Two stories of murder – 1895

Below, are two stories of murder in the year 1895, both captured in print by Brazilian newspaper O Paiz, as well as the American-owned paper The Rio News. Unfortunately, both papers, as well as many others of the time, surely, had sizeable sections dedicated to murder and misfortune. I feel like an entire blog could be dedicated to the types of strange and sordid stories one could find perusing these sections. Some of the mysteries within them are personal – such as why three friends having a drink would end in a blood bath – while others are institutional – such as why dotting i’s and t’s on police forms were more important than medical emergencies.

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From O Paiz, dated February 18th, 1895:

“There were three friends, Americans Happ Bell, Samuel Cleary and John Kelley, the day before yesterday, togtether at a dingy bar on Rua da Saúde, sitting around a table, chatting loudly, all laughing and constantly drinking.

What happened, witnesses don’t know how to explain other than there was a large altercation, in which Happ Bell, armed with a knife, lunged towards his two companions. There was a quick and terrible fight, among the strong and agile aggressor, and those assaulted.

Samuel Cleary fell dead and soon after John Kelley received a serious injury. He was taken to the Misercórdia hospital and the body of Samuel Cleary transported to the morgue and autopsied by Dr. Thomaz Coelho.

The criminal was arrested and presented to the police chief at the 3rd precinct.”

From The Rio News, same date,

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What was three Americans becomes three foreigners from different countries. Even “Happ Bill” becomes “Happy Bill”. In both reports, John Kelley was sent to the hospital to get medical attention. It’s not mentioned if this was immediately following the attack or – as will be stated at the end of the second story – only after the police were able to take statements.


In this second story, it is again discovered that both papers gave slightly different reports, each with their own added details.

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From O Paiz:

“The day before yesterday, at Building 22, on Rua da Conceição, Sampaio train station, the Estrada de Ferro Central do Brasil security guard Benedicto Jorge da Costa – seriously injured with a knife in the abdomen – was interrogated by the police chief of the 16th precinct.

The victim stated, at great cost, that on the day prior six men had attacked him on Morro do Pinto, and then evaded him. Benedicto perhaps did not finish his statement, having passed away in the presence of the authority, who had the body removed to the morgue.”

From The Rio News:

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Here, it is discovered that there used to be a “police regulation which forbids relief until a police official has taken his notes”, causing the victim to die. I employed a few different tricks up my sleeve to dig up more information on this regulation but I fear they fell short.

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Origins of the Animal Game

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I translated pieces of an article from 1963 and posted them below. You’ll read about how the animal game was played in Cambodia, how different variations of the game pre-existed the one we all know (including the more prominent flower game), and that Brazilians have a Mexican to thank for the continuation and proliferation of the game in Rio.

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Jornal do Brasil
12/13/1963

Despite a law to the contrary, the animal game is considered one of the most serious institutions in Brazil. And every afternoon, from one end of the country to the other, Brazilians ask themselves: “What animal did you get?” The animal game only exists in Brazil and in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The animal game started to be played in Brazil and only a few years later it was introduced in Phnom Penh. Senator Érico Coelho (depicted), who in 1915 proposed to congress the legalization of the animal game throughout the country – which occurred for the first time – justified his bill with the fact that it was an eminently Brazilian game, warning that it would be easier pass a camel through the eye of a needle than to make people stop gambling on the camel.

Before the animal game appeared in Brazil, there existed, with the same characteristics, the game of flowers, fruits, birds and numbers. Before the advent of the animal game, the numbers game was very popular in Espírito Santo. The flower game, however, was the one that had the most fans throughout the whole country. As in the current animal game, the other games consisted of 25 numbers, a fact for which no one has yet found an explanation. […] A Mexican, by the name of Manoel Ismael Zevada, was the biggest financier of the flower game in Rio. His bank was on Rua do Ouvidor, according to the chroniclers of Old Rio.

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(Almanak Laemmert: Administrativo, Mercantil e Industrial do Rio de Janeiro, 1900)

This is where the Barão de Drummond comes into play. João Batista Viana Drummond, a friend of Dom Pedro II, from Minas Gerais, would address Princess Isabel as “my angel” and, in her honor, named the farm on his property after her. It would become Vila Isabel – on the former Fazenda do Macaco, where he founded a zoo (on the slope of the Serra do Engenho Novo), which was the first that Rio had. […] Because he was one of the monarchists who supported Marechal Deodoro da Fonseca, Barão de Drummond fell into disgrace with Marechal Floriano Peixoto, who cut the annual sum that the Federal Government gave for the maintenance of his Zoo by 10 contos de réis. That was in 1892.

