Rio de Janeiro
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Rio de Janeiro; Portuguese for River of January) is the name of both a state and a city in southeastern Brazil. The city was the capital of Brazil (1763-1960) and of the Portuguese Empire (1808-1821). Commonly known as just Rio (particularly in English and by its inhabitants), the city is also nicknamed A Cidade Maravilhosa - "The Marvelous City".
It is famous for its spectacular natural setting, its Carnival celebrations, samba and other music, hotel-lined tourist beaches, such as Copacabana, Ipanema, and Leblon, pavements decorated with black and cream swirl pattern mosaics, and the easygoing lifestyle of its inhabitants. Some of the most famous local landmarks in addition to the beaches include the giant statue of Jesus, known as Christ the Redeemer ('Cristo Redentor') atop Corcovado mountain; Sugarloaf mountain (Pão de Açúcar) with its cable car; the Sambódromo, a giant permanent parade stand used during Carnival; and Maracanã stadium, one of the world's largest. Rio also boasts the world's largest forest inside an urban area, called Floresta da Tijuca, or 'Tijuca Forest'.
Rio de Janeiro is located at 22 degrees, 54 minutes south latitude, 43 degrees 14 minutes west longitude (22°54′S 43°14′W). The population of the City of Rio de Janeiro is about 6,094,183 (2005 IBGE estimate), occupying an area of 1182.3 km² (456.5 mi²). The larger metropolitan area population is estimated at 11-12 million. It is Brazil's second-largest city after São Paulo and was the country's capital until 1960, when Brasília took its place. Residents of the city are known as Cariocas. The city's current mayor (2006) is Cesar Maia. The official song of Rio is "Cidade Maravilhosa."
Guanabara Bay, future site of the city, was reached by Portuguese explorers in an expedition led by Portuguese explorer Gaspar de Lemos on January 20, 1502; hence Rio de Janeiro, "River of January". There is a legend that the mariners named the place thus because they thought the mouth of the bay was actually the mouth of a river, but no experienced sailor would make that mistake. At the time, river was the general word for any large body of water.
Unofficial European presence in the area began not long after. In 1519 when Ferdinand Magellan resupplied his ships in the bay, French smugglers were already using the bay as a post for smuggling brazilwood. When French naval officer Nicolas Durand de Villegaignon arrived in 1555 with a fleet of two ships and 600 soldiers and colonists, he founded the first permanent European settlement in the area. The colony was referred to as "France Antarctique". The colonists consisted of mainly French Huguenots and Swiss Calvinists. Villegaignon left in 1557 after contentions with some the colonists.
The actual city was founded in March 1, 1565, by Portuguese knight Estácio de Sá, who called it São Sebastião do Rio de Janeiro (St Sebastian of the January River), in honour of King Sebastian I of Portugal. For centuries, the settlement was commonly called São Sebastião – or even 'Saint Sebastian' – instead of the currently popular second half of its name. The city was founded as a base from which to invade the French settlement. They succeeded in 1567 and the French were expelled. Later, São Sebastião was frequently attacked by pirates and privateers, especially by then enemies of Portugal, such as the Netherlands and France.
The exact place of Rio's foundation is at the foot of Pão-de-Açúcar (Sugarloaf Mountain). Later, the whole city was moved within a palisade on top of a hill, imitating the medieval European defence strategy of fortified castles – the place has since then been called Morro do Castelo (Castle Hill). Thus, the city developed from the current centre (Downtown, see below) southwards and then westwards (with large parts built over reclaimed land); an urban movement which continues today.
In the late 16th century the Portuguese crown began treating the village as a strategic location for the Atlantic transit of ships between Brazil, the African colonies and Europe. Fortresses were built and an alliance was formed with nearby native tribes to defend the settlement against invaders – Rio's
neighbour, Niterói, for instance, was founded by a native chief for the purpose of supporting defence, the Tamoio Indian Araribóia. Sugar cane was the first industry in the area. First native, and later African, slaves were used for manual labor. Eventually the industry dwindled as higher quality sugar cane from northern Brazil became more available.
Until early in the 18th century the city was threatened or invaded by several – mostly French – pirates and buccaneers, such as Jean-François Duclerc and René Duguay-Trouin. After 1720, when the Portuguese found gold and diamonds in the neighbouring captaincy of Minas Gerais, Rio de Janeiro became a much more useful port for exporting wealth than Salvador, Bahia, which is much farther to the north. In 1763, the colonial administration in Portuguese America was moved to Rio.
