Rio’s Messy Growth

The messy growth and limited transport links have caused problems that still exist today


Santa Bárbara Tunnel. The controversial construction was the cause of complaints from residents and killed 18 workers

A public demonstration took over downtown. About five thousand people faced the police, broke posts, and flipped over vehicles. There were records of three deaths, but violence left other victims: countless donkeys stabbed. There was enough even for the animals, the tram-pullers that cut through the city. All this was motivated by the 20 cent increase (vintém) in the fare, a measure that, today, could be equated with the R$0.20 readjustment for buses that also drove a crowd to the streets in 2013. Workers, stimulated by growing opposition to the emperor Dom Pedro II, made the first protest against the transport structure of the city in Rio in 1880, more than 20 years before the Vaccine Revolt (1904).

“At the time, transportation occurred by trams pulled by donkeys. The lower classes and republican opposition rebelled against the monarchy, recalls historian Carlos Addor of the Fluminense Federal University.

The residents of the then-capital of the Empire didn’t know, but their grandchildren and great-grandchildren would grow up facing similar problems. Expensive fares would influence the proliferation of favelas, and the road network grew disorderly, without providing integration between modes of transport. European cities took more than a century to leave behind their rural profile, but Rio took just over 40 years to take on an urban status.

This accelerated pace, coupled with a lack of planning – two large urban projects developed in the last century didn’t leave the planning stage – and localized development aimed at the upper classes, made Rio the uneven metropolis we now know, according to historians, geographers, journalists and writers.

“The entire urbanization process in Rio was done to the exclusion of second-class citizens, says journalist and writer Zuenir Ventura, who in 1994 addressed the roots of this logic in the book “Cidade Partida.”


Avenida Central. During urban reforms under Pereira Passos, with the intention of turning it into a true Parisian boulevard.

The Center of Everything

At the time of the so-called Vintém Revolt (mentioned at the top), Rio was a city that existed in function of the downtown region. “Suburb” was a word used for the wealthy, and defined neighborhoods such as Glória, Catete and Laranjeiras, still fairly unoccupied and very wooded. This bucolic setting is depicted in Machado de Assis’s “Dom Casmurro”: the protagonist couple, Bentinho and Capitu, lived in Glória, from where one could see the sea through the window, at a time when the Aterro did not exist. Flamengo Beach, with clear waters, was lit up like Copacabana in the first half of the 20th century, but without swimsuits on parade through the sands.

Urban Rio, however, was downtown. In the early 1900s, a quarter of the city lived in slums. At the time, the city took in many poor people: a large number of ex-slaves came here, people who worked in the coffee plantations of the interior. With poor hygiene and housing conditions, these buildings began to be protested – including the folkloric Cabeça de Porco, whose owner lived in Gávea, which was already a noble area of Rio.

To “sanitize” the capital and make it a metropolis like Paris, Mayor Pereira Passos made a series of urban interventions during his term from 1903 to 1906. He demolished about 1,700 buildings to open and widen streets, and practically rebuilt Avenida Central, currently Rio Branco.

“Rio is a city that was founded to expel French invaders and who, at some point, decided that it had to be like France” – mocks historian and Globo columnist Luiz Antônio Simas.

The “sweep” ended with community housing, and the lower classes had to look for other places to live. At the time, says historian Milton Teixeira, it was believed that bad smells transmitted diseases:

“The poor, who could not shower every day or buy French perfumes, were seen as sources of infection.”

Those who could not afford a ride went up the hill. Those who had somewhat better financial conditions were pushed into the new suburbs, now with negative connotations. They were neighborhoods that followed the route of the railroads, created to transport goods. The trolley, controlled by foreign companies, was a symbol of the separation of the city: there was a car for the middle and upper classes and one for the poor, it was the taioba – on which it was possible to read, on a panel, the specification of who was to use it: “For luggage and those with bare feet”.

The trams that took the Zona Sul route, until the Botanic Garden, had a more expensive price because of the length of the route, which ended up limiting its public. As there was no single route, the meeting between the suburbanites and the residents of the Zona Sul took place downtown.

There were times when social classes were coupled with doses of tension. At religious festivals, for example. In the book “Lucíola”, by José de Alencar, Paul meets his beloved, who he later discovers is a courtesan, while she handed out spare change in the celebrations for Nossa Senhora da Glória, on Rua da Lapa. “All the grotesque types of Brazilian society, from the arrogant nullity to vile flattery, paraded in front of me, brushing silk and cashmere with baize or cotton, mixing delicate perfumes with impure exhalations”, he notes, recently-arrived to the city. Luiz Antônio Simas tells us that the feast for Our Lady of Penha in the 1900s and 1910s attracted the Catholic elite and the poor, who formed samba and capoeira groups. At a time when African culture was criminalized, the police always put the blacks on the run.

