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.


Jornal do Brasil

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)


Rio plazas from above

Source (PT)


The bohemian Praça São Salvador maintains its conserved fountain and gazebo


With burned out lightbulbs, badly-treated flower beds and homeless people, Praça da Cruz Vermelha, downtown, is worrying due to the lack of security


Lapa, next to the Arcs, one of the city’s most famous landmarks


Passeio Público has a grass area and a fountain in a bad state of conservation


Praça Antero de Quental, in Leblon


Praça Cuauhtemoc, in Flamengo, and its geometry with circles drawn into the grass


Praça do Monroe, in Cinelândia, has a fountain with trash, not water


Praça Varnhagen, in Tijuca


Praça São Francisco da Prainha


Street vendors take up Largo da Carioca with tents


Cinelândia and its Portuguese stone geometry


Praça Tiradentes


Praça do Russel, in Glória, in abondon, with an empty fountain


Praça Nicaragua, in Flamengo

Missing Guanabara


Aldir Blanc and Moacyr Luz met in a concert in 1984. On the way out, they got a ride with each other and -holy smokes! -they discovered that, unknowingly, they lived in the same building. These things only happen in Tijuca. The partnership started there. A melody would be sent up to the fourth floor, and lyrics would be sent down to the third.

Alone, Moacyr composed a “no-nonsense” samba and showed it to Beth Carvalho, who praised the melodic line, but suggested the verse change. A job for the man from the apartment above. In a short time, Aldir came down with his eyes glistening: “You can change the living room curtain because we have a hit.”

The second part was still missing. With the excuse of drinking some beers and eating lupin beans and gizzards, Paulo César Pinheiro was called and put his pen to work. Late in the afternoon, Moacyr called Beth: “That samba is going to be called ‘Saudades da Guanabara.'” The singer hurried to learn the new lyrics on the same day.

In 1989, when the song was recorded, Cariocas and Fluminenses also faced a critical situation. One more, of the many that we faced since Estácio de Sá. But nothing that compares to the bottom of the well – worse is that we may not have even reached the bottom of the well – in which that bastard Sérgio Cabral, in promiscuity with entrepreneurs of the likes of Jacob Barata, has us now. It’s necessary to sing in the street at the top of our lungs: “Brazil, your face is still Rio de Janeiro / A three by four photo and your whole body / Needs to regenerate itself.” Or softly, in the corner of the room, in the dark: “Take the arrows out of my patron’s chest / That Saint Sebastian of Rio de Janeiro / Can still be saved.”

As reinforcement, call Paulo César Pinheiro, Aldir Blanc and Moacyr Luz for a new meeting – and don’t forget the lupin beans! – in that Tijuca apartment. Who knows if one more heroic samba can’t help us out of this? – Source (PT)

Eu sei / I know
Que o meu peito é lona armada / That my chest is an armed canvas
Nostalgia não paga entrada / Nostalgia doesn’t pay the entrance fee
Circo vive é de ilusão (eu sei…) / The circus lives on illusion (I know…)

Chorei / I cried
Com saudades da Guanabara / Missing Guanabara
Refulgindo de estrelas claras / The glittering of bright stars
Longe dessa devastação (…e então) / Far from this devastation (…and then)

Armei / I set up
Pic-nic na Mesa do Imperador / A picnic at the Mesa do Imperador
E na Vista Chinesa solucei de dor / And at the Vista Chinesa I sobbed in pain
Pelos crimes que rolam contra a liberdade / For the crimes against freedom that occur

Reguei / I watered
O Salgueiro pra muda pegar outro alento / Salgueiro (willow) so the sapling takes another breath

Plantei novos brotos no Engenho de Dentro / I planted new sprouts in Engenho de Dentro
Pra alma não se atrofiar (Brasil) / So the soul doesn’t atrophy (Brazil)
Brasil, tua cara ainda é o Rio de Janeiro / Brazil, your face is still Rio de Janeiro
Três por quatro da foto e o teu corpo inteiro / A three by four photo and your whole body
Precisa se regenerar / Needs to regenerate itself

