killed every three days. Public officials have forgotten what it is to receive a monthly salary on time. It was necessary to borrow money to pay for their mandated Christmas bonus. One of Rio’s and Brazil’s biggest points of pride, Maracanã Stadium, remains closed after spending billions of dollars worth of investments to impress at the Pan American Games, then the 2014 World Cup and finally the 2016 Olympics, one event after of the other. Flamengo, the biggest team in Rio, trains in a place called “Vulture’s Nest”. None of this really has the appearance of being a great big trick. – Source (PT)

 

Casa do Jongo shut its doors

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Cultural producers and students protest in favor of the Casa do Jongo

The official home of Jongo in Rio de Janeiro – headquarters of the traditional cultural group Jongo da Serrinha, in Madureira, in the north of the capital – has closed. Casa do Jongo suspended activities last week due to a lack of funds.

In order to demand public policies for the safeguarding of its intangible heritage – declared a landmark by Iphan in 2005 – and the upkeep for its scheduled activities, visitors, students and supporters protested today (January 9th), in Cinelandia, in downtown Rio.

Inaugurated in 2015, Casa do Jongo is the result of the dedication by Jongo masters since the 20th century so that the dance doesn’t disappear. The cultural group was founded to expand the jongo groups and professionalize activities, hence the need to have a space of their own.

With the support of the city government that, in 2013, bought and renovated the property where the institution was operating til today, Casa do Jongo opened its doors. This is the last nucleus for the dance in the city, the inheritance of Mestre Darcy and Vovó Maria and the birthplace of the samba school Império Serrano.

Until last year, the venue served 400 students of all ages, with classes in percussion, singing, sports, cultural practices, as well as serving as a meeting point for neighborhood artists. Three thousand people visited there in 2017.

Financing

With the suspension of the bill approved by the administration of the previous mayor, Eduardo Paes – the main way the institution’s activities were financed – the problems started. The amount raised by companies through the tax incentive law is insufficient to maintain the space’s activities, whose monthly costs are US$12,400 for infrastructure and to pay 23 employees.

The director of the house, Dionne Boy, says she tried for one year to get support for a direct contribution from the City’s Culture Secretary, in the form of investment granted to other cultural institutions, such as the Deborah Colker dance company and the Museum of Tomorrow, however the results weren’t positive. The director questions the criteria for receiving investment and also demands contributions for projects that work with intangible heritage.

“We do not think we have to be supported only by the city hall, but what are the criteria [for direct transfers]? That is not clear, “Dyonne questioned. “We are fighting all the time to have a policy for the city’s intangible heritage. Groups that are 50 years old, 60 years old, like Filhos de Gandhi, Jongo da Serrinha, Trem do Samba, they are projects that are the very identity of the city of Rio and are being undermined, making culture with their own funds, but which in the crisis are the ones that suffer the most”, she said.

According to Dyonne, these groups have more difficulty attracting sponsorship compared to institutions in the media such as museums and dance groups. “We are inside a favela, serving, especially children, we should have priority,” she said.

Regarding the direct transfer of funds to the Casa do Jongo, the City Secretary of Culture, Nilcemar Nogueira, said that it was not possible because of the decrease in tax collection in the city. He informed that, through the fiscal incentive law, Casa do Jongo raised so far, $37,400 so far, to be paid this year. On the pay-outs to the Deborah Colker dance company, the secretary argues that the group is a reference in the country and internationally and develops social projects – with free presentations. He also says that, in the last year, support from the Secretary to the group was reduced from $624,200 to $124,800.

Another alternative to get resources offered to Casa do Jongo, according to Nilcemar, were the three open tender notices made by the secretariat last year. One of them allocated $156,000 for initiatives with an emphasis on African culture, distributed in amounts between $3,000 and $15,600.

The Casa do Jongo did not compete for the open tenders, according to director Dionne Boy, because the maximum amounts were low. “We do not have projects at these [lower] amounts. We have projects for one year, not one month. And we know, moreover, that such low amounts ​​hurt cultural activity”, she said.

According to her, since last year, even with fiscal stimulus funds, the Jongo supporters were paying for some activities. “We were banking this with money from our own pocket, these 23 teachers don’t get a paycheck, they are partners who give classes elsewhere and do volunteer work in the Serrinha. We, the coordinators, are seven people, and are like State employees (with parceled wages). This is a scandal for the city.”

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Afro-Brazilian culture

In the evaluation of the director and other cultural producers in the city, who launched a public letter in defense of Casa do Jongo during the protest, the city hall has left behind manifestations and cultural groups linked to black culture. “There is a component of persecution of cultures from the African matrix, of popular culture, without a doubt”, criticized the cultural administrator.

Secretary Nilcemar Nogueira denies that projects related to Afro-Brazilian culture are being relegated by the administration of Mayor Marcelo Crivella. However, he acknowledged that initiatives related to Afro-Brazilian memory or intangible heritage have more difficulties to maintain themselves, including those related to samba.

“Today we don’t value anything that comes from African matrix. This is a discussion to be had with the entire society. Because if the entire society understood its importance, this wouldn’t be happening to the Casa do Jongo, nor with samba, nor with the Folia de Reis. We still think in an isolated way,” he said. – Source (PT)

An Auditory History of Samba

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Below are two collections I came across detailing the history of samba and other popular songs. Enjoy!

Como e Por quê nascem as Canções

“Well-known in sports and cultural journalism, John Max is the author, along with Charles Didier, of Noel Rosa – Uma biografia and has published books on Paulinho da Viola, movie soundtracks, and the great stars of Brazilian football and Maracanã. On the radio, he made the documentary Vinicius – Poesia, música e paixão in 32 chapters. He is one of the leading experts in the history and stories of Brazilian music, a subject that is addressed this program, highlighting how important popular songs emerged.”

The 32-part short-audio series from Rádio Batuta on samba and other popular Brazilian songs can be found here (PT).

FYI: The audios don’t seem to work on Safari, but they worked on Chrome.

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No Tempo do Samba

In this 24-part series from Rádio UFOP, out of the Federal University of Ouro Preto, the history of samba is retold. Each episode is about 10 minutes and they’re all in Portuguese. The project blog is here (PT).

FYI: The pace is slightly too fast and the background music can be bothersome when trying to focus on the host’s words.