An Auditory History of Samba

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Below are two collections I came across detailing the history of samba and other popular songs. Enjoy!

Como e Por quê nascem as Canções

“Well-known in sports and cultural journalism, John Max is the author, along with Charles Didier, of Noel Rosa – Uma biografia and has published books on Paulinho da Viola, movie soundtracks, and the great stars of Brazilian football and Maracanã. On the radio, he made the documentary Vinicius – Poesia, música e paixão in 32 chapters. He is one of the leading experts in the history and stories of Brazilian music, a subject that is addressed this program, highlighting how important popular songs emerged.”

The 32-part short-audio series from Rádio Batuta on samba and other popular Brazilian songs can be found here (PT).

FYI: The audios don’t seem to work on Safari, but they worked on Chrome.

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No Tempo do Samba

In this 24-part series from Rádio UFOP, out of the Federal University of Ouro Preto, the history of samba is retold. Each episode is about 10 minutes and they’re all in Portuguese. The project blog is here (PT).

FYI: The pace is slightly too fast and the background music can be bothersome when trying to focus on the host’s words.

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The Carioca hinterlands

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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].

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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

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How does one describe to a foreigner an institution as Brazilian as the jogo do bicho (animal game), a former zoo raffle that has existed for 125 years, is against the law and has become one of the biggest illegal lotteries in the world?

The question arose during an unpretentious chat, but it motivated political scientist Danilo Freire to investigate the subject in depth.

Using economic tools, he reached unprecedented conclusions about the informal rules and mechanisms of force that helped this illegal betting bazaar survive more than 30 governments in Brazil, from dictatorships to democracies.

Studies on animal game in the country were done, above all, within anthropology and history. Excellent studies, says Freire, but with a focus on symbolic aspects – such as the influence of dreams and everyday facts on gamblers’ hunches – or moments of the game at a given time.

“I tried to analyze the game as a capitalist enterprise because, first of all, that’s what it is. It was created to generate profit,” says the 34-year-old researcher who studied the subject for his PhD in political economics at King’s College London, one of the most prestigious universities in the world.

Rational choice theory – one of the economic tools employed by Freire – assumes that people think in terms of cost-benefit. They always try to improve their well-being, although they don’t make the best decisions all the time and cannot predict the future. But they do their best to increase their chances.

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Papers with old lottery results

“The animal game is a business, and it seems reasonable to me that bicheiros (those who run the games) are rational, and if they were not, they are unlikely to have accumulated the fortune and influence they have. They are people with good business skills and strategic thinking to negotiate, legally or not, with politicians and police, among others.”

Historical circumstances

The embryo of the animal game came in 1892, when Baron João Batista Drummond had an idea to attract visitors to his zoo in Vila Isabel, in Rio’s north zone.

The place had exotic species and beautiful views of the city but was missing people. Among the new entertainment suggestions for the venue, one stood out: a raffle.

In the morning, the Baron chose an animal from a list of 25 animals and placed its image in a wooden box at the entrance to the zoo. Those who participated would earn a ticket with a picture of one of these 25 animals.

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Entrance ticket from 1896, authorizing the visitor to participate in the raffle

At the end of the day the Baron would open the box and show the figure. The winner got 20 times the value of the entrance price – which surpassed, for example, the monthly income of a carpenter at the time.

“Being able to choose the animal was a great idea, because it made the game much more interesting. Eventually this made people start to interpret dreams, license plates and numbers, in very fun ways too,” says Freire, who also has a master’s degree in Political Science from USP and in International Relations from the Institute of Higher International Studies in Geneva.

The lottery was christened the animal game and soon became a craze – tickets began to be sold not only in the zoo, but in stores throughout the city. Repression didn’t take long – authorities criminalized the activity in the late 1890s, for the sake of “public safety.”