Eu sei / I know
Que a cidade hoje está mudada / That the city today is changed
Santa Cruz, Zona Sul, Baixada
Vala negra no coração / A black ditch at heart

Chorei / I cried
Com saudades da Guanabara / Missing Guanabara
Da Lagoa de águas claras /  A clear-watered Lagoa
Fui tomado de compaixão (…e então) / I was filled with compassion (…and then)

Passei / I passed
Pelas praias da Ilha do Governador / By the beaches of Ilha do Governador
E subi São Conrado até o Redentor / And I went up São Conrado to the Redeemer
Lá no morro Encantado eu pedi piedade / There on the Encantado hill I asked for pity

Plantei / I planted
Ramos de Laranjeiras foi meu juramento / Ramos de Laranjeiras (branches of orange trees) was my oath
No Flamengo, Catete, na Lapa e no Centro / In Flamengo, Catete, in Lapa and downtown

Pois é pra gente respirar (Brasil) / Because we’re supposed to breathe (Brazil)
Brasil / Brazil
Tira as flechas do peito do meu Padroeiro / Take the arrows out of my Patron’s chest
Que São Sebastião do Rio de Janeiro / Saint Sebastian of Rio de Janeiro
Ainda pode se salvar / Can still be saved

The Etymology of Rio


Below, I went through the etymology of many names that will be familiar to those that know Rio de Janeiro. You’ll find that, where possible, they adhere to the format below and, in some cases, they include other details. The list below is not all-inclusive.

Current: Portuguese (English)
Original: Portuguese (English)


Arpoador (Harpooner)

Note: It was once a place for harpooning whales

Bangu (Black Shield, Big darkened wall)
unknown/part of Campo Grande

Note: The Tupi word bangu’u likely references the shadow of the Pedra Branca Massif. Another possible origin is the African term banguê, a place on the sugarcane mill where slaves stored bagasse, for feeding the cows. The latter term then began to be used to describe a primative transportation device, like a stretcher, for sugarcane and construction material

Copacabana (Luminous place / Blue Beach, View of the Lake)
Sacopenapã (Path of tiger herons)

Note: Current name is perhaps Quechuan, or of Bolivian indigenous origin. Original name is the same as the Lagoon, related to old parish delimitations) [1]

Flamengo (Flemish)
Uruçumirim (Small Bee)

Note: Current name either due to Dutch invasion, Dutch prisoners, or sightings of flamingos. Also called Aguada dos Marinheiros (Sailor’s fresh water supply), and Praia do Sapateiro (Cobbler Beach) in the interim

Humaitá (Black Stone)
Praia da Piaçava (Piassava Beach)

Ilha do Governador (Governor’s Island)
Ilha de Paranapuã / Ilha dos Maracajás (Seaside Hill Island / Margay Island)

Note: It was a sesmaria and sugar mill owned by Rio’s first governor, Salvador Correia de Sá

Ipanema (Bad Water)

Note: The name also references the second Baron of Ipanema, from inland São Paulo, who invested his capital from a metal processing plant into what would become Rio’s Ipanema

Madureira (from tentant and cattle drover Lourenço Madureira)

Penha (either from Our Lady of Peñafrancia or from the word for cliff) [2]

Recreio dos Bandeirantes (Fortune-hunters Playground)

Note: The company which originally sold lots of land there had the same name

Tijuca (Rotten Water)

Note: Tijuca got its name because it was on the way to Tijuca Lagoon, in Barra da Tijuca


Cidade de Deus (City of God)

Note: Dom Hélder Câmara, a Roman Catholic Archbishop, suggested the name to Carlos Lacerda, then-governor of the state of then-Guanabara. The housing complex was actually supposed to be inhabited by government employees, but due to 1966 floods, residents of favelas in the Zona Sul were moved there instead [3]