In the 1930s, with Getulio Vargas’ Estado Novo government, the opening of roads and urbanization projects in the suburbs gained strength. The electricity-powered trains, boosted the occupation of the North and West zones, and bus lines, began to be created. It was a stepping stone for Rio to take on characteristics of a metropolis.

“In 1940, 70% of the Brazilian population lived in the countryside. In 1980, we had 70% of Brazilians in the city. The result of this is “peripheralization”, a slumification, of urban swelling and immobility – notes Marcus Dezemone, professor of History at UERJ and UFF.

Rio, however, had two urban plans drawn up by foreign experts. The first was signed by Alfred Agache in the late 1920s. He had planned the construction of gardens throughout the city – including the suburbs – and opening roads to connect the periphery to downtown, including three subway lines. The project, however, basically didn’t leave the drawing room.

In the 1930s, the suburb was already housing the lower middle class, including immigrants. According to the historian Leonardo Soares, from UFF, the nucleus of the neighborhoods was established around the train stops. The embryo of the Mercadão de Madureira came about – an initiative of Portuguese and Jewish merchants. A May 1936 issue of “Revista da Semana” featured a report about a huge gypsy camp in the region where Cachambi is today (pg 01 & 02). They said they had left Greece, and revealed plans to go to São Paulo.

The more humble people settled in the hills closer to their workplaces. The slumification had a certain complicity from the elite, who needed cheap labor nearby. According to Milton Teixeira, Rocinha, for example, which became a stronghold of Northeastern migrants, began to concentrate, in the 1930s, workers doing construction in São Conrado and Gávea, including that of the Pontifical Catholic University (PUC). Morro Dona Marta, in Botafogo, which was the first community to receive a Peacekeeping Police Unit in 2008, had its first inhabitants brought there by Father José Maria Natuzzi, then-director of the Santo Inácio College. In favelas without water and sewage, the proliferation of diseases so feared by authorities continued – but beyond the reach of Rio’s public opinion.

“Today, Rio has six thousand cases of tuberculosis per year, which occur mainly in favela areas”, says researcher Jorge Castro, from the National School of Public Health at Fiocruz, for whom the urbanization of Rio de Janeiro meant time was needed to realize the importance of basic care in vulnerable locations, which prevents and reduces the demand for more complex care. “In Europe, this vision emerged after the Second World War.”


Rebouças Tunnel. Construction of tunnels amplified the connection between the Zonas Norte and Sul.

Still Precarious Sanitation

The Rio of the 1950s was a city of precarious services. In addition to seeing the decay of the trams and the growth of mini buses, Cariocas suffered with a lack of electricity and water. The newspapers brought daily reports on the state of the neighborhoods with dry taps. The supply system of the Rio Guandu was only inaugurated in 1965, by governor Carlos Lacerda. Today, Rio still leaves much to be desired in sanitation: only 47% of the sewage is treated, and the municipality is in 50th place among the 100 cities in the 2016 Sanitation Ranking, done by the NGO Trata Brasil. Historian Leonardo Soares points out that, until the 1980s, many residents of Gardênia Azul, in the Zona Oeste, drew water from a large well.

Between 1950 and 1960, the city underwent a new wave of transformations. The favelas, mainly in the South Zone, became a problem that had to be eradicated, and the solution was to remove its residents and accommodate them in planned and often remote farms and neighborhoods. It was in this logic behind the Vila Kennedy, Cidade Alta, Cidade de Deus and Maré – which, with wooden houses, were to be used as temporary residence for families who had been forced to wait for the construction of definitive real estate. A lot of people just stayed there.

“Some housing developments became problems. They took in people who could not sustain themselves”, says Pedro da Luz, president of the Instituto Arquitetos do Brasil (IAB) in Rio. – The Minha Casa Minha Vida program repeated this formula.

Rio invested in road transport. The mini buses were done with, and regular bus lines appeared. The tram, on the other hand, stopped circulating in 1964, and the trains went through a process of being scrapped. Tunnels were opened between the Zona Norte and Sul, which caused controversy. Santa Bárbara, which connects Catumbi and Laranjeiras, was the object of complaints from residents of the two districts, who didn’t want roads that gave access to the tunnels. Before construction was finished, 18 workers died in an explosion. The tunnel, inaugurated in 1964, would be called another name, but ended up dedicated to the saint because, inside, an altar was built in memory of the dead. Santa Bárbara is considered the patron saint of tunnel builders.

