Rio-Niteroi Tunnel – A 1950’s dream

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Revista da Semana
Reporting by Sérgio Andrade
January 23, 1956

The astonishingly dizzying development that has been occurring, during the post-war period, in Rio de Janeiro and Niterói, especially in regards to freight transit (inland from the states to the coast), has been a pivotal problem for which the government is having a lot of trouble finding solutions. In recent years, the number of vehicles from the hinterland has grown alarmingly. Greater ease and safety in locomotion are thus being demanded. Access routes to vital points will soon be insufficient and rare. Two entry super-highways (President Dutra and Amaral Peixoto), which are gathering up and facilitating the extra traffic caused by this brutal flow, are being torn apart.

A consequence of these roads is the greater development in the exportation of products for merchants and industrialists in the hinterland. The cargo overload present in the two cities, heading out to the rest of the country and abroad encounters a gap of natural interconnection – the Guanabara Bay – to be overcome. Due to the topographical condition of the two capitals (embedded in the middle of the Serra da Mar) it is impossible to build bridges, which can only be done on flat terrain.

Formed in 1955, the commission for the drafting of the project already decided that only an underwater tunnel would solve the problem satisfactorily. Complete pessimism. Only here, an initiative of this kind would be thus received. Unfortunately, we have never had experiences of this nature before. Groups of defeatists set out to try to bring down the project, but the commission, without listening to rumors and with the support of then-President Café Filho, started work on the preparation of the bidding notice. Commercial representatives from the United States, Belgium, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands and France, technical nations in matters relating to underwater constructions, would be sent copies of the notice, to study and budget. All companies submitted projects – the (French) winner presented an exceptional project, with a base budget of forty-one million dollars.

The definitive route, on the Rio side, will end at Praça Mauá; in Niterói, at Avenida Feliciano Sodré. Djalma Nunes, a journalist and chairman of the Pró-Túnel Committee, who has no technical knowledge, drew a line (the shortest) between Gragoatá and the Airport. Unfortunately it was unpractical, due to the ocean depths found along the route.

Inadequate and insufficient surface transport, which increased in 1950, continues to grow. A submarine tunnel will handle 3,600 vehicles per hour, meaning an advantage of speed (seven minutes for crossing) and safety for both the cargo and people, and accelerating progress in transportation even more.

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The Tunnel has a “long beard”

Truly, the thought of uniting Rio de Janeiro to Niterói through Guanabara is not a recent one. In search of the past, we found the first documents dated to 1878, belonging to the Duke of Caxias’ office. Later that same year, a famous English engineer, passing through Rio, elaborates a plan and sends a letter to the Director of Public Works, provoking surprise in the inhabitants of both capitals, [fazendo os velhos consolheiros cofiarem as barbichas, desconfiados e descrentes…]. With the republic, newspapers, magazines, and groups of anonymous idealists continued, more enthusiastically, to see whether the government was interested in such a construction project. The following lines could constitute a chronological scheme of the tunnel:

1876 — March 4th. In the office of the Duke of Caxias, a document is signed by Tomás Coelho granting to Hamilton Landsay Bucknall the privilege of construction, use and enjoyment of a submarine tunnel, for the term of fifty years, connecting the Court to Niterói.

1876 — November 30th. Peter W. Barlow, a notable engineer of very bold construction projects, writes a letter to the Director of Public Works, expressing his technical opinion of the perfect feasibility of executing an underwater tunnel through Guanabara Bay. The reasons for the construction? Very important ones: The large-scale flow of products from the inland States; ease of driving safety for the inhabitants of the capitals; exchange of small-scale trade. It was just a suggestion …

1920 — In the course of the [presidential] administration of Mr. Epitácio Pessoa, with Carlos Sampaio as mayor of the city, the construction hypothesis is again proposed. The first geological plans of the bay are put together. [Being that it was] a private initiative, lacking know-how at the time, discouragement overcame the ideal.

