Rio de Janeiro

views updated Jun 11 2018

Rio de Janeiro

Getting There
Getting Around
Public Safety
Health Care
Parks and Recreation
Performing Arts
Libraries and Museums
Holidays and Festivals
Famous Citizens
For Further Study

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, South America

Founded: Spanish navigator Vicente Yáñez Pinzón is credited with being the first known European to sight Brazil when he landed near present-day Recife on January 26, 1500. The Portuguese Estácio de Sá founded the city in 1565 after expelling the French.
Location: On a flat and narrow coastal plain, between the foothills of the Brazilian Highlands and the Atlantic Ocean, on the shore of Guanabara Bay, in the state of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the tropical zone in South America.
Time Zone: 3 pm = noon Greenwich Mean Time (GMT)
Ethnic Composition: African, White, Portuguese, Spanish, and Italian
Latitude and Longitude: 22°54'S, 43°10'W
Coastline: 78 km (50 mi)
Climate : Rio is in a tropical zone, and the weather is typically hot and humid. Cool ocean breezes temper the temperatures in the area.
Temperature: Summer months of December to March are very hot, with temperatures sometimes exceeding 35 to 39°C (95 to 100°F). During the rest of the year, temperatures range between 20 to 30°C (68 and 86°F). The annual average temperature is 23°C (73°F).
Average Annual Precipitation: 1,080 mm (43 in), but some of the higher elevations get more than 60 inches.
Government: Mayor and municipal council
Weights and Measures: Standard metric
Monetary Units: the Real (about 1.78 per one US dollar)
Telephone Area Codes: Country code: 55; city code: 21

1. Introduction

Rio de Janeiro, the second largest city in Brazil, is often called Cidade Maravilhosa, the Marvelous City. Squeezed by the Atlantic Ocean and the verdant hills of Brazil, Rio's dramatic natural setting has impressed visitors for decades. The energy of its residents is legendary. No one dances more exquisitely or parties longer than the cariocas (residents of Rio). Even within Brazil, cariocas are known as fun, sensual, and easygoing. Their main playgrounds are the beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema, names that easily roll off the tongue. Yet, Rio is a great city of extremes, often cruel in its indifference to the poor. Next to five-star hotels, the poorest cariocas live in cardboard houses. The great favelas, shantytowns, reach high into the hills, where many residents are lost to poverty, drug abuse, and a life of crime. In the early 1990s, cariocas were shaken from their complacency to social problems when the media reported that corrupt police officerspaid by business ownerswere murdering homeless children. The city lost its luster, as well as many of its tourists. In one of the most famous incidents, roaming bands of youths from the favelas descended on Copacabana Beach, robbing tourists and cariocas alike. Cidade Maravilhosa (marvelous city)? Perhaps only in geography. Yet, cariocas no longer appear complacent about their problems. The city is slowly trying to regain its streets from criminals and years of decay. Many favelas now have basic city services. Its social problems are daunting, but cariocas have an uncharacteristic optimism.

2. Getting There

Between the mountains and the sea, Rio is located on the western shore of Guanabara Bay. On a flat and narrow coastal plain adjacent to the foothills of the Brazilian Highlands, Rio is one of the most important transportation hubs in the country. Most international visitors arrive in Rio, one of the best-known international cities in the world.


Rio's imposing natural setting has its drawbacks. The city snakes along the coast and the mountains, and so do its streets. Cariocas are well known for aggressive driving, and navigating the city's roads is difficult for drivers unfamiliar with the terrain. Rio is connected by highway to major Brazilian cities.

Bus and Railroad Service

There is rail service to São Paulo and Belo Horizonte. Many bus companies offer international travel to the neighboring countries of Paraguay, Uruguay, and Argentina.

Rio de Janeiro Population Profile

City Proper

Population: 5,600,000
Area: 1,255 sq km (485 sq mi)
Ethnic composition: African, White, Portuguese, Spanish, and Italian
Nicknames: Rio de Janeiro is Portuguese for "river of January." They thought the large entrance of what is now known as Guanabara Bay was the mouth of a river. In Brazil, Rio is known as the Cidade Maravilhosa, the Marvelous City. Its residents are called cariocas. The word is of Tupi Indian origin (kari'oka, white house or house of white man).

Metropolitan Area

Population: 10,556,000
Description: City of Rio and 16 other municipalities
Area: Over 5,384 sq km (over 2,079 sq mi)
World population rank 1: 19
Percentage of national population 2: 6.2%
Average yearly growth rate: 0.7%
Ethnic composition: African, White, Portuguese, Spanish, and Italian

  1. The Rio de Janeiro metropolitan area's rank among the world's urban areas.
  2. The percent of Brazil's total population living in the Rio de Janeiro metropolitan area.


Two airports serve the city: Galeão for domestic and international services and Santos Dumont for domestic airlines.