Rebouças, inaugurated in 1967, began to let vehicles through still without being totally ready. From 1976, buses began to circulate through its tunnels – it was at this time that the pejorative expression “além túnel” appeared, addressed to the residents of the Zona Norte who became frequenters of the beaches in Ipanema and Leblon.

The subway only came in 1979, almost 90 years after the first lines in the world. It began by connecting five stations, from Glória to Praça Onze.

“Our subway was one of the few on the planet planned to serve the middle class. This type of transport was launched in London, with the aim of taking the poor from the periphery to work”, says Milton Teixeira.

The city also had a second urban plan, in the 1960s, elaborated by the Greek Constantino Doxiadis. In June 1965, Globo reported that it envisaged the construction of an industrial area in the Zona Oeste, of ten thousand homes for slum dwellers and 7,500 classrooms. Only two of the six designed expressways actually left the planning stage: the Linha Vermelha, inaugurated in 1992, and the Linha Amarela, in 1997.

Unconcern with the environment marked the 20th century. The Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon, for example, has had several proposals for total landfilling, as revealed in the book “Lagoa”, organized by architect Augusto Ivan de Freitas Pinheiro and urban planner Eliane Pinheiro. The first was from doctor Oswaldo Cruz, in 1894, who thought that the Lagoa, being a marshy area, was a threat to the health of Cariocas. Agache, in the 1920s, wanted the area to be a place to a leisure. In the following decade, Lúcio Costa defended the construction of a university campus in the location. Rodrigo de Freitas resisted, but others did not have the same luck: Bairro Peixoto, in Copacabana, was erected where there was a large base of water.

Reported in O Globo

The Globo edition of October 4, 1967, printed on the front page news of the fire that destroyed the Praia do Pinto Favela in Lagoa, which was eventually removed in the following years. On the same day, the news about the inauguration of Rebouças – then the largest urban tunnel in the world – emphasized that the route from the Zona Norte to the Lagoon could be done in just five minutes.

PS – It seems the article has no real ending…

Source (PT)


Rio Olympics, one year later

I’ve been seeing articles and videos on the topic for a few months but I was waiting for one that could hit upon the zeitgeist. I think this 19-min report by China Global TV Network does a nice job of showing just that.

It’s sad to see but it’s not like this wasn’t the expected outcome. There are so many pressing issues but I feel like if public safety could be at least under control, it’d make a world of difference. For that to happen, police presence would have to be increased by 10 times.

How to find Rio Samba Groups

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A project from the Pereira Passos Institute, by Rio’s Secretary of Culture and the NGO Rede Carioca de Rodas de Samba, is trying to measure how many there are, how many people attend and how much money is generated by one of Rio’s main cultural heritage activities: samba groups. An in-depth study has led to the launch of a platform three weeks ago that aims to map them in the city.

Project Site (click “#MapaParticipativoRodas”, then “Explorar o Mapa”)

“Those who get around the city, and who like the samba groups know that these events take place seven days a week, throughout the year. Unlike Carnival, which is seasonal, the samba groups come together all the time. We wanted to understand where the groups are, what their potential and demands are,” explained geographer João Grand Júnior, one of the creators of the system and a student of the subject.

The project began at the end of 2015, with a decree by the City of Rio de Janeiro. The first step was a study that identified 140 to 150 samba groups in the city. The second step is mapping them online. The study was dependent on the event organizations.

“We summon the samba groups to put their information on the map. Previously, we did the survey ourselves but today we invite the samba groups to participate in the survey,” said the geographer.

Currently the site has about 25 samba groups registered, but the idea is that the number increases with the visibility of the platform.

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Economic potential of samba groups

With the slogan “Vive mejor quem samba” (Those who samba, live better), the researcher carried out a study with 25 samba groups from Rio de Janeiro to evaluate the potential of the market. This small sample of the samba groups market in Rio de Janeiro yielded R$1.33 million per month.

The study data shows that 66% of the public consume on average over R$50 a month at this type of event. For 31% of respondents, consumption exceeds R$75.

One of the next steps for the Pereira Passos Institute, Rio’s Secretary of Culture and Rede Carioca de Rodas de Samba is to try to scale the number of professionals who work and depend on the market. From salespeople, to musicians and technicians.