1932 — Suspension bridges, the great development in engineering, constituted the era. Idealist thought looked again at the solution. Proposals, mostly private, flock to the tiny room where the City Planners operated. As proof, pictures and models of famous bridges around the world accompanied the builders’ plans. They were never studied. The conflicting opinions of the military ministries definitively cut aspirations. Bridges would be the object of easy access from enemy fire in times of war. And in case of damage, the time spent on the repairs would take months, or years, and obstruct navigation.

1950 — With the question raised during the administration of Mr. Getúlio Vargas, enthusiasts and journalists from the two coastal capitals struggled incessantly, hoping that the government would organize a commission in order to carry out the project. [Era contudo, tomado erroneamente o princípio desta grandiosa obra, onde, ao valor industrial e comercial se sobrepunha o puramente turístico.]

1952 — The President of the Republic resolves to create a law, constituting a commission composed of three engineers, designated to study the possibility of doing the project. From the city of Niterói, the engineer Salo Brand, Director of Public Works for the State. From Rio de Janeiro, the engineer Raul Marques de Azevedo, from the City Planning Department. From the Ministry of Transport and Public Works, the engineer Gilberto Canedo de Magalhães, director of the Department of Ports, Rivers and Channels.

1955 — On January 28th, work began, preparing notices for a public bid. They are later sent to the US, France, Belgium, Germany, Japan and Holland.

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What is a Submarine Tunnel

Identical to the other existing types, the Rio-Niterói tunnel, with its characteristics, resembles the most recent one built in the world, the 5,000 meters long Brooklyn–Battery Tunnel, the fourth to connect Manhattan to the New York coast. It’s composed of two parallel cylinders, each with two one-way lanes. One of them, at a uniform speed of forty-five miles per hour, is designed for heavy loads. The other is for passenger and collective vehicles, at sixty miles. For the maintenance of this constant and uniform flow, every 200 to 250 meters, police are posted, which, through internal communication and light-signaling, transmit any irregularities to the entrances and exits. The fluorescent lighting gradually increases from the center to the exits, permitting a perfect setting for drivers’ eyes.

The circulation of air is perfect. The pure air, brought by the inflow station towers, is injected by conduits into the curbs. The stale air is sucked up by anemostats cut into the roof of the tunnel, forming vertical air currents, preventing the horizontal expansion of gases or flames. This system, controlled at a distance, and high precision gear, automatically prevent possible accidents. For cleaning, changing parts, washing, etc., the possibility of closing one of the tunnels is being studied. With days and advisories shown,  the traffic starts to flow through one tunnel only. In the interim, shifts of workers perform all the necessary repairs. The administration building, toll booths, machines for drainage of rainwater or debris are located at one of the openings. [As saídas são afloradas em areas livres, distantes do congestionado tráfego, verificando-se rápido desafogo dos veículos pelas estradas elevadas de alta velocidade.]

Three or Four years for construction – Two billion cruzeiros

The tunnel project, in accordance with the results of the competition, should be carried out within a maximum of eight months. It consists of, in general, the geological and geophysical survey of the terrain, traffic statistics, economics, details, technical conditions for construction, inspection and the final draft. Initially budgeted at US$41 million (about Cr$2 billion cruzeiros) the tunnel (of which there are two) will have a cylindrical shape, embedded in granite at the bottom of the bay, with an average diameter of ten meters. The traffic lanes will be 6.5 meters between the curbs. There will be a side walkway for policing and enforcement. The total height will be 4.1 meters. The underwater extension to the outcrops will be 6,000 meters. The maximum depth, 89 meters.

Drilled from the Rio side, construction work will be performed at the openings, at the Morro de São Bento, below ground, passing laterally to the Ministry of the Navy, Rua São Gerardo, formerly Lloyd Brasileiro. From there it will form a large curve, passing close by the lighthouse of the breakwater at the Ilha das Cobras, continuing until meeting up with the excavations from Niterói. These will be started in a straight line, at Avenida Feliciano Sodré, Praia Grande and landfill to be carried out on the border to the state capital. Drilling machines and complete equipment will be used for the continuity of the project.

