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 casinos may make a comeback


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

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

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

Investment in Resorts

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

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

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

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

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

Hotel Nacional in Focus

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

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

Hotel Nacional did not return a request for comments.

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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



Cassino da Urca

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

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

The Carioca hinterlands


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

How Rio’s illegal lottery came about


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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)

Rio’s one and only suspension bridge


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

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

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

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

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

Cariocas kissing in cars – 1935


Going through the 1930s archives of Careta magazine, I found the short article below which struck me for the image of Carioca couples freely sitting in their cars at lookout points in Rio for some face time. Since air-conditioning didn’t exist, I imagine they did this with their windows down and not, ahem, paying much attention to their surroundings.

Throughout the years I’ve spent studying historical Rio, I’ve always sort of wondered when the city became violent, and my instinct has always told me this happened around the 1950s onward (I’m not alone, by the way).

In the image above, one can get an idea of what kind of cars the author might have been talking about. As a bonus, here’s a racing site (and its PDF backup) showing images of the popular races that took place at the same time as the story below was being written (the Volta da Gávea was one of Brazil’s most popular race tracks). Take special note, on the racing site, of French woman Hellé Nice, one of the pioneer female race car drivers who was also said to have been the first woman to wear a “bikini” (ie, a two-piece) on the beaches of Rio (though, traditionally, German Miriam Etz is credited for this in 1948).

A Smile for All...

“In the sentimental geography of the city, ‘territories of love’ are numerous and very well-known. Even without a compass and a “baedecker” (travel guidebook), any clever tourist will be able to discover them. But Mr. Henrique Pongetti (writer & dramaturge), with a gratuitous and praiseworthy wisdom, made himself the loveable “ciceroni” (tour guide) of sentiments, to happily teach us, not without a certain malice, the roads which in Rio lead to the territories of love. Pointing out to us, with an ironic but serviceable hand, these galant routes, the illustrious writer of chronicles declared that the automobile circuits of Carioca love, the “Volta da Gávea” and the “Volta da Tijuca”, were the everyday greatest testaments.

The Paraizo road, for them starts at the granite throat of Avenida Niemeyer, which seems like the Alighierian gate of Malebolge (eighth gate of hell), but allows — sweet clandestinity decorated in green! — the first fearless kiss from the tongue of the world. I wish to add to the geographic tips of Mr. Henrique Pongetti one more automobile circuit of Carioca love: the “Volta da Lagoa”. With the Avenida Epitacio Pessoa being my daily route into the city, I can give my testimony with authority and conviction: that territory is for love, as well…

Facing the placid mirror of the lake, the green shade of the mountain, in that beautiful landscape that starts at the Fonte da Saudade and ends at the court of Cantagalo — there are many idyllic carefree and happy people, every day! Sometimes, the sun has barely leaned over the green mane of Cantagalo hill to illuminate the lake, and already the cars slip in there, matinal-like, driven by happy couples in love…At midday, when I pass by for lunch, there are cars stopped, in whose cushions, the couples get cozy and kiss assured. Some of them, shy and cautious, hide their faces behind the windshield, in fear of being surprised in the criminal act of happiness. Naive ones! as if love were a sin…

At night, when the first stars jump from the sky to dive into the calm waters of the lake, mysterious cars, with headlights turned off, tranquilly stop in the middle of the deserted and seductive landscape, for a moment of privacy and silence…All these couples that pass by or stop there, from when the sun goes up til the stars come out, are courageous champions of a brilliant automobile circuit of love — of the “Volta da Lagoa”.

It is just a question of Mr Pongetti officializing, in the sentimental tourism guide of the Automobile Club, this new and adorable circuit. I consider it as important and as preferred as the “Volta da Gavea” and the “Volta da Tijuca”… And being that love, in Rio, is a sport for steering wheels, it is legitimate to point out this new route of happiness to lovers of automobilism…”

Copacabana’s fashionable Posto 6



From 1927 to 1933, Copacabana’s Posto 6 was the place to be and people referred to it in conjunction with the name of the famous beachside social club that was located there, the Atlântico Club. At the time, it was only second to the club at the Copacabana Palace. The Atlântico (as well as it’s sister installation, the Praia Club at Posto 4) provided tents on the sand and promoted sports activities, get togethers and parties.

Below, you can see 17 photos (plus the two above) of beach-goers at Posto 6 during the time period in question (with a bonus photo of Posto 4 at the end).




