São Sebastião do Rio de Janeiro

In the book Rio de Janeiro: Cinco Séculos de História e Transformações Urbanas (link), which I’m in the middle of reading, I came across some paragraphs regarding how Rio was managed in the 16th and 17th centuries. Where I imagined the government of the time to be in control of almost everything, I found quite the opposite.

“E os frades foram responsáveis por grande parte dos referenciais diários da população carioca. Na habitação, com a disponibilidade de moradias; na saúde, com seus hospitais, boticas (farmácias), médicos e enfermeiras; com a produçao de alimentos nas suas cercas, fazendas e engenhos; na educação, com suas escolas; na cultura, por meio do teatro, das artes plásticas, da música e do lazer (as procissões eram o maior divertimento no Rio colonial); nos melhoramentos urbanos, com a construção de pontes, chafarizes, a abertura de ruas e o saneamento; com o fornecimento de água (de seus poços); nos empréstimos e na guarda de dinheiro e bens; com a hospedagem dos romeiros; com a proteção aos fugitivos e aos meninos de rua; com os enterros; e, por meio de suas normas urbanísticas, garantiam parte da segurança. Foram responsáveis pelo avisos das horas, dos incêndios, dos nascimentos e das mortes transmitidos pelos sinos das igrejas.”

“And the friars were responsible for a large part of the daily references of the Carioca population. In habitation, with the availability of residences; in health, with their hospitals, pharmacies, doctors and nurses; with the production of food in their surroundings, farms and mills; in education, with their schools; in culture, through theater, visual arts, music and leisure (the processions were a main source of fun in colonial Rio); in the urban improvements, with the construction of bridges, fountains, the opening of roads and sanitation; with the water suppy (from their wells); in loans and in the safeguarding of money and goods; with the lodging of pilgrims; with the protection of fugitives and street children; with burials; and, via their urbanistic norms, they guarantied part of the security. They were responsible for the notices of the time, fires, births and deaths transmitted through the church bells.”

___

“O Governo Geral dedicava-se apenas às obras de fortificação contra os constantes perigos de ocupação estrangeira e indígena. Os melhoramentos urbanos deviam-se não à Câmara, mas à população mais rica, isto é, aos vizinhos e às entidades sacras, com a responsabilidade pela produção de grande parte dos serviços públicos, como já observado. Secavam pântanos, escavavam valas para escoar as águas e levantavam cais.”

“The General Government dedicated themselves merely to fortification works against the constant dangers of foreign and indigenous occupation. The urban improvements owed themselves not to the legislative body, but to the wealthiest of the population, that is to say, to the neighbors and the religious entities, with the responsibility of producing a large part of the public services, as mentioned. They dried out marshes, dug trenches to drain water and they built the pier.”

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