A maximum of 3,000 Brazilian workers will be used. Only the technical supervision will be foreign. Almost all engineers are Brazilians. The stations for the circulation of air will be located at the lighthouse on Ilha das Cobras, the opening of Praça Mauá, the basin near the Amarração hill, and at the opening at Feliciano Sodré.

The administration buildings, toll booths and repair stations in general, will be located in Niterói (there is no vacant area in Rio), so as not to obstruct the large amount of traffic. The land taken from the neighboring capital will be used as landfill. The problem that has not yet been resolved is where the landfill will be deposited in Rio. After all, if you make a hole, you must know where the dirt will be placed…

Impossibility of accidents

Collisions are non-existent in the records of occurrences for submarine tunnels. The uniform speed of the vehicle in the same direction do not cause head-on collisions. On the sides, on the other hand, they are almost impossible, since a motor vehicle cannot move to another lane when inside the tunnel. Engine problems do not cause difficulties: either the vehicle gets repaired on the spot, or it’s towed outside.

In the United States a truck loaded with explosives caught fire inside the Lincoln Tunnel, causing general panic, and consequent disharmony in the flow of traffic. Immediately the internal phones rang, and traffic was stopped. As the cars were distanced from the scene, the hoses were in action. With the traffic on the other road unobstructed, help came quickly, while people were diverted to the lateral walkways. The ventilation system (vertical currents) prevented the flames from propagating horizontally, at the time they were sucked out by the anemostats in the ceiling. From then on, no more explosive or incendiary cargo traffic was allowed.

Also, in the Rio-Niterói tunnel, the passage of trams, animal-driven trolleys, or caterpillar machines will also not be permitted. Everything is so precisely controlled inside these tunnels, that an occurrence of serious proportions can be remedied within minutes.

500 employed in the tunnel

Divided into administration, tolls, policing, ventilation, repairs and conservation, etc, the tunnel will hold, after it’s complete, 500 employees:

Administration  – 50 people
Tolls – 20 people
Policing – 150 people
Ventilation – 200 people
Repairs – 50 people
Conservation – 30 people

All of these people will be split into work shifts, where rigid schedules and maximum responsibility will constitute the element of continuity for the life of the submarine artery.

The tolls

The criterion adopted from here on will have to be the same used in North American tunnels. By changing the currency and perpetuating the differences in surface transportation, it is possible to fit the price of tolls for various types of existing vehicles into a table. In a few years, when the construction work is done, the prices will undergo small changes:

Passenger cars – Cr$ 20,00
Two-axel trucks – Cr$ 30,00
Three-axel trucks – Cr$ 70,00
Four-axel trucks – Cr$ 90,00
Common Bus – Cr$ 30,00
Cargo Bus – Cr$ 60,0
Special Bus – Cr$ 60,00
Micro-buses – Cr$ 40,00
Motorcycles – Cr$ 15,00

Inevitably, these prices are estimates for the present, but at the same time they are decreasing in direct proportion to the increase of vehicle movement and years elapsed until the moment the invested capital is recovered. On this occasion, transportation will be free.


This is not news to anyone: Rio de Janeiro and Niterói only make people consume merchandise. They don’t even produce them for a strictly needed supply. With the tunnel, the lowering of product prices will become immediate. Ease of transferring goods and people will bring new horizons not only for us but for the rest of the country. The development of the small farmer will be noticeable. The secondary roads along large highways entry points will acquire incredible value. The opportunity to exchange products will grow even more. The international port will benefit enormously, and tourism will be greatly promoted.

Collective transport routes will arise, linking Gragoatá to Copacabana, Tijuca to Icaraí, Leopoldina to Saco de São Francisco, Flamengo to São Gonçalo. For Rio de Janeiro, the Municipality’s Department of Urban Planning foresees the construction of a high-speed lane above Rodrigues Alves Avenue, especially for heavy cargo coming from the tunnel, in the direction of the port and Presidente Dutra Highway. The Praça Mauá, even with the contention of the non-believers, will receive for the first time, a solution capable of dealing with the traffic problem in downtown Rio. It will become a constant traffic funnel, with six rows of vehicles, flowing to Avenida Rodrigues Alves, Rio Branco, Rua Acre Street, Rua Sacaduro Cabral and an interchange for the overpass.