The map of Rio’s samba groups of Rio will remain online indefinitely. The idea is that it’s updated constantly and becomes a medium of reference not only for researchers, but also for the regulars, when choosing the places that they will visit. – Source (PT)

Enjoy a short documentary (PT) on the NGO that made the project

Lima Barreto – Sad visionary


At the top of Affonso de Henriques de Lima Barreto’s record of his first hospitalization in the Hospício Nacional, the writer is identified as white. The year was 1914, the diagnosis alcoholism, the city Rio de Janeiro. Just below the header, however, a sepia photo belies information about his color. Just like countless intellectuals and well-known Brazilians, who were black but were repeatedly portrayed as white, Lima, who was still alive, was taken as something he was not. In his case, however, the “whitening” is even more absurd, since being a black in the last country in the world to abolish slavery was a central issue of his life and work.

“In his characters, plots, and personal writings, the attention given to the racial question and descriptions of characters’ physical types are always emphasized,” says anthropologist Lilia Moritz Schwarcz. If at the beginning of the twentieth century, racial determinism – which claimed that mestizo and black populations were biologically weaker – was in vogue, Lima appeared as a dissonant, combative, and often lonely voice. “The mental capacity of the negro is measured a priori, that of the white a posteriori,” he wrote in Diário in 1904, offering a clear picture of the tenor of racism that prevailed in Brazil after the abolition of slavery.


The theme of race, not by chance, is also made more relevant in the biography Lima Barreto: Triste Visionário, which Schwarcz launches on July 10, from editor Companhia das Letras. “Lima is a well-played character. The whole series of researchers who followed Francisco de Assis Barbosa, his first biographer and diffuser of his work, is excellent. The question I asked, which had not yet been asked much, is about the issue of race. “A grandson of slaves and the son of free parents, born on May 13, 1881, on the same date the ‘golden law’ would end slavery seven years later, Lima approached the subject from his own experience. His work, in this sense, is extremely autobiographical.

As a teenager the writer attended the Polytechnic School and found himself to be the only black person in a class composed of elite white children, feeling all the rejection that could exist in such a situation. In Memorias do Escrivão Isaías Caminha, from 1909, his debut novel, he made the character Isaías, the bastard son of a priest with a slave, go through a childhood in which he received regular education, discovering in the future that his color would be a barrier for him to move up the ladder. Like Isaías, Lima also had a relatively stable childhood development, only discovering in adolescence and early youth the displacement that his social condition and color would impose on him.

Commonly portrayed as a poor writer, Lima had had some family stability for much of his childhood. His father, João Henriques, and his mother, Amalia Augusta, were ambitious and had good relations with the elite. They were educated and free. While he had a promising career as a printer, she was a schoolteacher. Things started to change when Amália died of tuberculosis and João lost his job. In 1902, after a series of episodes of emotional exhaustion, he also lost his purpose, which led Lima to leave college to financially support the household.

At the age of 21, he became the breadwinner of the family, made up of three brothers, a father and a few other members. Working as a public servant and, at the same time, following his literary goals with routine collaborations in newspapers and magazines, Lima found the critical propensity of his main brand early on. If it denounced racism, it also directed attacks against the Republic, the press, and anything that smacked of foreignisms. “There is a history of comparing Lima Barreto with Machado de Assis, but it is an injustice. They had completely different goals, while Machado was a universalist, Lima was an engaged writer who denounced mischief and criticized what he saw in his daily life”, says Schwarcz.

Looking back at his era, Lima was, for example, a ferocious critic of downtown Rio’s renovation, undertaken by mayor and engineer Pereira Passos. The era marks the beginning of the opening up of large avenues in the city and the subsequent expulsion of poor people living in slums to places further and further away. According to Schwarcz, “his view of the renovation was impressive, because many of those who witnessesed it at the time were delighted with what was being done.” He, on the contrary, already saw the plight of those that were expelled – which would ultimately result in a chronic problem for Brazilian cities, present until today – and was also incited by what he saw as the exportation of European city standards, especially of Paris, to Brazil. A great angst of his life, for example, was the neighborhood of Botafogo and the city of Petropolis, both “French-ified”.


The sad end of Lima Barreto

Between 1909, the year that Memórias do Escrivão Isaías Caminha was launched, and the year 1922, when he died at age 41, Lima wrote hundreds of chronicles and short stories, such as O Homem que Sabia Javanês and Nova Califórnia, and published at least one masterpiece: The Sad End of Policarpo Quaresma, in 1911. Other novels, such as Numa e a Ninfa and Vida e Morte de MJ Gonzaga de Sá, were also published in the short time frame. In addition to these publications, a lot of material came to the public after his death, such as Diário Íntimo, Clara dos Anjos and Os Bruzundangas. In short, it was a productive and intense output.