Complexo do Alemão (German’s Complex)
Unknown/part of the parish of Inhaúma (Black Bird, ie Horned screamer)

Note: The “German” in this case, was actually a Polish immigrant, WWI refugee and land owner. Before it was a Complex, it was simply known as Morro do Alemão (German’s Hill)

Complexo do Maré (Tide Complex)
Comunidade Morro do Timbau (Timbau Hill Community)

Note: The name Maré is due to the swampy area there and the tide that would eventually come in, which gave way to the construction of stilt houses

Morro da Mangueira (Mangueira Hill)

Note: The Mangueira Hat Factory was located on a street at one of the entrances to the favela. The factory “lent” its name to another favela, in Leme, called Chapéu-Mangueira

Morro da Providência (Providence Hill) [4]
Favela (Weed)

Note: It took on the current name in the 1940s with the installation of the Divina Providência chapel there

Morro do Salgueiro (Salgueiro Hill)

Note: Portuguese immigrant Domingos Alves Salgueiro had 30 shacks in the favela and became a point of reference for those going there

Rocinha (small farm) [5]

Santa Marta / Dona Marta (Saint Martha / Lady Martha)

Note: Priest Clemente Martins de Matos bought lands in current-day Botafogo and denominated the hill with his mother’s name

Vidigal (named after Major Vidigal) [6]


Corcovado (Hunchbacked)
Pináculo / Pico da Tentação (Pinnacle / Temptation Peak)

Note: The original name references the Mount of Temptation, showing that religious connotations existed there prior to the Christ statue

Cristo o Redentor (Christ the Redeemer)
Mirante do Chapéu do Sol (Sun Hat Viewpoint) [7]

Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas (Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon) [8]
Piraguá or Praguá / Sacopenapã / Capôpenypau (Fish Cove / Path of tiger herons / Lagoon of shallow roots)

Note: Also called Lagoa de Amorim Soares / do Fagundes (due to other owners), in the interim

Maracanã (parrot)

Pedra da Gávea (Topsail Rock)
Metaracanga (Decorated/Crowned head)

A Treasure in Tijuca Forest

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Pai Ricardo’s Wood, a treasure right in the middle of Tijuca Forest

Scientists discovered a plant nursery threatened to extinction, says Ana Lúcia Azevedo

When left in peace, the tachi (Tachigalia paratyensis) reaches 25 meters, higher than some buildings not far from it. But the tachi in question is still a shrub, and its presence marks the entrance to one of the paths leading to the Atlantic Forest in all its glory – where the sky is green and the ground is dark. The tachi lives in the Mata do Pai Ricardo, a portion of the Tijuca National Park facing the Zona Sul. With an enchanted name and mysterious origin, scientists see it as almost magic, manifested in the natural regeneration of the Atlantic Forest, impressive due to its speed and richness.

– Pai Ricardo’s Wood is a treasure. The diversity is greater, the trees are very large, the canopy is closed. A patrimony of Rio. This forest is a piece of the Atlantic Forest at its utmost development. It’s not reforestation. No other metropolis in the world has anything like it – says Rogério Ribeiro do Oliveira, professor of the Department of Geography and Environment of PUC-Rio and one of the greatest experts on the Tijuca Forest.

A piece of the Atlantic Forest at its utmost development, is an expression of scientific rigor that translates into original forest, one that already existed before the city of São Sebastião do Rio de Janeiro was on the map and transformed the landscape. Pai Ricardo dissolves the myth that the Tijuca Forest is only the work of man. Whole parts of the forest are remnants of ancient forests. Other parts were reforested in 1860. But the Mata do Pai Ricardo is the jewel of their crown, it exudes mystery.

Its trees are among the largest and oldest in the city – venerable giants over 20 meters high and hundreds of years old. It faces the Zona Sul, above Horto. But hardly anyone has heard of it. It spans about 200 hectares – or 200 soccer fields. And there is also Father Ricardo himself, who named the forest, a river and a hill, and then disappeared into history without a trace.