Freire points to four facets of late-19th-century Brazil that help explain the emergence of the animal game:

1) A growing urban population, excluded from the labor market;

2) The flow of immigrants with family networks that encouraged participation in commerce;

3) An increase in the circulation of capital, motivated by factors such as the abolition of slavery and nascent industrialization;

4) A weak judicial system regarding criminal repression.

“Cities began to grow, and the end of slavery and the influx of immigrants into the country increased the number of urban poor. The illegal market was the only income option for many people,” explains the political scientist.

“Even though the game was illegal, the law was never enforced very strictly. To this day the game is considered only a misdemeanor, a lesser crime (leading to four months to a year in prison). Thus, punishment wasn’t enough to frighten the bicheiros – profits offset the risk of being arrested.”

Modus operandi

In the animal game, each of the 25 animals corresponds to four numbers: from ostrich (01 to 04) to cow (97 to 00). There are different betting options, and the prize varies with the possibility of winning.

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Table of the first 15 animals

In general, your animal will win if the last two numbers of the thousand announced in the Federal Lottery correspond to the number of the animal. For example: if the lottery drew the number 3350, the winner is the rooster (49 to 52).

You can also bet on the thousand (the so-called “na cabeça” bet): choosing the four numbers and hope the four come out in the first draw. It is the highest move: usually paying R$4 thousand on a R$1 bet.

“The bicheiros try to expand their businesses and offer something that attracts gamblers. When a bet succeeds in one place, it will probably be copied by neighbors and tested in other markets,” says Freire.

The structure of the game has three levels of hierarchy. Bicheiros or note takers are the most visible face of the business: they sell the stakes with their notepads and stamps. Managers are accountants who take care of the bicheiros of a certain area, mediating contact and the flow of money to the bankers (also known as bicheiros), the financial elite of the game.

A study by the Getúlio Vargas Foundation estimated that the animal game raked in from R$1.3 billion to R$2.8 billion in the country in 2014 – a number that some considered underestimated.

In the 1990s, it employed 50,000 people in the city of Rio de Janeiro alone – Petrobras, for example, has 68,000 employees.

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A bicheiro’s bench in Rio

Sure to go wrong

But how has this business managed to differentiate itself from other illegal markets and become profitable in the long run? In theory, everything conspired to go wrong: who would give money to a wrongdoer and wait for him to pay it back?

“Those who win and don’t get paid cannot complain to PROCON (consumer protection agency), open a lawsuit or call the police,” recalls Freire.

In addition, raffles were held in hidden places (usually “fortresses”, the bankers’ HQs) and the practice was reputed to be a moral vice and had strong opposition from the Catholic Church.

The researcher identifies two mechanisms that have reduced the stigma surrounding the game: building a strong reputation for honesty and offering specific incentives to clients and employees.

Trust came with measures such as making the raffle results viewable to everyone (on light posts, for example), on-time payments and a fixed multiplier formula for the prizes – if a gambler wins the smallest prize, for example, he will receive 18 times his investment regardless of the amount of the bet.

“Every gambler already knows how much he can win. It’s easier for people to understand and leaves the bicheiro in a situation where everyone knows how much he has to pay,” says Freire.

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Paper with the game results

Since the 1950s, when the bankers of the animal game transferred their operations to “fortresses,” the drawings left the public eye, which could have reduced the trust and profits of the activity.

The business, however, solved this problem of “information asymmetry” by starting to use the winning numbers of the Federal Lottery in its raffles, hitching a ride on the credibility of the official betting trade.

Another strategy to create a good reputation, says Freire, was the financing of cultural activities, especially Rio samba schools.

“They give jobs to residents, generate profits for the communities, increase tourism in Rio and, of course, they become a national symbol”, says the researcher, who also cites the foundation of LIESA (Independent League of Rio de Janeiro Samba Schools) by animal game bankers in 1985.

“Samba schools began to receive state support in the mid-1930s. But the government intervened in sambas and parades. The animal game gave schools some freedom and allowed more elaborate parades and for schools to become more professional.”