According to calculations, the tunnel will allow 3,600 vehicles per hour. One-thousand, four hundred for cargo and 2,200 passenger cars. In eight consecutive hours, 28,800 vehicles will pass through it, with 11,200 being for cargo. Divided the cargo load into six-ton trucks, we’ll have the traffic of 76,200,000 kilos of Brazilian products in eight hours. Fantastic, is it not? The only hope is that this is not a dream or just rambling.


There were a few sections above that I was hesitant to translate due to not fully grasping parts of certain sentences.


Rio Transit Crisis – 1948

Nota: É possível ler o artigo citado, em português, clicando nas imagens no final do post.

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In the midst of the frustration at wanting to have a great blog about Rio but knowing 95% of what’s published about the city deals strictly with violence and/or corruption, I found myself considering a “This Day in History” theme, as well as ruminating over what’s going on with Rio’s public transportation system. I ended up finding the following article(s) from the late 1940s and early 1950s in Revista da Semana via Brazil’s digitized National Library archives.

A note: The article deals a lot with the term “lotação” which is a smaller bus that I’ve deemed “microbus”, usually without legal authorization by city hall to operate.

1948 Started on April 1st!
by Ney Machado

Instead of starting, like in other years, on January 1st – the classic day of the new year, – 1948 started on April 1st, giving cause to one of the biggest jokes on the edge of a real tragedy, – the daily tragedy of the Carioca people: the transportation crisis. “The urban transport crisis was overcome!”, this is the huge joke. And the best part of all this is that they made the illustrious Federal District police chief, general Lima Câmara, believe that this “joke” was the pure truth. Because of this April Fools, which he fell for innocently, general Lima Câmara started banning non-public microbuses, – at a time when the Carioca people are traveling like cattle, standing up, in open trucks, or hanging onto trains and trolleys, at risk to their lives and of having their members amputated, in cruel accidents, as has happened so many times.

The continuing crisis can be proved photographically or with data from first responders, who take victims of overcrowded trains and trolleys. The lines are huge at bus stops – directly responsible for the city’s traffic. The director of Transit Inspection made the police chief believe “Rio’s traffic crisis was already overcome”. The nonsense is as big as one saying that Saara’s irrigation problem is fixed, or that they stopped snow storms at the North Pole. It’s true that the police chief, in a noble gesture, amended and repealed the decree that impeded non-public microbuses. The fact that he had repealed it isn’t something to admire. The appalling thing is that Mr. Edgar Estrêla had instigated the sad and absurd measure.

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The Matter of Microbuses

There was never an excess of microbuses in the city. What there is, is a poor distribution for the routes. People from the North Zone and mainly the suburbs struggle every day to get a place on the pickups and the trucks which are falling to pieces. Being that the area is badly paved, drivers prefer routes in the South Zone, where the asphalt allows for longer-lasting tires. Even in Copacabana, from 8 to 9AM, or from 12 to 1PM, it’s really difficult to find a place on microbuses, chiefly for those that live beyond Serzedelo Correia square. On regular buses, forget it. Even squished like in the soccer stands during a fight, one cannot find a place. And microbuses exploit people as much as they can. All it takes it seeing the buses disguised as microbuses that are starting to appear in the city, whose company is known by the abbreviation V.A.S.C.O. They take almost as many passengers as the smaller buses. The difference is that the VASCO ones have fares for 5 cruzeiros, while buses doing the same route are $1.40, $1.60 and $2. Soon we’ll see these fake microbuses requesting official permission to carry “eight people standing”. And that’s how one solves the transport crisis in Rio. Always against the interests of the people, who are always paying more and more for the ride and travel in increasingly less comfort and exposed to mortal danger.

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…And “Light”, the poor thing!