– It is a very precious remnant. In my view, it needs special protection. The value of this forest is incalculable. It survived coal, coffee, and the metropolis. It is not very extensive, but it represents the closest that the Carioca has of the Atlantic Forest in its glory. Ana Luiza Coelho Netto, professor at the Geohecoecology Laboratory (Geoheco) at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ), says: “It also provides environmental services, protects the springs, lessens the heat, and helps clean the air.

The importance of Pai Ricardo is not new for researchers and connoisseurs of the Tijuca Forest. It’s in the Management Plan of the Tijuca National Park. It’s highlighted by studies dating back to the 1940s. For some reason, it has never become very well known.

– It’s a myth that the forest was totally replanted. Pai Ricardo is well preserved, and it’s an example that disproves it. Why the forest survived is another story. The dynamics of the ancient uses of the forest are still not well understood, says the head of the Tijuca National Park, Ernesto Viveiros de Castro. Ana Luiza and Rogério for more than three decades have developed studies on the Tijuca Massif. Much of what is known about the region comes from their research. However, they didn’t even expect to discover, just a few meters from the Transcarioca Trail, a nursery for the Atlantic Forest in full development. Rare species sprout and connect to regenerate the complexity of the forest.

– If I had not been here and seen it, I wouldn’t believe the speed with which the woods are renewed. The strength of this forest excites me. What we’re watching is very special – Ana Luiza says.


A Gigantic Jequitibá lies in the Pai Ricardo Wood

The nursery that enchants scientists lies where the greatest giant of Pai Ricardo is. The Jequitibá, with a name as big as its size, was 40 meters high. It gave its name to a trail and a waterfall, references for the forest goers. But in 2013, during a gale, it broke. The canopy came down and took other trees and shrubs with it.

– It’s now 22 meters. Its trunk measures 3.2 meters in diameter. This one lived more than two thousand years. The wind broke it because its trunk was old and fragile. Its time is up – says Oliveira.

The Jequitibá died. But it didn’t go away. Dead, it gives life to the forest.

– Thousands of fungi cover the trunk and roots and decompose them. There are literally millions of microorganisms that recycle the Jequitiba’s colossal amount of organic matter and return it to the forest in the form of nutrients – Ana Luiza explains.

More than just that, with the death of the giant, light came through. Large trees create a world of shadows under the treetops. In it there is an entire gene pool of other plants waiting for an opportunity, for light to emerge and start a new cycle. This can take decades, centuries or millennia.

– We watched this sleeping part of the forest wake up. When a clearing opens and the woods around are healthy, it offers nutrients and moisture, a revolution happens. This light, the shrubs and smaller plants awaken, begin to emerge, take up space.

The sapplings that will one day be giants, will close off the sky of the forest and begin a new cycle. One day, many centuries ago, this jequitibá was like the little plants we see here. It grew, survived for ages, and became heaven itself. With its death, a new cycle began – highlights Rogério Oliveira.

Near the dead giant, a bush has already taken its place. It’s a guapeba (Chrysophyllum imperiale) or marmeleiro-do-mato. But it’s the name of the árvore-do-imperador that might explain its fate better. Almost extinct due to the exploitation of its wood, this species that reaches 25 meters was considered ideal for shipbuilding. It became popular with Pedros I and II. The latter sent it to botanical gardens, he wanted to preserve it. But it got more and more rare after the Empire. Unsubstantiated reports say that in the young Republic it would have ceased to be protected due to its association with the emperor.

– This species is just a small example of what we have here – explains Oliveira.

It is not known why coffee wasn’t planted there. The Pai Ricardo Wood is not pristine, but it is preserved. Rogério Oliveira believes that the many boulders and the steep slope of the terrain may have hampered the establishment of plantations.

– It’s magic what we’re seeing happen. The process is a lot faster than what we imagine – adds Stingel Fraga, doctor in geography from PUC-Rio.