3. Getting Around

Bus and Commuter Rail Service

Rio opened the first of two underground metro lines in 1979 and plans to continue expanding the system to alleviate traffic congestion. Two lines connect some parts of the city. An extensive bus system accounts for about 70 percent of all passenger trips. There are many taxis and thousands of private automobiles. Rail connects Rio to its suburbs and satellite cities. Motorboats, ferries, and hydrofoils serve communities across Guanabara Bay.


Many visitors go to Rio strictly to enjoy the world-renowned beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema. Others go to take part in the internationally famous Carnival and Carnival parade, celebrated for five days preceding Ash Wednesday (the first day of Lent), attracting thousands of visitors. However, there are many other sights to see in the Marvelous City.

One of the most visited sites in Rio is Mount Corcovado, with its Christ the Redeemer statue. Another is Sugar Loaf, offering an impressive view of the city below. Many people go to the Quinta da Boa Vista, the park that is home to the National Museum, and the Zoological Garden. Also popular are the Botanical Gardens and Tijuca National Park, located in the Forest of Tijuca; the National Museum of Fine Arts; the Museum of Modern Art; and the Indian Museum.

4. People

During most of the twentieth century, Rio de Janeiro grew rapidly, mostly with Brazilian migrants from the states of Rio de Janeiro, Minas Gerais, and Espírito Santo. Growth began to level off in 1960 when Rio lost its status as the nation's capital. About two-thirds of Rio's residents are of African descent, a reflection of the nation's early history when millions of African slaves were brought to the New World to work on plantations. By the mid-1800s, there were two-and-a-half million slaves in Brazil.

Like the nation, Rio is ethnically diverse, with widespread racial mixing. Many of the city's residents are of Portuguese, Italian, and Spanish roots. While the country prides itself on its racial harmony and tolerance, racial issues are much more complicated. In Rio, and Brazilian society in general, whites are better off economically and enjoy more privilege. In something as simple as television programming and advertising, blacks and native Brazilians are greatly outnumbered. In Rio, mostly whites live in the wealthier enclaves of Copacabana, Ipanema, and Leblon, while mostly blacks live in the favelas that surround the city.

Although separated by class and race, Brazilians have many things in common. The dominant language is Portuguese. Most are Catholic, although many follow Afro-Brazilian religions like Umbanda and Condomble. All races dance to the same beat of the samba and other Afro-Brazilian sounds. The beach, especially in Rio, is the great equalizer. Here, where just about everybody wears skimpy swimsuits, it is difficult to pinpoint the elite from the poor masses.

5. Neighborhoods

Geography and class define Rio's neighborhoods. The rich live close to the water. The great masses of poor people have been pushed high into the hills. There, the poor have built favelas, shantytowns that lack basic necessities like water, electricity, and paved roads. Cariocas have also redefined their space periodically. As the city grew over difficult terrain, they leveled hills or bored tunnels through them. They reclaimed parts of Guanabara Bay to make room for the growing city.

Today, Rio is divided into three distinct zones. The traditional historical center is sandwiched by the eastern base of the Serra de Carioca and Guanabara Bay. The Serra is a small coastal mountain range that runs east-west and cuts the city in half. West and north of the historic center is the northern zone, a large urban area of mostly low-income housing, and factories. The southern zone, with the fashionable Copacabana, Ipanema, Leblon, and Gávea neighborhoods, is home to middle-class and wealthy cariocas. As the favelas inched closer down the slopes, many wealthy people abandoned the southern-zone neighborhoods. Copacabana, Leblon, and Ipanema experienced slight population decreases in the last decade of the twentieth century. Many wealthier residents have moved to Barra da Tijuca, further west along the coast. It is considered one of the city's most fashionable neighborhoods.

City Fact Comparison
(United States)(Egypt)(Italy)(China)
Population of urban area110,556,00010,772,0002,688,00012,033,000
Date the city was founded1565AD 969753 BC723 BC
Daily costs to visit the city2
Hotel (single occupancy)$142$193$172$129
Meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner)$62$56$59$62
Incidentals (laundry, dry cleaning, etc.)$15$14$15$16
Total daily costs$219$173$246$207
Major Newspapers3
Number of newspapers serving the city16132011
Largest newspaperO GloboAkhbar El Yom/Al AkhbarLa RepubblicaRenmin Ribao
Circulation of largest newspaper266,5461,159,450754,9303,000,000
Date largest newspaper was established1925194419761948
1United Nations population estimates for the year 2000.
2The maximum amount the U.S. Government reimburses its employees for business travel. The lodging portion of the allowance is based on the cost for a single room at a moderately-priced hotel. The meal portion is based on the costs of an average breakfast, lunch, and dinner including taxes, service charges, and customary tips. Incidental travel expenses include such things as laundry and dry cleaning.
3David Maddux, ed. Editor&Publisher International Year Book. New York: The Editor&Publisher Company, 1999.

Many of the favelas have become established neighborhoods with basic city services. From 1991 to 1996, the number of households in the city increased from 1.6 million to 1.7 million. The occupancy rate went down, from 3.4 people per household to 3.3.