While the buses are pretending to be microbuses, trolleys intend, little by little, to charge bus-style prices. “Light” – Rio’s Tramway, Light and Power Co. and Jardim Botânico Rail – is using almost the same undercarriage as they did 30 years ago, at a time when one traveled from Meier to Cascadura for one tostão and the most expensive trip was 200 réis. Little by little, Light created sections, dividing the route into two and doubling the price of the trip. A little while ago it managed a 50% increase from the government for all its lines. That’s with the grand promise of improving the vehicles and inaugurating new lines. The public increased the company’s profits by 50% and continue waiting for new trolleys til today. When in movement, each train car carries almost triple its normal capacity. Passengers travel squeezed, hanging on, dodging parked cars on the sidewalk and those that [….]. One tires more during a trolley trip than in 8 hours of office work. Despite all this deprivation, the “sacrificial” Light had the nerve to request authorization from City Hall to increase trolley fares. Thankfully they found an honest mayor in general Mendes de Morais, a true representative of the people’s interests. We’re going to transcribe dispatch sent by general Ângelo Mendes de Morais regarding Light’s absurd requirement. The mayor said: “Improve equipment, increase the number of collective transport vehicles, and better serve the public before considering an increase in fares. Once these needs are satisfied, that correspond to the elementary duty of reciprocity, there will be a basis for a study or revision of fares”. Well done, Mayor! No increases if the improvements only come afterwards. Cariocas were already misled by this very company. The former increase should really be done away with, since there’s no “elementary duty of reciprocity” on behalf of the Canadian company.

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Endless Odyssey

The resident of Tijuca, Rio Comprido, Botafogo or any other neighborhood – even though they suffer a lot with the anguish of trolleys and buses from their region to downtown – have no way of evaluating what the agony is of taking a Central or Leopoldina train in the suburbs from 7:00 to 8:30AM. Nor what it means, later, around 6PM, to take the “Maria-Fumaça” (train) on Barão de Mauá and Francisco Sá, or the trolley on D. Pedro II. Central never accompanied the growth of its suburbs. The trains were always too few, and this evil increases with each year that passes. The result of this lack of control is the alarming number of people hurt daily by pushes and those that fall from the moving train cars. What kind of respect does the management of these rail companies have for the comfort and safety of those that pay expensive fares to travel on their trains? None. Complaints are in vain. The disorganization and the discomfort of the trains that serve the inland lines deserve separate reporting. Twenty-five percent of the civil servants that chat and drink coffee at Central’s offices are completely unnecessary. They were put there by the previous director Alencastro Guimarães to serve his political interests. And the freight prices go up, the fares cost scandalously more, while the equipment continues the same, or worse. Central’s administration has given a perfect demonstration for the last 20 years of how one shouldn’t manage a rail company.

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The “Metro” and Other Promises

The City Council discussed many times the “metro” construction process. The name of the engineer Ebling was highlighted. They spoke for and against the Ebling project. All the city councilors were in agreement that the subterranean train construction project was unpostponable. It depended, merely, on choosing the best proposal for candidates interested in building it. However, this urgent necessity was forgotten. In regards to politics, sterile politics. It was also announced that the city would get 60 new buses, a ridiculous amount in the face of public needs. During the same week, São Paulo’s City Hall received 600 buses. Only a matter of an extra zero.

The Decree-crazy Mr. Estrêla

As if it weren’t enough that pedestrians and drivers have to deal with the headache that is the city’s messy traffic, there’s still Mr. Estrêla, who possesses an old sickness: decree-mania. Almost on a daily basis new orders appeared on traffic, and what’s law today will be repealed tomorrow by a new decree from the inspector of the Transit department. Downtown there aren’t any more posts to hang Traffic Inspector signs – “No Parking”, “Be Careful”, “Private Parking”. It seems like Mr. Estrêla wants to solve the city’s traffic with signs placed on posts. Plaza chauffeurs were forced, a few days ago, to change the starting meter from 3 to 4 cruzeiros. They preferred to refuse the Traffic Inspector’s present and continue with the meters as they were. The costs didn’t compensate. And later the car rental meters went through so many modifications that it started to seem like the Inspector’s Office had a partnership with the meter regulatory firm…