Although the fauna is not as rich as the flora, because the Pai Ricardo Wood is like an island surrounded by city and road, some animals find refuge there. Squirrels and monkeys are common. Not so much as snakes. The hollowed trunk of the old Jequitiba is a paradise for them, who find shelter and food there, in the form of wild mice and spiders, for example.

In another part of the Pai Ricardo, a hundred-year-old ajo-ajo of around 30 feet tall is reached 20 feet off the trail. The foot sinks into the carpet of leaves, vines enclose the path. Snakes also take shelter in the stumps. There, the forest is dark, and confuses one easily, removing points of reference. It is not a place for tours. And experts hope that is stays like that.

– What can’t be allowed is aggression on the woods. There are cigarette butts, scraps of food, religious offerings on the trails. People want to enjoy nature and destroy it, violate it, disrespect it. I hope there is more awareness and affection for a treasure that belongs to everyone – laments Ana Luiza.

To survive the forest, like the city around it, it needs peace.

Native Species

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Infographic (PT)

The Mysterious Father Ricardo

Just as enveloped in the shadows as are the curves of the forest to which he gives his name is the figure of Father Ricardo. He would have been one of the slaves who worked with Major Manoel Gomes Archer in the historic reforestation of the Tijuca Massif, begun in 1862. Another possibility is that he was a spiritual leader of Afro-Brazilian religions. The first is considered unlikely since there is no reliable record of a slave with that name.

The fact is that the Tijuca Forest is loaded with spirituality through names such as that of Cachoeira das Almas, an ancient place of worship. And studies by Rogério Oliveira have already revealed a relationship between Afro-Brazilian religions and the preservation of trees considered sacred, such as fig trees. Regarding Father Ricardo, however, there is only mystery.

– In fact, the history of the Tijuca Forest is much less well known and documented than one might imagine. The very idea that everything has been replanted is a myth. Archer and his successors were important. But they reforested only one part – observes environmental historian José Augusto Padua, one of the coordinators of the Laboratory of History and Nature, at UFRJ’s History Institute.

According to Padua, it was nature itself that did most of the work:

“The mountain is the forest’s greatest friend. The slope, the stones make it difficult to access and destroy. It’s not easy to knock down and drag off a large tree on a steep slope. The one that regenerated most of the forest was nature itself – says Padua.

Even preserved places such as Pai Ricardo’s Wood retain scars from ancient uses. There are traces of charcoal from the 18th and 19th centuries. These charcoal mills were nothing more than ovens in the very woods where the coal sold in the city was produced. The ovens have disappeared, but the place where they existed is identified by the clearly artificial plateaus, planted in the middle of the steep slope. The soil under the dry leaves is dark, pure charcoal.

– The charcoal workers are an important and forgotten part of Rio’s history. But charcoal mills don’t only tell the stories of men. They also tell those of the forest – explains the doctoral student of PUC-Rio Gabriel Paes.

By studying coal it’s possible to know which tree was burned, which gives an idea of the composition of the forest.

– It maintains the anatomy of species – he adds.

It’s just not possible to discover who Father Ricardo was.

Source (PT)

Saens Pena Plaza – 1911


“An emblematic piece of Tijuca celebrated 100 years in 2011. A natural junction of the main thoroughfares of the neighborhood, a place of abundant commerce and, as people say there, “close to everything”, Praça Saens Peña was opened to the public on April 30, 1911, a Sunday, with pomp, circumstance and band in the gazebo. Since then, it has seen its heyday, its decadence and, in recent times, its recovery. One of its best known spots, Casa Granado was replaced by a common pharmacy in the beautiful building on the corner of Rua Conde de Bonfim. Also lost in the past is the glamor of Cine Metro, transformed into a clothing store, and the Olinda, with its 3,500-seat hall, considered the largest in Latin America, was demolished in the 1970s. Battered by subway works for almost two decades , The plaza acquired railing to prevent the homeless from making their permanent abode on the benches. But none of this is a reason to lament among Tijuca residents. Friendly retirees maintain their card games under the shade of the kiosks, a few meters from a Military Police cabin. Mornings are filled with oriental exercises. The handicraft fair stirs up the environment on the weekends and illegal street vendors are shunned by the police. A reflection of the growth, the changes in Praça Saens Peña are faced naturally by the majority of the residents. “It’s part of the dynamics of a big city, as long as growth is done with at least a small amount of planning,” says Marcos Amorim, a history professor in the state education system.