The Mexican, Zevada, knowing that Barão de Drummond was going to close the Zoo, due to a lack of financing, proposed the animal game – just as he did on Rua do Ouvidor – in order to keep it going.

Quickly, the animal game dominated the city and the zoo was no longer big enough for the visitors, who went to Vila Isabel to gamble more than they went there to see the animals in the zoo.

In less than a year there wasn’t a corner in Rio without an animal game, which alarmed the police, who prohibited it at the zoo. Already rooted in the habits of the carioca, it began to be played out of sight…

Source (pdf, PT)

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)

500 Rio-based recipes in new book

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A new book profiles Fluminense tastes

The seat of the Portuguese empire from 1808, and federal capital between 1763 and 1960, Rio de Janeiro was the first Brazilian metropolis. In 1822, 150,000 people from diverse backgrounds circulated through its streets. Cosmopolitan by essence, the city forged its culinary identity with the mixing of diverse foreign cultures and recipes – mainly Portuguese, but also African, French and Asian – influenced by local ingredients and habits. In spite of Rio’s prominence in the history of Brazil, Rio de Janeiro’s cuisine does not have as clear a representation in the national imagination as in states such as Bahia, Minas Gerais and Pará, easily identified by their acarajés, cheese breads and tucupis, for example. This gap starts to be closed with the publication, by Metalivros, of “A Culinária do Rio de Janeiro: da Colônia à Atualidade”, by Flávio Ferraz – which will launch on Monday (4th), starting at 7pm, at Bar Lagoa.

A psychoanalyst from Minas Gerais, based in São Paulo, and passionate about Rio and its flavors, Ferraz dedicated ten years of his life to researching this universe. He searched primordial works such as Cozinheiro Imperial, the first cook book launched in Brazil in 1839, as well as hundreds of menus, guides, specialized channels and websites. The result is an unprecedented profile of Rio de Janeiro’s cuisine compiled in just over 300 pages. “What struck me, and motivated me to write the book, was the lack of specific material about Rio, in the face of the abundance of publications about other states, even those that are less relevant,” notes the author. After a fine preface by historian Rosa Belluzo, Ferraz analyzes the daily life in the court and in the city, highlighting customs and social movements that helped create the diffuse food culture of Rio.

“It focuses, for example, on the heritage of street food. So trendy nowadays, it has been at the base of culinary tradition since before the emergence of taverns and bodegas, the ancestors of restaurants. And it reveals the origin of the Carioca’s passion for leisure and the outdoors and for informal bars. In countless canvases, Jean-Baptiste Debret (1768-1848) portrays the streets of Rio de Janeiro in the nineteenth century, with slaves preparing and selling cakes, manuês, sonhos, cornbread, pão de ló, angu and even feijoada. “The city has always had a profile related to being outside of one’s home, transforming daily happenings into public life,” analyzes historian Antonio Edmilson, a professor at PUC-Rio and UERJ, recalling the chronicles of João do Rio.

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Illustrated by respected designer Victor Burton, the book provides the reader with 500 recipes, many of which had already been lost in time. There are dishes that exalt the neighborhood where they were created, such as Copacabana fish, Flamengo cod or Ipanema kidneys, and classics such as picadinho, Oswaldo Aranha fillet and feijoada, which, although of lusitanian origin, took on local traits. Citing delicacies like the cookies of chef Katia Barbosa, the author makes the bridge between the past and the present.

And it goes beyond the limits of the capital by covering the Serrana and dos Lagos regions, the Costa Azul, the Litoral Norte and the Costa Verde. Finally, it devotes a good section to drinks, recovering traditions like the aluá (a refreshment of native origin, made from the fermentation of rice and rapadura) and emblematic drinks like the caipirinha – that became a national symbol -, through creations of mixologists such as Alex Mesquita and André Paixão. A feast and then some, for lovers of good food. – Source (PT)

Rio’s Messy Growth

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

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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.”