The city remained primarily a colonial capital until 1808, when the Portuguese royal family and most of the associated Lisbon nobles, fleeing from Napoleon's invasion of Portugal, moved to Rio de Janeiro. The kingdom's capital was transferred to the city, which, thus, became the only European capital outside of Europe. As there was no physical space or urban structure to accommodate hundreds of noblemen who arrived suddenly, many inhabitants were simply evicted from their homes.
When Prince Pedro I proclaimed the independence of Brazil in 1822, he decided to keep Rio de Janeiro as the capital of his new empire, but, by then, the city region was gradually losing importance – economic and political – to São Paulo.
Rio continued as the capital of Brazil after 1889, when the monarchy was replaced by a republic.
Until the early years of the 20th century the city was largely limited to the neighbourhood now known as the historic Downtown business district (see below), on the mouth of Guanabara Bay. The city's centre of gravity began to shift south and west to the so-called Zona Sul (South Zone) in the early part of the 20th century, when the first tunnel was built under the mountains located between Botafogo and the neighbourhood now known as Copacabana. That beach's natural beauty, combined with the fame of the Copacabana Palace Hotel, the luxury hotel of the Americas in the 1930s, helped Rio to gain the reputation it still holds today as a beachy party town (though, this reputation has been somewhat tarnished in recent years by favela violence resulting from the narcotics trade).
Plans for moving the nation's capital city to the territorial centre had been occasionally discussed, and when Juscelino Kubitschek was elected president in 1955, it was partially on the strength of promises to build a new capital. Though many thought that it was just campaign rhetoric, Kubitschek managed to have Brasília built, at great cost, by 1960. On April 21 that year the capital of Brazil was officially moved from Rio de Janeiro to Brasília.
Between 1960 and 1975 Rio was a city-state (such as Hamburg, or Bremen in Germany) under the name State of Guanabara (after the bay it borders). However, for administrative and political reasons, a presidential decree known as A Fusão ("The Fusion") removed the city's federative status and merged it with the state of Rio de Janeiro in 1975. Even today, some Cariocas advocate the return of municipal autonomy.
The South Zone of Rio de Janeiro is composed of several districts, amongst which are São Conrado, Leblon, Ipanema, Arpoador, Copacabana and Leme, which compose Rio's famous beach coastline. Other districts in the South Zone are Botafogo, Flamengo and Urca, which border Guanabara Bay and Lagoa, Gávea, Jardim Botânico and
The neighbourhood of Copacabana beach hosts one of the world's most spectacular New Year's Eve parties ("Reveillon"), as more than two million revellers crowd onto the sands to watch the firework display. As of 2001, the fireworks have been launched from boats, to improve the safety of the event.
To the north of Leme, and at the entrance to Guanabara bay, lies the district of Urca and the Sugarloaf Mountain
('Pão de Açúcar'), whose name describes the famous hump rising out of the sea.
The summit can be reached via a two-stage cable car trip from Praia Vermelha, with the intermediate stop on Morro da Urca. It offers views second only to Corcovado mountain.
One of the highest mountains in the city, however, at 842 metres, is the Pedra da Gávea (Topsail Rock), near the botanical gardens. it is a famous hill for its enigmatic head of a sphynx. On the top of its summit we can see a giant sculpture of an european head with a beard carved on the rockstone. A phenician sentence is carved on the side of the cliff with theses words : Badezir Phenician of Tyre son of JethBaal. (a phenician king under the name of Baal-Ezer 2nd lived in 850 before Christ and was the son of the phenician king Ithobaal Ist (or Ethbaal) (reigned 887 - 856 BC) was a king of Tyre). That gigantic sculpture is visible from many kilometres around.
Hang gliding is a popular activity on the nearby peak, called Pedra Bonita (Beautiful Rock) – after a short flight, gliders land on the Praia do Pepino beach in São Conrado.
Since 1961, the Tijuca Forest ("Floresta da Tijuca"), the largest city-surrounded urban forest and the second largest urban forest in the world, has been a National Park. The largest urban forest in the world is the Floresta da Pedra Branca (White Rock Forest), which is also located in the city of Rio de Janeiro . The Catholic University in Rio (Pontifícia Universidade Catôlica-Rio, or PUC-Rio) sits right at the edge of the forest linking city with forest. The 1984 film Blame it on Rio was filmed nearby, with the rental house used by the story's characters sitting at the edge of the forest on a mountain overlooking the famous beaches.