With the same territory as in the era of the Amerindians and the Jesuits, a little more than 1,000 hectares, the neighborhood has much more flexible borders when taking into account the criteria of residents who moved there by choice or the newspapers’ classified section. Some bordering blocks of Rio Comprido are now part of Tijuca – and no one disputes it. Some of Andaraí’s streets and buildings also took sides with the neighboring Tijuca, which is more famous and highly-valued, for reasons of real estate evaluations. And areas like Aldeia Camperista, scenery of Nelson Rodrigues’ plays, simply disappeared from the official map (it still exists). It all became a single entity with the high demand for housing and commercial spots like never before.


There are those who want to be Tijuca because of the tradition it holds. Others choose it because of the location (it’s right next to downtown). And today many people choose to live in the region in the face of a greater sense of security, a result of the action of the Peacekeeping Police Units (UPPs), implanted in their largest favelas. But hardly anyone would like to call themselves Tijucan based only on what the name of the place means. The word, of indigenous origin, means rotten water. It emerged to designate an area located 20 kilometers from its current core, the marshes of Barra. In the 18th century, the denomination was adopted on the ground where the pulsating center of the neighborhood is located today. The official year of its foundation was 1759, when the priests of the Society of Jesus were expelled from the lands, by determination of the Portuguese crown.

A lot of coffee would be planted there, in the fertile and mild climate. Sugar mills were erected all over the region. Defined as “rural” until the 19th century, it was once famous as a summer resort, mainly on the slopes of the forest park. Rugendas painted his pleasant landscapes there in the 1870s. It was in the midst of his views and farms that Machado de Assis set the honeymoon of Capitu and Bentinho in his book Dom Casmurro and the retreat of the main character of Memórias Póstumas de Brás Cubas after his mother’s death. A pioneer, the neighborhood received the first trams in the country – still pulled by donkeys -, and came to be called the “second Cinelandia”at the end of the first half of the 20th century and was the birthplace of a handful of celebrities who were born within their borders.

Not everything was glorious. With progress, came the swell of people, the chaotic traffic and, from the 60’s, an accelerated process of favela and urban violence. At over 250 years old, Tijuca can take pride in its past, rethink the present and keep an eye on the future.”

– Source (PT)

PS – Here’s a great modern overview of Saens Pena, from the Like Tijuca FB page.

The Disappearing Favelas

favela-catacumba-baixa-620-size-598(Catacumba favela, in Lagoa)

“Those who pass by the Catacumba Park today, in Lagoa, the Selva de Pedra apartment complex, in Leblon, or by UERJ, in Tijuca, won’t find any sign that, less than 30 years prior, they housed the three largest favelas in Rio de Janeiro: Catacumba, Praia do Pinto and Esqueleto, respectively. The three communities were destroyed during the removal frenzy of the 1960s and their residents transfered to housing projects in the suburbs or in the Zona Oeste. From 1968 to 1975, at least 50,000 needy families were forced to leave their homes. “In the beginning I didn’t believe it, I thought it was a lie, but soon after they started the registrations. It was all very quick”, remembers the retiree Ismael Silva, raised in the Catacumba favela, in Lagoa, and a 30-year resident of Brás de Pina.