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The Cantareira and the “Kill” Carioca Fleet

They say the Carioca – the Brazilian in general – forgets quickly. They complain a lot but don’t persevere in their demands. The Frota “Mata” Carioca, although relatively new, already killed more citizens than many of the large battles in our revolutions. Last year the collision of a barge from this company with a Cantareira ferry killed more than 30 sad Cariocas. They made a lot of noise and, til now, what happened? Who was recognized as being guilty? Who compensated the families of the victims and how much? We learned from an employee of Frota Carioca that after the disasters – which are common there – passengers withdraw themselves. But for a short while. One week after the accident, the barges go back to filling up. Meaning: they come and go overcrowded. The Carioca doesn’t forget quickly. It’s just that he’s got so many pressing problems that he cannot be stuck on just one for too long. Cantareira didn’t kill anyone many years ago, but in compensation, it tormented [people] a bit. The Rio-Niterói trips, which were done in 20 minutes 15 years ago, are now being done in 30 minutes. And the ferries are scarce… In 1950, when the fares are 4 or 5 cruzeiros, this very route will be done in an hour. It’s a way, perhaps, to recompense the passenger, forcing him to appreciate the landscape more. The ferries are functioning like the stubborn things they are. A little while back, a ferry that came from the Ilha do Governador only had enough power to get to Praça Quinze. It arrived and broke down. It sunk. Cantareira would have to remodel its fleet if the building of a Rio-Niterói bridge or tunnel were to be taken seriously. For its sake, everything could remain how it is…

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Who answers for these homicides?

In recent months, almost 50 people died in transit disasters (Frota Carioca, trains from Central and Leopoldina, and cars). More than 100 were hurt, some forever, crippled and scarred. One can say that in none of these cases there was recklessness by the victims. Those who hang out of the train windows doesn’t do it because they like to. There’s no other way to get home. In the first two weeks of January, two trucks that transported people from downtown to the suburbs overturned  and 73 people were injured, some of them in a critical state. Merchant Antônio Silva Pires, after being stepping on by the crowd that advanced towards the trolley at the D. Pedro II station, died at the Pronto Socorro Hospital, due to the injuries he received. This relationship with accidents – with the dead and the injured – grows month by month. While the Transit inspector affirms to the police chief that there is no Rio transit crisis, the macabre statistics increase. Who is at fault? Who is responsible for so many lives being stolen from their jobs and family? In first place, the authorities are, since they can’t manage to find a solution to the problem. It’s possible that in a few years Rio’s transit problem will be solved…due to a lack of passengers, who’ll all be 6 feet under.

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First Step to a Solution

The lack of transport would improve in a few days if there were a law that forced the Transit inspector and his people to make use of the common transport of the Carioca: trolleys, trains, buses and microbuses, and to abolish private and governmental transportation which brings them to and from work. If Mr. Edgar Estrêla personally felt the agony of a 6PM bus line at Castelo, maybe he would immediately find means of improving the situation. And it would stop arguing with empty words, searching out London as an example of congestion (which, incidentally, has already been proved to him that it isn’t true).

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And as a bonus, below are three short pieces, also from Revista da Semana, about news of a Rio metro being studied and plans being made, in 1951.

Places to date in Rio – 1951



I came across a January 1950 article about “Pontos de namoro no Rio de Janeiro” (Places to date in Rio), and although it isn’t entirely focused on Rio, I thought I’d extract the interesting parts, which I’ll attempt to expand upon. The word “date” here refers more to making out and/or being affectionate.

In the section on how to date in secret,

Right after the Radio Patrol (emergency police patrol, circa 1948) showed up, it wasn’t possible anymore to even hold someone’s hand without running the risk of being arrested.