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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.”

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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)

Lima Barreto – Sad visionary

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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.

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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”.

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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)

Trolley Etiquette – Machado de Assis

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Machado de Assis would have turned 178 years old on June 21st. Here’s an etiquette guide he wrote back in 1883. Take note of Article II which sounds like manspreading.

How to behave on the trolley

It occurred to me to compose certain rules for the use of those who use trolleys. Between us, the development of this essentially democratic! means of locomotion requires that it not be left to the pure whim of the passengers. I cannot give more than a few extracts from my work; just know that there are no less than seventy articles. Here are just ten. 

Art. I – The throat-clearers

Throat-clearers can enter the trolleys on the condition that they do not cough more than three times within one hour, and in case of phlegm, four.

When the cough is so stubborn that it does not allow this limitation, the throat-clearers have two options: – either to go by foot, which is good exercise, or to go to bed. They can also go to hell coughing.

The throat-clearers that are at the ends of the row of seats should spit towards the street, instead of doing it in the trolley itself, except in case of betting, a religious or Masonic precept, vocation, etc., etc.

Art. II – Position of the legs

Legs must be brought in so that they do not disturb the passengers on the same row of seats. Open legs aren’t formally forbidden, but on condition of paying for other seats, and having them occupied by poor girls or underprivileged widows, and giving some small change.

Art. III – Reading newspapers

Each time a passenger opens a page he is reading, he should be careful to not lightly touch his neighbor’s nostrils, nor lift up their hats. It is also not pretty to lay the pages on the passenger in front.

Art. IV – Cigars

The use of cigars is allowed in two circumstances: the first is when there is no one on the trolley, and the second is upon exiting.

Art. V – Annoying people

Anyone that feels the need to speak of their intimate businesses, not caring about others, should first inquire from the chosen passenger about such confidentiality, if he is very Christian and resigned. In the affirmative case, one will ask him if he prefers the narration or to be kicked off. Being it probable that he would prefer the latter, the person should immediately strike them. In the case, however extraordinary and almost absurd, in which the passenger would prefer the narration, the proponent should do so thoroughly, heavily conveying the most trivial circumstances, expelling what is said, going over and over things, in a way that the patient swears to God to not be subject to it again.

Art. VI – Spitting talkers

The front row of seats is reserved for the emission of spitting talkers, save for the occasions in which the rain obliges one to change seats. Also they express themselves on the back platform, with the passenger going next to the conductor, facing the street.

Art. VII – Conversations

When two people, sitting at a distance; wish to say something aloud, they should be careful not to use more than fifteen or twenty words, and, in any case, without malicious allusions, mainly if there are ladies about.

Art. VIII – People who smell bad

People who smell bad can participate in trolleys indirectly: remaining on the sidewalk, and seeing them pass by from one side to the other. It would be better if they lived along the street where trolleys passes by, because then they could see them from their window.

Art. IX – Women passing

When a lady enters, the passenger at the head should stand up and allow passage, not just because it is uncomfortable for him to remain seated, squeezing his legs but because it shows a great rudeness.

JULY 4, 1883

Source (PT)

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.”

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)

Keeping pollution at bay

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We always get excited about the aerial view of Guanabara Bay. Every time we return to Rio de Janeiro through Santos Dumont Airport, we are amazed by its beauty and size. The harmonious design of the mountains makes Guanabara Bay the essence of the most beautiful postcard in the city.

Seen from above, the Bay is one of the most beautiful landscapes in the world. That is why the two main tourist attractions in Rio de Janeiro, Corcovado and Sugarloaf, together receive more than 3 million visitors every year. The main reason for this movement of people is the view, which includes – of course – Guanabara Bay.

Even so, those that govern the state and the city of Rio de Janeiro were not educated on the vital importance of decontaminating the bay. And worse, they wasted the moment before the Olympics to do that work. To imagine the dimension of pollutants, such as the oil from large vessels that are launched daily in Guanabara Bay, just look at the surrounding areas.

Guanabara Bay is home to the second largest industrial region, the second largest port in Brazil, two airports, two refineries, naval services, shipyards and an intense movement of land and sea transportation. “The Bay offers a world of services without there being a single fee that is reverted to its care,” says David Zee, an oceanographer at the State University of Rio de Janeiro (UERJ). “Nature is doing slave labor.”