With a life touched by alcoholism, however, his texts and books were often viewed and evaluated by critics as erratic. Lima piled up several projects at the same time and did not fit the virtuoso profile with which writers were seen. In addition, the autobiographical tone of his books and the lack of concern in hiding the real personality of some of its characters were not well evaluated at the time. In Memórias do Escrivão Isaías Caminhas, for example, he critically portrayed different journalists who were easily recognizable, such as the celebrated chronicler João do Rio and Edmundo Bittencourt, owner of Correio da Manhã, one of the most influential newspapers of the time. He didn’t have an easy life after that.

“It was only after 1950, when he was rediscovered by biographer Assis Barbosa, that his work began to circulate again, but I think his name only came to be remembered, in fact, recently”, says Schwarcz. Today he will also be the main honoree at the 2017 Paraty Literary Festival (FLIP), which takes place at the end of July. According to the biographer, it’s also interesting to think that if the image of the Bohemian writer was so romanticized in some cases in literary history, with Lima Barreto it was always seen as something derogatory. “Bohemia and alcoholism, in his case, always appeared as an accusation”, says the biographer. Behind this, perhaps is the question of race once again. Not that Lima didn’t have serious problems with alcohol. He did, and they cost him his health. But it’s curious to think about the difference in treatment that his bohemia received.

In 1919, when he was hospitalized for the second time at the Hospício Nacional, Lima was already described as someone ragged, with his shoes on the wrong foot, perspiring a lot, with a swollen face and “sampaku” eyes – when there is white below the iris, a characteristic common to alcoholism. Three years later he died lying on his bed while reading a French magazine. At that time, Schwarcz describes, his personality was increasingly merging with that of the suffering suburban residents – he portrayed so much in his texts.

Lima, according to his new biographer, is our visionary for having spoken of racism practically a hundred years before the subject was actually open for discussion. He is our visionary also for having anticipated a series of Brazilian themes, such as the unplanned urbanization of cities. It’s sad to know beforehand that it wasn’t going well and that the euphoria of the years in which he lived  – the time of the Belle Époque, where scientific advancement and the growth of cities gave the impression that humanity’s problems were resolved – would not last. Unfortunately, the sad visionary may have had his maturity interrupted: “If we think that Machado de Assis wrote his main works after the age of 40, it is a pity that Lima was gone so early.” – Source (PT)

For a written interview with the author and short videos of her talking about his life, go here (PT)

Rio Marathon shows endurance


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).


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.

National Choro Day


Choro (“cry” or “lament”), also popularly called chorinho, is an instrumental Brazilian popular music genre which originated in 19th century Rio de Janeiro. Despite its name, the music often has a fast and happy rhythm. It is characterized by virtuosity, improvisation and subtle modulations, and is full of syncopation and counterpoint. Choro is considered the first characteristically Brazilian genre of urban popular music. The serenaders who play choros are known as chorões. – Wikipedia


Celebrated on Sunday (April 23rd), National Choro Day coincides, not by chance, with the birthday of Pixinguinha (1897-1973). To revere the master, who would’ve turned 120 years old on the date, more than eighty musicians presented themselves for free in five points throughout the city. The spree was idealized by the Instituto Casa do Choro. – Source (PT)

The History of Choro – Chorinho’s origin: The 30-min video above covers more than 100 years of Brazil’s most genuine musical genre and its most important exponents from Joaquim Calado to Altamiro Carrilho and recalling Chiquinha Gonzaga, Pixinguinha and Jacob do Bandolim. The life of the composers who wrote the history of choro is told through the group Choro na Praça, presenting representative works from the 16 most important composers of the genre.

The album above features 36 compositions from Brazil’s most famous choro musicians, from 1906 to 1947. The video description on Youtube shows the songs, musicians and time stamps of each composition.

The video above is the 2005 documentary Brasileirinho, about choro in Rio de Janeiro.

Rio’s two birthdays


(Two days ago, on March 1st 2017, Rio turned 452)

For centuries, Rio’s anniversary was celebrated on January 20th. In the 1960s, the celebration went from St Sebastian’s Day, the patron saint of the city, to the day of the Portuguese arrival.