Solving internal problems

The illegal business had to deal with problems common to any company: lazy employees, cruel bosses, cash shortages. How does one ensure, for example, that bankers don’t pocket gambling money? There is, of course, a threat of violent retaliation, but it isn’t something common.

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A notepad with bets

A more frequent tactic, says Freire, is the provision of “collective benefits,” such as private security provided by corrupt gunmen and police, small interest-free loans for unexpected expenses such as health care, and gambler tips.

“It would be as if the animal game bankers paid bonuses and shared part of the profits for employees to put in effort. It’s something that many companies also do,” he says.

There is also the risk of “bank failure” – when the business cannot pay the premiums, for example, in case of a very high bet. The solution to potential liquidity problems was “unloading”: smaller bidders get “insurance” by paying part of the bets to a larger bicheiro, who guarantees high bets if necessary.

“Banks and companies do the same thing with shared risk contracts, hedge and insurance operations. The mechanism is the same,” explains Freire – but the mechanism tends to enrich the more powerful bicheiros.

The animal game also grew in collaboration with public authorities. The political scientist says that these criminal partnerships have gained momentum during the dictatorship and have remained during the current democratic period. Politicians, for example, benefit from donations via caixa 2 (slush funds) and the bicheiros’ access to poor communities.

Open questions

After looking at the world’s largest illegal lottery for more than a year, Freire still sees issues that need to be further studied, such as the relationship between gambling and drug trafficking and between bicheiros in different states.

“Bicheiros came long before the growth in traffic. How do they share space? Is there more cooperation or conflict? It’s possible that they only share areas of influence and barely communicate, but perhaps do business, exchange information, and help each other when needed. Something that’s still unanswered,” he says.

And after studying the theme in depth, how does he see, for example, the Senate’s 2014 bill to legalize gambling in Brazil, including the animal game?

“I am in favor of it. If a person bets with his own free will, he can spend his money as he likes.” The argument that legalization would lead to addictions doesn’t seem convincing to me, what’s the difference between playing the game and the Federal Lottery?,” he asks.

“In addition, as the animal game proves, the fact that the game is illegal doesn’t stop people from betting. The State could even collect money from the animal game. One would just need to know if the bicheiros are interested in paying taxes, which I have my doubts about.” – Source (PT)

Dictionary of the Social History of Samba

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Zé Carioca, a character created by Disney, brings together several stereotypes about the people of Rio de Janeiro, especially those adept at samba, considered for a long time to be the rhythm that attracted “malandragem”.

To deconstruct such figures, Nei Lopes and Luiz Antonio Simas, writers and sambistas, published the best-selling Dicionário da história social do samba (Dictionary of the Social History of Samba) [1].

The option of using social history as the guiding theme aims to provide information about samba in a critical way, highlighting the rhythm as a process that extrapolates the sounds of the pandeiro and relates it to the country’s cultural memory. Whether samba came about in Bahia or in Rio isn’t important to the authors so much because they prefer to show other aspects such as the ambiguous insertion of this musical culture in consumer society and the participation of blacks in the creation and fixation of samba.

In the book, the authors use [393] entries to present parallels between music, dance, cuisine and dress, the famous and anonymous characters, the relationship with governments and the cultural industry, among other themes. In a narrative format, the entries highlight the explicit repression of sambistas at the start of the 20th century, identified with malandragem, such as the Disney character; samba schools, pagodes and rodas as nuclei of resistance, aside from sub-genres that cropped up throughout the past century. – Source (PT)

Brazil’s largest robbery of rare books

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The former Central Library of the University of Brazil – currently the Pedro Calmon Library of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ), which houses rarities from Imperial times – was robbed last year, and now, after surveying what disappeared from the shelves, what has been discovered is astonishing: the greatest theft of rare books ever recorded in the country.

Three-hundred and three rare works have disappeared, among them the 16 volumes of the first edition of Sermões by Father Antônio Vieira (1610) and almost the entirety of the Coleção Brasiliana, composed of books by European travelers that recorded flora, fauna and customs of the 17th to 19th century in the country.