Aside from going to the beach to see and be seen, the young and fashionable also partook in a popular activity of the time known in Brazil as “footing” (which, by the way, can still be seen in some small Brazilian cities). Footing was done on Sundays and was an important social occurrence, made up of the act of strolling along the avenue sidewalks at the afternoon’s end. “As the day came to an end, hundreds of people would elegantly squeeze themselves onto the space along the seaside” of Atlântica and Vieira Souto Avenues. “This adorable back-and-forth journey” constituted an opportunity to flirt. It allowed the exchange of smiles and glances, “bracelets that fell, reciprocal niceties among young girls and boys…” It produced a “flicker of humorous utterances, elegant jokes, of vaporous skirts and dizzy heads.” The “very refined young ladies” who “did the usual footing” also took advantage of the occasion to show off their fashions. “Summer models” showed up on the avenue. In May the girls already started to appear “with luxurious and unique winter costumes.” The stroll could also be enjoyed as a parade of “little beauties”. An exalted writer described footing as “a show that seduces, makes one fall in love and delights the viewer to the maximum intensity of emotion.”

In the second half of the 1920s until the start of the 30s, the favored place to do footing was in the CIL (Copacabana, Ipanema and Leme), more specifically between Posto 6 and 4, as they were associated with the Praia and Atlântico Clubs. (PDF Source, PT)

Below, see some prime examples of footing in Copacabana, between 1930 and 1935.


All images from Careta magazine. If you enjoyed this post, you may also like the one on High Life in Flamengo, a few decades prior.

Rio on Film – 1930s

Obviously these are propaganda pieces meant to entice American and European travelers to come to Rio but the city sure looked pristine back then. From all I’ve read thus far, I get the sense that somewhere around the 1950s the city started to change from its post-Passos height – what we see here – into the city we know today (of ‘beleza e caos’).

Crab fishing in Rio – 1935

Texto em inglês, e depois, em português

What it was like to fish in the 30s

Screen Shot 2015-05-21 at 9.58.27 AMThe siry (crab) is generally unpopular. They harshly accuse it for its corpse-feeding tastes, and they blame it for all the mutilations found on drowned bodies. As if in the sea and among all the fish fauna there weren’t other omnivores and a huge amount of meat eaters!

Not even for this reason, however, the poor crustacean is left in peace. If it repells the demanding palate of some, it greedily searches out the appetite of many others. These people worship the perfume of the clear and rigid meat, and make it the object of incessant fishing.

Screen Shot 2015-05-21 at 9.16.48 AM(“One can’t see the contents of the basket well. Mademoiselle, however, seems satisfied.

The Morro da Viuva pier is first order of business for ‘siry candeia’ fishing.“)

Screen Shot 2015-05-21 at 9.57.18 AM(“Rubensinho appreciates the siry after it’s cooked. He fears it, though, when it’s alive.”)

Also, it doesn’t cost a thing to get them. One only needs to carefully search the small spaces between the rocks that is left bare during the ebb tide and in the puddles of water that remain on the beach. Or, to throw a puçá (dip net) into the salty water.

The puçá is just a thick wire wheel supporting a net in the form of inverted cone.

Where I’m from, the poor children from the neighborhood near the pier, who fish for crabs to stave off hunger, and who don’t have a reel nor line to make a net, substitute the former with the arch from a barrel and the latter with an old burlap sack. The effect is the same. The bloody and hefty meat, tied to the opening of the net, is what interests the crab. Once in a while, one only needs to tug on the dip net and take out the harvest. Just…be very careful with their teeth!…

Zoology classifies the crab as a “crustaceo dedecapodo brachyuro” — (animal covered with a type of shell, with 10 feet, and a small abdomen). And there are several kinds, of which the Callinectes is the most common in the Rio de Janeiro bay.

People don’t have to even know this, however. They have their own names: the “siry candeia”, dark color, found on the rocks and on the sand; the “siry goyá”, brown, from the rocks, and which reaches almost one quilo in weight; the “siry chita”, a rare one, painted black, yellow and white, found under clean sand; the “siry azulão”, etc.

The fishing is best in the summer, but during any month of the year the dip nets can be seen in action: in Flamengo as on the beach of Gavea, in Urca as on the Rodrigo de Freitas lagoon or on the islands. Here as entertainment, there as a true small industry, how many people occupy their time.

Screen Shot 2015-05-21 at 9.58.07 AMVirtudes beach (Guarapari), for example, has its own “king of the siry”. He’s a big guy, 34 years of age, with the physionomy of a Portuguese and the name of an Italian. But he’s a real Brazilian, this Salvador Micheli.

An early-riser like all men of the sea. He lives in Engenho Novo, but early in the day he’s already at the beach, opening his small rental business for booths, bathing suits, lifeguard clothes, hair caps, etc. An old man helps him with the work. And, while the assistant attends to the bathers, Micheli goes to fish siry. A good business, he says.

In the summer, he gets up to 60$ or 70$000 for one Sunday! Faithful clients and with no competition. Costs are almost nothing. Shark skins and ox lungs don’t cost more than the work involved in getting them at the market. Before, the sirys were within reach of one’s arm. The landfills that are happening around Villegaignon made them go farther out, though. But Micheli didn’t worry: he bought a skiff, and went out studying the depth of the sea in the surrounding areas.