On March 1, 1965, on Carnival Monday, 10,000 people packed Maracanãzinho looking for a piece of cake. Not just any cake: the delicacy made for the 400th anniversary of Rio de Janeiro was five meters high, 16 meters wide and weighed three tons (200 kg of just icing). At 4PM, it was Carlos Lacerda’s turn, the governor of Guanabara, a city-state that Rio turned into when Brasilia came about. The politician “blew out” the 400 lightbulbs that took the place of candles and served the first piece to a boy from São Paulo – who had sent a letter expressing this desire. It was up to 200 boy scouts to hand out the rest to the public. The leftovers – yes, some was left – went to orphanages and charities.

The cake consolidated the 1st of March of 1565, the date of the arrival of the Portuguese in Urca, as the anniversary of the city. It consolidated it because, for centuries, the date of its birth was another: January 20, 1567, the day of the Portuguese victory over the Tamoio Indians and French invaders, and additionally, St. Sebastian’s Day, patron saint of the city.

Historian Cláudia Mesquita, an expert in the 400th anniversary of the city and co-author of the book “Rio 400+50“, explains:

“The final decision was made in the 1960s. There was a consensus among exponents of the era. As is everything in history, it’s one interpretation.”

In the middle of the confusion, clarification: the name of the city does not necessarily have to do with the [month of the] first anniversary date. “Rio de Janeiro” is the name that the Portuguese navigators gave to Guanabara bay when they discovered it, on January 1, 1502. They only officially returned by this area on March 1, 1565, to expel a foreign colony, France Antarctique.

The arrival between Sugarloaf and the Morro Cara de Cão was recorded by Father José de Anchieta in a letter. “They began to clear the land with great fervor and cut wood for the fence, without wanting to know about the Tamoios or the French,” wrote the Jesuit. And the new settlement was named São Sebastião do Rio de Janeiro in honor of the king of Portugal at the time – the legendary Dom Sebastião (1554-1578).

There is no lack of reasons for considering this episode as the founding of Rio. Anchieta’s letter, the only official record of the event, came to the general knowledge only in the 1920s. During this long period, it remained January 20, 1567, when Estácio de Sá’s troops subdued the Indians and French.

Paulo Knauss, historian and director of Rio de Janeiro’s Public Archive, explains the symbolism of the date:

“The battle isn’t just important because it was won. Estácio de Sá is injured by an arrow and dies soon after. A warrior killed by arrow, like Saint Sebastian, patron of the city, whose day is the same as the battle. They are very dense military and religious matters.

Historian Milton Teixeira goes further:

“During the colonial and imperial period, January 20th remained Rio’s birthday. It was the only religious holiday maintained by the Republic, it marked the start of the city government”, he says.

This was until Anchieta’s letters were published, raising controversy over the founding of Rio. But for the story to be rewritten, an external factor was still needed. In 1954, São Paulo celebrated 400 years. And the question came up: when would Rio turn 400? If the story of the arrival is held to, it would be 1965. If it’s the victory, then 1967. A committee opted for the arrival, a decision ratified by Carlos Lacerda, who saw the 400th anniversary as a means to showcase his candidacy for the presidency.


During his government (1960-1965), Lacerda made a cake, a museum, a tunnel and even a landfill. It made no difference: the 1964 military regime continued, and the civilian Lacerda never ran for president. The State of Guanabara was merged with the State of Rio de Janeiro in 1975. The anniversary was kept as March 1st. Knauss stresses the change of values:

“Instead of placing value on the day of the saint or the battle, what’s valued is the civilization. It is a city for those who want to “clear the land”, to build a new life.

The truth is that many locals remain confused about the two dates. That’s okay: it can be celebrated twice.

Source (PT)

Traditional Carnival songs & PC culture


“Your hair doesn’t deny it, mulata / Because you’re mulata by color / But since color doesn’t rub off, mulata / Mulata, I want all of your love”. Those are the lyrics of one of Brazil’s most popular marchinhas, a popular musical genre in the country’s world-famous Carnival.

The song “O Teu Cabelo Não Nega” (your hair doesn’t deny it), composed in 1929, is among the carnival traditions that have been heatedly debated in recent years in Brazil. This year, with the party set to take place in the final days of February, is no different. At least three Carnival groups, which are called blocos, have said they would remove such songs from their playlists this year. Meanwhile, others object to such a movement, stating that Carnival is a festive time when things should be put out in the open.

The marchinha (little march) is a genre of music that satirizes the seriousness of military marches, played by brass bands and followed by a snare drum. They were popularized in the 1930s and are still a hallmark of Carnival in some Brazilian cities, particularly Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. The lyrics are often comical and satirical, with double-meaning that some might deem “politically incorrect”.