Precious works such as Expédition dans les parties centrales de l’Amérique du Sud (1850-1859), by the French naturalist Francis de Castelnau, with hundreds of hand-painted lithographs, and a book by the German ethnographer Thomas Koch-Grümberg, a pioneer of anthropological photography, with 141 photos of Indians from the region of the Japurá River in the Amazon, portrayed between 1903 and 1905. The main targets were works with engravings, which are usually cut with a razor and sold separately.

The suspicion is that the theft had been taking place over months during a renovation of the building in 2016. The shelves were enclosed with black plastic bags – and it was within them that thieves worked.

At first, the crime seemed small. Two criminals – Laéssio Rodrigues de Oliveira, 44, a former Library Sciences student involved in book robberies since 1998, and Valnique Bueno, his partner – were arrested by the São Paulo police in November for stealing works from the Faculties of Architecture and Law of the University of São Paulo (USP).

Since there were five rarities from UFRJ with them, the alarm was given at the Praia Vermelha campus in Rio. Today, six months later, the size of the crime is understood, a lot greater than ten or so copies. On the market, one can have idea of ​​going rates: just the 27 books mentioned as the “most rare” among the stolen ones are worth between US$119 – $157,000, according to an appraiser.

“The thief knew what to steal, he didn’t take them at random,” says police officer Marcelo Gondim, from São Paulo’s Tourism Police, who arrested Laéssio and his partner in November. “Security cameras show the pair stealing from USP. At UFRJ there are no images, but we arrested them for receiving [stolen goods]. The link to the theft in Rio is that the same books found with Laéssio and bookplates from UFRJ were thrown in a trash can at his house. “In March, three books by Pedro Calmon were recovered by the IRS – they went to Europe and had Laéssio as the sender. Currently, the Federal Police are investigating the crime.

An Old Acquaintance

Still without knowing the damage at the Rio institution, those who work in the area celebrated the imprisonment of Laéssio. He is an old acquaintance – he was convicted at least three times for theft of rare books and indicted for the same reason “countless times,” as indicated by a court decision. The largest collections in the country have already been his victims, such as the Mário de Andrade Library, the National Museum, National Library, Itamaraty Palace and the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation, among others.

Most books have never been found – the rate of recovery is 40%, according to Raphael Greenhalgh from the University of Brasilia (UnB), who wrote a doctoral thesis on the greatest thefts in the country, none as numerous as the one at Pedro Calmon. When the books return, it’s common for them to be adulterated. In a crime for which Laéssio was convicted, the theft in the National Museum, 14 rare works had the illustrations cut out.

With the new crime, librarians once again looked at Laéssio – and what they discovered caused an uprising. The life of the criminal will turn into film, financed with public money. Confissões de um Ladrão de Livros (Confessions of a Book Thief) is the title of the project, presented to the National Film Agency (Ancine) by Boutique Filmes. The agency authorized sponsorship of $242,000 through the Audiovisual Law. So far the producer has received $188,000 from Globo Filmes and the National Bank for Economic and Social Development (BNDES).

The fact that a notorious thief of public assets received government support to have his life portrayed on film led the victims to come together in protest. The Technical Chamber of Collection Security of the National Archives, attached to the Ministry of Justice, is preparing a document to repudiate the production. “It sounds like a mockery. Nothing against a film about crimes, but upon authorizing sponsorship, Ancine gives their stamp of approval for damages to public patrimony,” says Marcelo Lima, from the Technical Chamber.


“Imagine a young gay man from the projects on the outskirts of São Paulo obsessed with Carmen Miranda who becomes, according to the Federal Police, the biggest thief of rare books in Brazil. Imagine the tricks that allowed him to pillage the main libraries in the country, hunting for commissioned books worth their weight in gold to millionaire collectors…”


The synopsis of the film is also cause for discontent. Some of the excerpts: “The best thing of all is that Laéssio is real, flesh and blood, and his escalation in crime can be attested to by news stories …” and “throughout his journey, Laessio composed an incalculable portfolio.”