He had to defend his title as the “king of the siry”. And he did it with glaring results. Be it in the summer or winter, heat or cold. Anyone who goes to Virtudes, on Sundays or holidays, there they will find, at the Estrella d’Alva, next to the clothes and bathing equipment, sirys cooked by Salvador Micheli. (Revista da Semana – 25/07/1935)

Screen Shot 2015-05-21 at 9.58.27 AMO siry é geralmente malquisto. Accusam-n’o com severidade por seu gostos necrophagos, e levam-lhe ás costas todas as mutilações encontradas no corpo dos afogados. Como se no mar e em toda a fauna ichtyologica não houvesse outros omnivoros e um numero enorme de comedores de carne!

Nem por isso, entretanto, o pobre crustaceo é deixado em socego. Se o repelle o paladar exigente de uns, busca-o com avidez o appetite de muitos. Louvam-lhe o perfume da carne alva e rija, e fazem-n’o objecto de uma pescaria incessante.

Screen Shot 2015-05-21 at 9.16.48 AM(“Não se vê bem o conteúdo do cesto. Mademoiselle, entretanto, parece satisfeita.

O caes do Morro da Viuva é de primeira ordem para a pesca de siry candeia.“)

Screen Shot 2015-05-21 at 9.57.18 AM(“Rubensinho aprecia o siry depois de cozido. Teme-o, porém, quando vivo.”)

Tambem, não custa nada apanhal-o. É só rebuscar com cuidado os intersticios das pedras que a maré põe a descoberto durante a vasante e as pôças d’agua que sobram na praia. Ou, então, mergulhar no salso elemento um puçá.

O puçá é apenas uma roda de arame grosso sustentando uma rêde em forma de cone invertido.

Na minha terra, os meninos pobres da visinhança do caes, que pescam sirys para matar a fome, e não teem uma roda de arame nem linha para tecer a rêde, substituem a primeira por um arco de barril e a segunda por uma sacca velha de serapilheira. O effeito é igual. A carniça sangrenta e farta, amarrada ao nivel da bocca da rêde, é o que interessa ao siry. De quando em quando é só puxar o puçá e retirar a colheita. Apenas…muito cuidado com as unhas delle!…

A Zoologia classifica o siry como um “crustaceo dedecapodo brachyuro” — (animal coberto de uma especie de crosta, de dez pés, de abdomen curto). E distingue varios generos, dos quaes o Callinectes é o mais commum na bahia do Rio de Janeiro.

O povo porém não quer nem precisa saber disto. Tem a sua propria nomenclatura: o “siry candeia”, de côr parda, encontrado nas pedras como na areia; o “siry goyá”, marron, proprio das pedras, e que attinge até quasi um kilo de peso; o “siry chita”, um tanto raro, pintado de preto, amarello e branco, peculiar aos fundos de areia limpa; o “siry azulão”, etc.

A pesca é melhor no verão, mas em qualquer mez do anno os puçás podem ser vistos em acção: no Flamengo como na praia da Gavea, na Urca como na lagôa Rodrigo de Freitas ou nas ilhas. Aqui como divertimento, alli como uma verdadeira pequena industria, de que muita gente se occupa.

Screen Shot 2015-05-21 at 9.58.07 AMA praia das Virtudes, por exemplo, tem o seu “rei do siry”. É um rapagão forte, dos seus 34 annos, physionomia de portuguez e nome de italiano. Mas é brasileiro legitimo esse Salvador Micheli.

Madrugador como todos os homens do mar. Mora no Engenho Novo, mas dia cedo já está na praia, abrindo o seu pequenino negocio de alugador de cabines, roupas de banho, roupões salva-vidas, toucas, etc. Um velhinho ajuda-o na faina. E, emquanto este attende os banhistas, o Micheli vae pescar os sirys. Um bom negocio, diz elle.

No verão, produzem-lhe até 60$ ou 70$000 por domingo! Freguezia segura, e sem concorrentes. Despeza quasi nenhuma. Pelles de cação e bofes de boi não custam mais que o trabalho de os ir buscar no Mercado. Antes os sirys ficavam mesmo ao alcance do braço. Os aterros que estão sendo feitos em torno de Villegaignon expulsaram-nos porém para mais longe. Mas o Micheli não se apertou: comprou um bote, sahiu a estudar o fundo do mar nas redondezas.

Tinha de defender o seu titulo de “rei do siry”. E o fez com resultado evidente. Pode ser verão ou inverno, calor ou frio. Quem fôr ás Virtudes, aos domingos ou feriados, lá encontrará, na Estrella d’Alva, ao lado das roupas e mais apetrechos para os banhistas, os sirys cozidos do Salvador Micheli. (Revista da Semana – 25/07/1935)

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