Musician Thiago França, the creator of Charanga do França, a popular bloco from São Paulo, expressed in an interview to website UOL why he is against songs like “O Teu Cabelo Não Nega”:

“It’s a racist affirmation. Leaving this song out doesn’t make the party less fun and we manage to have a gathering where everyone can really enjoy themselves. I’m responsible for 50 musicians, 20 people in production and close to 10,000 people who will join us on the street. I have this concern about not offending who’s there. Satire should be about those who are oppressors, not those who are oppressed. On the other hand, I don’t want to insinuate that those who play it are racist. Every person knows what’s best for themselves. This decision makes sense to me.”

Renata Rodrigues, one of the organizers of Mulheres Rodadas, another bloco from Rio, had the following to say in an interview with Brazilian news radio network CBN (via O Globo):

“If we’re a feminist bloco, there’s no way to keep our distance from these things. If this is being considered offensive, I think we shouldn’t go along with it.”

Regarding the marchinhas, other songs on the chopping block include solidified classics whose lyrics are very well-known among Brazilians, such as “Maria Sapatão” (1981) and “Cabeleira do Zezé” (1964), both by João Roberto Kelly. Let’s briefly take a look at some of the lyrics from these two songs:

Maria Sapatão / Maria Big Shoe
Sapatão, Sapatão / Big Shoe, Big Shoe
De dia é Maria / By day she’s Maria
De noite é João / By night she’s João

O sapatão está na moda / The big shoe is in style
O mundo aplaudiu / The world applauded
É um barato, é um sucesso / She’s cool, she’s a success
Dentro e fora do Brasil / In and outside of Brazil

Sapatão, which means “big shoe”, is generally derogatory slang in Brazil for a butch lesbian, both pre-existing this song but also popularized by it. Some lesbians in the 1970s were said to enjoy wearing men’s shoes but couldn’t find sizes that fit well, thus the shoes they wore were too big for them.

Olha a cabeleira do Zezé / Look at Zezé’s head of hair
Será que ele é? / Is it possible that he is?
Será que ele é? / Is it possible that he is?
Corta o cabelo dele! / Cut his hair!
Corta o cabelo dele! / Cut his hair!

According to an article on Carnival marchinha innuendo from online mental health awareness portal (En)Cena, Kelly, who’s now 78, has always alleged “Cabeleira do Zezé” refers to the 1960s counterculture when men had long hair. There’s also a double meaning, however, that Zezé is either secretly gay or just womanly.

When talking about the marchinhas he composed, João Roberto Kelly told newspaper O Globo the following regarding the controversy:

“I think it’s a bit exaggerated. I respect everyone, all opinions, but I think Carnival is such a happy, pure party, it’s one joke on top of another. Someone is going to censor Carnival lyrics? During Carnival, men dress up as women, women dress up as men, we play around with bald men, with fat men, we play with everyone. We go out dressed up as indigenous people, we go out as one thing or another.”

And when asked if he considered it a form of patrulha, which is a derogatory word that refers to activist pressure groups, he said:

“It is patrulha, but there’s no need for it. That’s Carnival, it’s everyone letting loose, everyone looking to make some kind of costume. And now the politically correct come, [saying] what it is, what it isn’t…These songs have been around for about 50 years, and people are devoted to them, people like singing them.”

Blocos not involved in removing the songs in question share Kelly’s opinion. Pedro Ernesto Marinho, the president of one such Carnival group, Cordão da Bola Preta, said:

“We don’t consider these Carnival songs to be offensive. The composers certainly didn’t have this intention. Carnival is a big game. This scandal won’t get anyone anywhere and it’s even unworthy of Carnival. Prejudice is more in our heads than in the Carnival songs.”

In one of the many opinion pieces that came out in the lead-up to this year’s Carnival celebration, the author of an article from Brazilian news website G1, titled “Banning incorrect Carnival songs is useless, but reflecting on lyrics is necessary”, took both sides into account:

“Perhaps the best, in both cases, is to reflect on the content of these songs and to sing them in a suitable context — such as in a dance or in a Carnival bloco, in the case of marchinhas — with the awareness that there is no way to defend such lyrics and, above all, that it’s necessary to fight racism and violence against women in any time or place, including in a dance or a bloco that plays “O Teu Cabelo Não Nega” and that, by chance, invokes racism or violence against women. To boycott such songs is ineffective, just as putting in the crosshairs any other song with the word mulata in the lyrics is excessively laughable. Having common sense is also being politically correct.”