For the victims, they are signs that the film may glamorize the thief. “The only thing missing is to put a clown nose on public servants. It’d be the ‘icing on the cake’,” says Maria José da Silva Fernandes, director of the collection center of the National Library. “He’s not a Robin Hood of books. He removes them from a public institution and sells them to private individuals,” says the former director of the Mário de Andrade Library Luiz Armando Bagolin. “I have often tried to use incentive laws to maintain the collection, and nothing [happens]. Now a thief of Brazilian culture can?”, asks Jose Tavares Filho, the librarian responsible for the collection at Pedro Calmon.

Boutique Filmes says the synopsis was made before production actually began. And the result will not be the glamorization of Laéssio’s life.

After the theft, UFRJ reinforced the locks in the library and is installing new cameras. As for Laéssio, more news came out earlier this month: he was already going to answer for the USP and UFRJ cases, but he was again arrested in Rio, convicted by the Federal Court for theft at the National Museum in 2004. The penalty is ten years in jail, for aggravated robbery for a “serious disregard of national memory.”

Those who take care of this memory have celebrated a little, but remain skeptical: the general feeling among librarians is that, as one of them wrote, “stealing books doesn’t mean jail time in Brazil.” – Source (PT)

The Etymology of Rio

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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)


Neighborhoods

Arpoador (Harpooner)
unknown/none

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


Favelas

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]


Other

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)

Royal Portuguese Reading Room

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Considered by Architecture & Design in 2015 to be the world’s third most majestic library, and by TIME magazine in 2014 to be the fourth most beautiful, the Real Gabinete Português de Leitura (Royal Portuguese Reading Room) can be found in downtown Rio. The latter magazine described it as such:

“A group of far-from-home Portuguese immigrants banded together to create a Portuguese library in 1837, although construction on the Real Gabinete Português de Leitura didn’t get going until 1880. The neo-Manueline building’s limestone façade showcases Portuguese explorers like Prince Henry the Navigator, Vasco da Gama, and Pedro Álvares Cabral in sculpture. The cathedral-like reading room has a stained-glass dome and wooden galleries. Its ornate bookshelves hold the largest collection of Portuguese literature” outside of Portugal.

It is even said that Dom Pedro II set the cornerstone and that Princesa Isabel inaugurated the location.

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Open to the public since 1900, the library has a collection of around 350,000 volumes. In addition to its collection of books, the institution acts as a kind of curator of Portuguese-Brazilian cultural and social relations, developing activities through the Centro Cultural, Centro de Estudos, and the Pólo de Pesquisa Sobre as Relações Luso-brasileiras (Research Center on Portuguese-Brazilian Relations). And via the Artistic Collection that it preserves, like its façade, works of art and the furniture that composes the space. You’ll also catch the library in the Brazilian films like O Xangô de Baker Street and O Primo Basílio. The library itself has a website and can be located near Campo de Santana Park at: R. Luís de Camões, 30 – Centro, Rio de Janeiro – RJ, 20051-020, Brazil.

Check out the video (PT) below, and its synopsis below that, to learn more, or some beautiful images here.

“The imposing building of the Royal Portuguese Reading Room hides among its rooms and its corridors a wealth of rich and diverse literary treasures. “They say that there are also ghosts …”, warns director Gilda Santos, with whom we go through the library. In an enveloping atmosphere of historical mystery, we discover the secrets off limits to the public: old manuscripts such as “Amor de Perdição” by Camilo Castelo Branco and “Tu, só tu, puro amor” by Machado de Assis, as well as paintings by great classic Portuguese painters and even a first edition of the Lusíadas from 1572.” (14 min)

Rocinha’s forgotten history

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In 1885, Franco-Brazilian photographer Marc Ferrez took a black & white photo of Pedra da Gávea that captures the almost untouched scenery of the vegetation. Exactly 130 years later, a team from the Instituto Moreira Salles and the Sankofa Museum climbed to the same spot using geolocation and the help of residents. This time, a new scenario: in addition to the buildings in São Conrado, there were numerous constructions from Brazil’s largest favela – Rocinha.