In the section on the best dating spots,

Dating in a small city is one thing; in a big one, it’s another. The guys in Rio know this. Here, love is distributed, according to the social condition of the couple, via cinemas, public transport, beaches and streets. But dating on the street is the most important. In the opinion of those in-the-know, the adequate quintessential neighborhood for honest dating is Botafogo. […] the neighborhood, once called aristocratic, was always said to be a great place for love. Its streets lined with old houses and trees, at night, allow for conveniently dark areas on certain walls, and these, naturally, become full of couples. They are decent, calm and poetic places. Showing themselves useful, at times, due to shadows that extend for about five meters, perfectly fit for five couples. Those who pass by hear nothing. They seem mute. The most one can see are mouths that are glued together. The neighbors never call the Radio Patrol, which apparently no longer deals with this kind of thing.

It seems that the best dating spots in Rio are varied. Meier, when speaking of the suburbs, comes in first as the most preferred. To date in Meier is good, even if he and she come from different (train) stations. The streets there are calm, remote and full of dark spots. Not all stations have this. Madureira, for example, isn’t good for dating. The streets are without vegetation and are dangerous – there are bad people there who attack couples.

But this is from one side of the suburbs, from the other, the most credentialed is Penha, where the streets are duly calm. Couples from several of Leopoldina’s stations make it their meeting place.

Dating in Copacabana is always unattractive. In truth, couples from Copacabana kiss unabashedly. No one really cares. [There’s a part that’s hard to read, but that’s the end].

The Cavalo from Cantagalo

Sometimes, one comes across the strangest of stories. A prime example being this one below from Careta magazine’s November 1957 edition.

In this apparently true story (I looked up the police commissioner’s name, and he a was real person), a horse falls off the Cantagalo hill at night and lands in a third story apartment of a residential building. The rest of the story is mostly people trying to understand what the hell is going on. The poor horse survives, by the way.

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Note: The article says it took place in Copacabana, but the address is Barão da Torre, 33, which is clearly Ipanema. There’s nothing I can find of the era that would hint at a change in delineation of neighborhoods. Of course, if one goes back far enough, the entire area used to be known as Fazenda de Copacabana but that’s not really relevent here. The 2nd district police station being telephoned was actually located in Copacabana, so maybe that’s what’s being referred to.

Carioca slang – 1957

Going through an October 1957 edition of Careta, I found an article on the following slang of the era (some of which I’ve added photos to).


  • Coca-cola (cheap collective taxis)
  • Fominhas (mini buses)
  • Caraduras (cheap trolleys)
  • Taiobas (trolleys with different fares)
  • Calhambeque (old car)
  • Rabo de Peixe (Cadillac)
  • Tintureiro (police wagon for the imprisoned)
  • Rabeção (hearse)
  • Mãe carinhosa (ambulance)
  • Vaca leiteira (milk truck)
  • Andorinha (moving truck)
  • Filhos de Maria (blue & white buses)
  • Camões (an allusion to the Portuguese poet who was blind in one eye)


  • Gostosões (modern and smooth)

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  • Sinfonia inacabado (‘without a head’)


  • Papa-filas

15 - Papa-filas Grassi


  • Bola de Noiva (Edifício Mayapan on Av. Almirante Barroso, 91)


  • Balança mas não cai ( apartment complex on Av. Presidente Vargas, 2007)


  • Tem Nêgo Bêbo Aí (Edifício Marquês de Herval on Av. Rio Branco, 185)


  • Gaiola de Ouro (Câmara Municipal at Praça Floriano)


  • Marmiteiro (laborer)
  • Maria Condelária (government official)
  • Barnabé (humble servant)
  • Parasita (retired but still able to work)
  • Tubarão (successful business man)
  • Bôas Vidas (city councilor)
  • Pais da Pátria (members of parliament)
  • Chefão / Manda-Chuva (President)
  • Gafanhotas (military)
  • Panela de Pressão (night guard)
  • Cardial (special police)
  • Meganha (military police)
  • Cosme e Damião (MPs in pairs)
  • Olheiro (car attendent)
  • Papa-defunto (funeral agent)