A debate is now certainly taking place, with ideas being challenged. The blocos against the lyrics mentioned above are not calling for a Carnival-wide ban on the songs — they are merely deciding to challenge the ideas within them. Revelers that disagree with making any changes are free to go elsewhere, and they literally have hundreds, if not thousands, of other options available. In the end, any alterations will only make Carnival more of what it already is — an event where there’s something for everyone.

The article I wrote above was originally published at Global Voices

Celebrations – Then & Now


The Centennial At The Door
Jeca – My lady, the Centennial is already here.
Exposition – Let him in. I will greet him just like this, in a shirt…

In 1922, Rio and the rest of Brazil celebrated 100 years of independence from the Portuguese crown (for which even the Portuguese president was in attendence). The so-called “Exposição Internacional do Centenário da Independência”, which lasted from September of 1922 until March of the following year, included the participation of 14 other countries and still stands as the largest international exposition in Brazil.

But how did the people feel about it? Famed Carioca novelist and journalist Lima Barreto penned a piece in Careta magazine in late September 1922 about his people and their feelings. Sadly, he would die of a heart attack one month later at the age of 41.

If one swaps the word Centennary for Olympics, it could have almost been written today. I apologize beforehand for any questionable phrasing, some parts were tough to parse being they were written almost 100 years ago.

Clique na imagem abaixo pra aumentá-la.

The Centennial
by Lima Barreto

“What one notices, in the current commemorative parties for the passage of the centennial of the proclamation of Brazil’s Independence, is that they are unfolding completely alien to the people of the city. The impartial observer doesn’t see in them any enthusiasm, doesn’t feel in the soul any patriotic vibration. If in our ‘little’ people there is no indifference; there is, at least, incomprehension regarding the date that is being commemorated. Moreover, our Carioca people were always like this: we never took national dates seriously, which always deserved this displeasing attitude that is being taken now with the Centennial, celebrated so pompously with dances and banquets.

There’s a story from a British humorist in which he makes a homeless man in London speak in the following manner: “I am a subject of Your Majesty Britian. I have, aside from the British Isles, Canada, Australia, India, New Zealand and I don’t know which other lands; however, I dress myself with rags, I sleep, most times, outdoors, and I spend my days without food. What does it matter to me to nominally have so many lands? Nothing. Before [anything] I would [prefer to] have a few coins per day.”

I believe the Carioca reasons in a similar way. I would say to him: “What’s the point of José Bonifácio, Pedro I, Alvares Cabral, the Amazon, the gold of Minas, the magical Exposition, Minas Gerais, if I have a life of counting coins, to be able to live?”

Such a state of spirit is not favorable for patriotic enthusiasms; on the contrary, it must bring about general impoverishment and dispondency.

Times are tough; Everything is overpriced. A poor head of a family has to thing constantly about tomorrow. Will he have time to be impressed with patriotic festivities which are mostly ball games and other futilities rather than serious protests of a cult for a country and its past?

Brazil is going through a curious crisis that I don’t know how to classify. With these Centennial parties, we see one of its manifestations. Open any newspaper. Pages and pages are filled with news of sportive rivalries that are destined to consecrate the current ephemerality. The date in itself is forgotten; as is everything that can be related to it; but things about balls and boxing are front and center.

So that we don’t celebrate 100 years of our political independence. What we do is to transform Rio de Janeiro into a large field of boxing fights and horse races.

I said at the start of these brief lines that the people didn’t associate themselves with the Centennial parties. I was wrong. The sportive ones willingly do. For them, and for those of lamps and military parades.

The people will understand the relationship they’ve got.”

Careta Sept 1922

Folha published an article about Barreto today also which I was unaware of, but it doesn’t mention the story above. Read it here (PT).

Documentary Series – Rio Por Eles


The documentary series Rio Por Eles is a different kind of historical and sentimental revival of the city of Rio. In it, viewers will discover how foreign documentarists, reporters and TV broadcasting station saw the city throughout the 20th century. It’s a mostly black & white record of Rio through the eyes of foreigners in different languages.

Directed and scripted by Ernesto Rodrigues, the series is the result of a two year research project through hundreds of foreign sources, in the Americas, Europe, Asia and Africa. Nine reporters from O Globo will take the viewer through 43 characteristic locations which contextualize more than 200 excerpts from 127 films and televised reports.

The series consists of five 30-minute episodes, which you should be able to find on Youtube: the transformation of the landscape, the political happenings, the interpretation of Brazilian culture, the style & behavior, and finally the tragedies & disasters shown abroad.