The ‘rephotograph’ is part of the Memória Rocinha project. For two years, a team from both institutions walked through the streets and alleys of the favela and surrounding regions, from Alto da Boa Vista to Ipanema, searching for connections between the past and present. In this way, the team reconnected with the era of the Quebra-Cangalha Farm, that extended through the entire region where Rocinha is today, bordering Quilombo das Camélias, in Alto Leblon. An old road bearing the same name still exists, and would have witnessed the passage of the Royal Family. On the Estrada da Gávea, they relived stories of the “baratinhas”, motor racing events that took place in the 1930s.

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The ‘rephotographs’ were made from 23 images from the IMS collection. “Our archive is very vast, from the nineteenth century til now. We can compare the natural landscape with the cultural landscape and see the transformation. That would be more difficult in São Paulo, for example, because it has no natural landmarks,” said Denise Grinspum, an education coordinator at IMS.

On the way, interviews with residents helped build an ’emotional’ map with the favela’s most important places. “Rocinha is not on any map. On Google, few streets are shown. We wanted to take away the invisibility that most favelas have, so that people can get to know Rocinha and see that it’s also part of the city,” said Ana Luiza Abreu, IMS’s Social Action supervisor.

The Memória Rocinha site will go live this Friday (March 17th, coinciding with a launch event put on by the IMS), and should continue to be fed with the help of residents, who can send photos of the favela through Instagram. “Reconnecting to our history is important due to the question of identity, linked to the preservation of our rights and our citizenship,” said Antonio Carlos Firmino, one of the founders of the Sankofa Museum. – Source (PT)

Dive into the ‘Purple Tide’

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The purple tide (maré roxa) phenomenon is responsible for what many call the Carioca Caribbean. For a period, due to maritime currents coming from the south after a cold front, the waters of Rio’s sea get warmer and clearer, like what happens to Caribbean beaches. And if on the surface the phenomenon is already enchanting, this report from Domingo Espetacular decided to dive in to show how the purple tide allows one to get to know a new world, which includes scenes of the remains of a more than 100-year old shipwreck. – Source (PT, click to watch news report) More

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The shipwreck happened on July 24th 1890, as reported in O Paiz the next day. Here’s a drawing of what the ship looks like today.

Secret Rio travel guide

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This unusual 320-page guide book, Secret Rio, came out at the end of 2016, and apparently shuns everything normal guide books usually focus on. From what I can gather, it’s available in both Portuguese and English, among other languages. For a nice-sized extract from the book, download this PDF (for the extract in Portuguese, go here).


Editorial Write-up:

Visit an extraordinary hill where the “little angels” are buried; discover remarkable forgotten Art Deco buildings; see a plane taking off at really close range, leftovers from the 1908 and 1922 Universal Expositions, a beautiful private palace open to visitors once a month, modernist ceramics hidden on the 15th-floor terrace of a former government building, a remarkable secret staircase; experience little-known walks and views of the city; find an Amazonian talisman at Copacabana, vestiges of the Carioca river, a rare statue of the great-grandmother of Jesus, a taxi nightclub, a work of art in a favela, a disused airship hangar …

Far from the crowds and the usual beach and carnival clichés, Rio de Janeiro has countless treasures it reveals only to residents and travelers who wander off the beaten track.

An indispensable guide for all those who thought they were familiar with Rio or would like to discover the other face of the city.


If you’d like to know more, there’s an article (PT) from RioOnWatch about the guide’s mentions of favelas, and a VejaRio piece (PT). Plus, the video below which came out one month after I made this post.