  • Getulinho (‘tostão’)
  • Filipeta / Japonesa (1 cruzeiro)
  • Cachorro (5 cruzeiros, according to bet-takers)
  • Coelho (10 cruzeiros, for bet-takers)
  • Perú (20 cruzeiros…)
  • Galo (50 cruzeiros…)
  • Vaca (100 cruzeiros…)
  • Abobrinas (modern bills worth 1,000 cruzeiros)


  • Poeira (cheap movie)
  • Mata-ratos (cigarette)
  • Pasquim (newspaper w/o asking price)
  • Buxo (ugly woman)
  • Panamás (big scandals)
  • Mamata (easy job)
  • Pistolão (the ease of getting a Mamata)

Careta Oct 1957 Careta Oct 1957 p2

Pasmado Hill – Making room for the rich


The Pasmado Tunnel connects Botafogo with Copacabana and Urca, passing through Pasmado hill. Construction started in 1947 and ended in 1952. The city, at the time, had horrible transit problems due to a surge in car ownership, which resulted in traffic congestion and accidents. The Lacerda government decided to relieve some of the pressure by making the tunnel. What ended up shortening travel time for those with enough money also meant increasing travel time for those with no money.

Following the opening of the tunnel, a small slum on top of the hill, known as the Favela do Pasmado, began to really grow in size, but by early 1964 it was removed and the space would be turned into a park and lookout point (which still exists).

Once the forced removal was complete (see images below), firefighters lit a controlled fire to burn any semblance of what existed before (a “purification by fire”, if you will). In total, 3,900 residents – or 887 families – were forced out and moved to the “projects”, mostly to Bangu. What was promised to them by the government, as incentive to accept the move, hadn’t become reality in October of ’64, as can be seen in this image saying they merely went from one favela to another.

Keep in mind, the post-removal fire is the opposite of what happened a few years later at Praia do Pinto in Leblon, which first was burned to the ground, then the residents were removed.

Screen Shot 2016-08-17 at 5.46.18 PM


If you’re interested in a good academic read on this favela removal, go here (PT). For the general wave of removals that happened in the 60s, there’s a promising 2013 documentary called Remoção out there but it doesn’t seem like it’ll be released publicly at any point. Below is the trailer.

The Pasmado tunnel, by the way, is also famous for a 1968 film starring singer Roberto Carlos, in which he passes through in a small helicopter.

Carnival 1953 – Lost Marchinha

In one of the old videos of Rio on Youtube, produced by Warner Bros, I heard a great little marchinha at the 1:20 mark, but which you can hear best starting at the 2:00 mark, going til 2:45, with some interruptions by the narrator. The lyrics are:

Ê, Ô, Ê, Ô, Ê
Meu bem, eu preciso de você
Como (o sabão) precisa do cachorro
E o nosso povo de ter um (c)oração
Como o batuque precisa lá do morro
E a cachaça precisa (do limão)

Ê, Ô, Ê, Ô, Ê
Meu bem, eu preciso de você
Meu bem, eu preciso de você

Se você me ama
Se você me ama
Eu quero a minha letra no seu monograma
Pra dizer a todos
Pra contar a todos
Que é com o meu sobrenome que você se chama
Não é Soares, não é Almeida
Se você não usar meu sobrenome
Eu tenho outro nome pra você usar

First, I had trouble finding the lyrics, then when found, words were missing so I had to listen many times to verses under the narrator’s voice and fill in some blanks. Plus, I couldn’t find any information at all on who created the song, nor any other version of it online anywhere.

I did track down the name of the director, André de la Varre, and found out it’s from 1953, not 1954. He was in Rio filming in late February of 1953. I even found the main marchinhas of ’53, but no titles pop out, aside from the biggest hit of that year, Cachaça (which people still sing today).

What struck me from watching the Rio Por Eles documentary series I posted in August 2016 is that many foreign clips of Rio had overlayed music that didn’t fit the reality of the visuals, which means the marchinha in question might be from a previous year.

It goes to show there are these great little things hidden in the past which fade into oblivion and if we look hard enough, we catch a scent on the breeze without ever knowing who or what it belonged to.