The North Zone of Rio is home to the Maracanã stadium, once the world's highest capacity football (soccer) venue, able to hold nearly 180,000 people (As observed during the World Cup final of 1950). (The biggest football stadium is the Rungnado May Day Stadium, in Pyongyang, North Korea ) In modern times the capacity has been reduced to conform with modern safety regulations and the stadium has introduced seating for all fans. Currently undergoing renovation, it only has the capacity for 45,000 fans, it will eventually hold around 120,000 people. Maracanã will be the site for the Opening and Closing Ceremonies and football competition of the 2007 Pan-American Games.
Besides the Maracanã, the North Zone of Rio also holds other tourist and historical attractions, such as 'Manguinhos', the home of Instituto Oswaldo Cruz, a centenarian biomedical research institution, with its main building fashioned like a Moorish castle, and the beautiful 'Quinta da Boa Vista', the old imperial palace (Paço), which is now the National Museum.
The International Airport of Rio de Janeiro (Galeão – Antônio Carlos Jobim International Airport, named after the famous Brazilian musician "Tom" Jobim), the main campus of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro at the Fundão Island, and the Governador Island are also located in the Northern part of Rio. Some of the main neighbourhoods of Rio's north zone are Tijuca, who shares The Tijuca Forest with the South Zone, and Grajaú, Vila Isabel, Méier, São Cristovão among others.
The West Zone is the region furthest from the centre of Rio de Janeiro. It includes Barra da
Tijuca, Jacarepaguá, Recreio dos Bandeirantes, Vargem Grande, Vargem Pequena, Campo Grande, Sulacap, and Santa Cruz. Neighbouring districts within the West Zone reveal stark differences between social classes. The area has industrial zones, but some agricultural areas still remain in its wide area.
Westwards from the older zones is Barra da Tijuca, a flat expanse of formerly undeveloped coastal land, which is currently experiencing a wave of new construction. It remains an area of accelerated growth, attracting some of the richer sectors of the population as well as luxury companies. High rise flats and sprawling shopping centres give the area a far more American feel than the crowded city centre. The urban planning of the area, made in the late 1960s, resembles that of United States' suburbs, though mixing zones of single-family houses with residential skyscrapers. The beaches of Barra da Tijuca are also popular with the city's residents. Barra da Tijuca is the home of Pan-American Village for the 2007 Pan American Games. Barra da Tijuca now has a tiny, but growing movement for separating Barra from the city of Rio and making Barra a new city.
Beyond the neighbourhoods of Barra da Tijuca and Jacarepaguá another district, which has exhibited good economic growth, is that of Campo Grande. Some sports competitions in the Pan-American Games of 2007 will be held in the Miécimo da Silva Sports Centre, nicknamed the
'Algodão' (Cotton) Gymnasium, and others in the Ítalo del Cima Stadium, in Campo Grande.
The carnaval in Rio de Janeiro has many choices, including the famous Escolas de Samba (Samba schools) parades in the sambódromo exhibition centre and the popular 'blocos de carnaval', which parade in almost every corner of the city. The most famous ones are the following:
Cordão do Bola Preta: Parades in the centre of the city. It is one of the most traditional carnavals. In 2006, it gathered 200,000 people in one day.
Suvaco do Cristo: Band that parades in the Botanic Garden, directly below the Redeemer statue's arm. The name, in English, translates as 'Christ's armpit', and was chosen for that reason.
Carmelitas: Band that was supposedly created by nuns, but in fact it is just a theme chosen by the band. It parades in the hills of Santa Teresa, which have very nice views.
Simpatia é Quase Amor: One of the most popular parades in Ipanema. Translates as 'Friendliness is almost love'.
Banda de Ipanema: The most traditional in Ipanema. It attracts a wide range of revellers, including families and a wide spectrum of the gay population (notably spectacular drag queens).
Funk carioca is a very popular music genre in Rio. It grew during the last 20 years mainly among the low income population while recently becoming mainstream friendly. In Rio, funk music is made by simple people of communities, without artistic requirements: it's an expression of the way of life of these people. This music, like the original funk beat is very requested for dance in parties and clubs where thousands of people join together on weekends to celebrate the funk carioca way of life.