Of all the removed favelas of the 60s, the most controversial was that of Praia do Pinto, in Leblon. The residents found out about the plans of the Mayor’s Office for doing away with the community in the 1950s, and they strongly resisted. According to data from the 1949 Favela Census, at least 20,000 people lived in the location. The removal was only concluded after the fire, in 1969, during the governor Negrão de Lima’s term in office. “A lot of people didn’t want to leave. In spite of the problems, they prefered to continue living in the Zona Sul. The fire made everyone leave”, affirms Maria Rosa de Souza Noronha, 62 years old, ex-resident of Praia do Pinto, and later removed to Complexo da Maré.

Pracitcally all the shacks at Praia do Pinto were destroyed by the fire. On the following day, police tore down the few remaining houses that were still standing. Until today, no one can confirm if it was an accident or the Government’s last ditch effort to toss out the residents. But all indications point towards a forced removal.

praia-do-pinto(Praia do Pinto, in Leblon)

The ex-governor of Rio and current minister of Action and Social Promotion, Benedita da Silva, was born in Praia do Pinto and lived there until her family moved to Chapéu Mangueira, in Leme, years before the devastating fire. At the time, Praia do Pinto was the largest horizontal favela in Rio and used to be visited constantly by Zona Sul residents, among them, the poet Vinícius de Morães, who, according to accounts, had the idea of writing the play “Orfeu da Conceição” during one of the favela’s dance nights. On the sensuality of the Afro-Brazilians, Vinícius had said: “They seem like Greeks. Greeks before Greek culture”.

“It was a political plot by Lacerda”

Another extinct community of large proportions in the 60s was the Esqueleto favela, in Tijuca, that came to encompass close to 4,000 shacks and close to 12,000 inhabitants. The first residents settled in the area in the 50s. The houses were built with remains from the University of Brazil’s Clinical Hospital. The construction of which was interupted and never again retaken. “The whole removal process was done very quickly. Registered families were taken to housing projects and the shacks were destroyed. I thought it was all too quick, but there was no disrespect”, remembers Dilmo Emídio Ferreira, ex-resident of the Esqueleto favela, destroyed to make room for the State University of Rio de Janeiro (UERJ) and a stretch of Avenida Radial Oeste.

faveladoesqueletoatualu(Esqueleto favela, in Tijuca)

The last 495 shacks of the Esqueleto favela were demolished in 1965. The ex-residents still believe it was politically-motivated. “It was a political plot by Lacerda because he wanted to be elected president. My whole family went to Vila Kennedy”, says Dilmo, who prefered to remain in Mangueira because of its samba roots. A little more than 4 decades after the removal he fondly remembers his friends, who were spread throughout the city. “I never saw many people ever again. At the time, drug trafficking was still in its early years, there was the swindler, capoeira, but no one in the favela knew about cocaine. The atmosphere was very chill”, he says.

“If they made a Favela-Neighborhood, I come back running”

Located on the divide between Ipanema and Copacabana, in a strategic area of high real estate worth, the Catacumba favela was gone by 1970. With a privildeged view of the Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas, the community had 2,320 shacks and close to 15,000 inhabitants. Adetrudes Justino de Souza, or Mr. Souza, 72 years old, was president of the resident’s association and assisted the State in the registration process of the families that were to be removed. Thirty-three years later, he still commemorates the achievement of having a land title but disagrees with who the process was conducted. “It was all too quick, people had to be prepared. They were thrown into housing projects”, affirms Mr. Souza, who lived for 23 years in Catacumba.

In spite of the distance to the city center, the forced separation from neighbors and the mostly arbitrary manner in which the government conducted the removals, for some ex-residents of the demolished favelas the move also had its positive points. Among pros and contras, they emphasize the achievement of land titles and the minimal systems of infrastructure, like sewage and water treatment. “This was the good part. But, in reality, we didn’t have a choice”, says Ismael, who took a long time to get used to the distance from his friends. “If they made a Favela-Neighborhood, I come back running”, he resumes.”

Source: Favela Tem Memoria