Its hydrographic basin of almost 4 thousand km squared reaches areas of 15 municipalities – Rio de Janeiro, Duque de Caxias, São Gonçalo, Magé, Guapimirim, Itaboraí, Tanguá, Niterói, Nova Iguaçu, Cachoeiras de Macacu, Rio Bonito, São João de Meriti, Mosque, Nilopolis and even a small part of Petropolis. With so many actors involved, articulating common policies, such as basic sanitation itself, is a huge dilemma.

Lack of articulation, projects impossible to execute and difficulties in taking responsibility made the proposal to cleanse the Bay an entanglement of difficulties and procrastination. The biggest problem pointed out by oceanographer David Zee bumps up against a delicate issue, the favelas. The occupation of the coastal zone in a disorderly and irregular way degrades the banks of the Bay, increases the violence in the region and makes sanitation projects even more difficult.

“It is not possible to think of the decontamination of Guanabara Bay by means of basic sanitation when half of the population that throws sewage in the bay is in favelas and not in formal cities,” says Zee. “If it is already difficult to carry out this work in a normal situation, it’s almost impossible in militia-controlled locations.”

For Zee, the way out would be to place treatment units in the rivers [1] that empty into the bay, bringing with them tons of garbage. “But there’s another problem: who’s going to take on the job?” [2]

But the bay’s health has not always been so critical. In 1818, the French naturalist Joseph Paul Gaimard, who was dedicated to the discovery of new species in Rio de Janeiro, confessed to his friends that he did not like to sail through the waters of Guanabara Bay. Not because of the trash, inexistant at the time. The naturalist feared something greater! The movement of whales that swam in the region was so intense that he feared that cetaceans could sink his boat. And, until the 1950s, it was still possible to spot some whales in the bay. [3]

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Today, the only marine mammal that inhabits the waters of Guanabara Bay is the Guiana dolphin (Sotalia guianensis) [4], and even so, in very small numbers. In 1985, researchers noted the presence of about 400 individuals inhabiting the bay. Today, this group would be no more than 34. The latest victim, known to researchers as Acerola, was found dead by Comlurb officials on June 15, 2016. At UERJ, which maintains the Laboratory of Aquatic Mammals and Bioindicators (MAQUA), Professor Izabel Gurgel nicknamed this group, which declines annually in size, as the “heroes of resistance.”

According to Maqua researchers, the boto (river dolphin) happens to live in the same place where it is born. The researchers identified that the boto uses an echolocation strategy that allows the animal to detect objects that are at sea. The ability to recognize locations and detect danger allows the species to continue to exist in impacted environments. In this way, porpoises can choose a less polluted place to survive. This is the case of the dolphins that live in the 20 km squared area of the Guanabara Ecological Station, which, next to the APA Guapimirim, is one of the few places where fishing nets are not allowed and there are few humans.

Maqua researchers also identified the death of green turtles in Guanabara Bay. Garbage, chemical pollution and trampling by boats are the main causes of the disappearance of the turtles that dare to venture through the waters of Rio de Janeiro. The species is also considered to be endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Measuring up to 1 meter in length and weighing almost 200 kilos, the green sea turtles (Chelonia mydas) come from afar. They come from oceanic islands like Fernando de Noronha, Pernambuco, Trindade, Espirito Santo, Atol das Rocas, Rio Grande do Norte, and even some Brazilian coastal regions. Guanabara Bay is part of the migration route and a potential safe harbor for juvenile turtles during their growth and reproduction. – Source (PT)


Notes:

1 – My post on the history of the Carioca River

2 – Up until the mid-1800s, slaves known as tigres – due to the stripes made from waste spilling onto their backs – would carry buckets of sewage to dump into the sea.

3 – An aside: The etymology of Arpoador means “harpoon-thrower”, from arpoar (to harpoon), as the rocky outcropping was originally a place where whales were killed.

4 – The Guiana dolphin, or boto-cinza, is a symbol of Rio, depicted on its flag for the last 120 years. Baby Acerola was found in pieces, showing signs of being caught in a fishing net. Researchers suspect it was done by someone not native to the region, since local fishermen know the species is endangered and thus killing one is a crime.