6. History

Long before Europeans arrived in what is now Brazil, the area was populated by many different groups of native people, including the Arawak and Carib. The Spanish navigator Vicente Yáñez Pinzón (c.1460c.1524) is credited with being the first known European to sight Brazil when he landed near present-day Recife on January 26, 1500.

The Spaniards didn't make a claim to the territory as it was assigned to Portugal under the Treaty of Tordesillas (1494). Under papal authority, the agreement divided the New World between Spain and Portugal. In theory, the other European countries were not allowed to colonize the New World.

In April 1500, apparently blown off course, Portuguese navigator Pedro Alvarez Cabral (c.1467c.1520) reached Brazil and formally claimed the area for Portugal. Explorers sighted what is now Rio in 1502, but the Portuguese didn't build any permanent settlements. By 1530, with other European nations eager to establish a foothold in the New World, the Portuguese monarchy strengthened its hold on Brazil, dividing the territory into 15 captaincies (administrative districts), each under the jurisdiction of powerful members of the court.

If it hadn't been for French inter-lopers, Rio may have never developed as a city. Salvador and Sao Paulo were founded several years before the Portuguese took any interest in the Rio area. While the Portuguese frantically built forts to keep other countries at bay, the French began to test Brazil's defenses. French traders were after the valuable brazil wood, for which the country is now named. By the mid-1550s, they founded a settlement on one of the islands of Guanabara Bay and called it La France Antarctique (Antarctic France).

Portugal's monarchy sent Estácio de Sá, a nephew of Governor Mem de Sá of Brazil, to get rid of the French in 1565. For the next two years, the Portuguese and French waged bloody battles in what is now Rio de Janeiro. De Sá was killed during one of the skirmishes, but the French were finally ousted from the area in 1567. By 1568, Rio had begun to take formal shape with the construction of a citadel. As in many other early colonies, Rio survived by farming, especially sugarcane. By 1660, Rio had attained some degree of importance and was named the seat of government for the southern captaincies. About 8,000 peoplemostly Indian and black slaves who were forced to work in the plantationslived in the city.

The discovery of gold, diamonds, silver, and other precious minerals in what is now the state of Minas Gerais (general mines), northwest of Rio, boosted the city's fortunes during the 1700s. The Portuguese moved their capital city from Salvador to Rio in 1763, a symbol of its growing importance. Rio grew rapidly, with thousands of European immigrants attracted by diamonds and gold. By the late 1700s, Rio expanded beyond its protective walls.

Rio's growth faltered a bit by the 1790s. Dependent on an export economy, the city was facing formidable competition for its sugar from other colonies in the Americas, and the mines were showing signs of declining production. In just a few years, the value of exports shipped through Rio's port was cut in half. Yet, Rio would not stay down for too long.

During the Napoleonic wars (17991815), Portugal remained faithful to England, earning France's scorn. Napoleon Bonaparte's troops invaded Portugal. Maria I (r. 17771816) and her son, the future João VI, escaped to Brazil and established a government in exile in Rio de Janeiro in 1808. Outside the city, coffee production had replaced sugar as a main crop, and Rio was again on its way to economic recovery. With the monarchs in town, Rio reinvented itself, growing in population and in beauty. Older buildings were restored; hundreds of new mansions and smaller living quarters were built; streets were paved and lighted. More land was reclaimed. The monarchs established the Royal Press, the Royal Library, and the Botanical Gardens, among many others. In 1808, the city's first newspaper was published.

With the death of Maria I, who had been insane for the last 24 years of her life, her son João VI (r. 18161826) became king. João was initially popular in Rio and the rest of Brazil. Some Cariocas, perhaps sensing his importance to the city, did not want him to return to Portugal, where liberals demanded an end to the monarchy. Under growing political pressure, João accepted greatly diminished powers and returned to rule Portugal in 1821. His son, Pedro I (17981834; r. 182231), stayed in Brazil. Portugal attempted to reassert its authority over Brazil. But with British aid, Pedro declared Brazil's independence and became emperor in 1822. By now, Rio had grown to more than 100,000 people. Pedro ruled until 1831 when he abdicated in favor of Pedro II (18251891), the five-year-old heir-apparent. By 1840, Pedro II was old enough to rule and was named emperor. Under his leadership, Brazil continued to thrive with coffee, sugar, cotton, and rubber exports. Pedro II's administration oversaw the continued modernization of Rio. Rail, gas lighting, telephone, and steamboat service to other cities were all in place by the 1870s. However, Pedro would not last. He was against slavery and abolished it in 1888. The move cost him. He was overthrown in 1889, and a republic replaced the monarchy. Rio, which already had more than 500,000 residents, was named the capital of the republic.

During the early years of the republic, Rio de Janeiro changed dramatically. The federal government set out to modernize the city, first bringing tropical diseases like yellow fever under control. By 1920, the city was becoming an important industrial center with a population that exceeded one million people. The city grew by reclaiming land from Guanabara Bay and leveling hills. By 1940, Rio had grown to nearly two million people with no signs of slowing down. By then, the government could no longer control growth. Skyscrapers and large apartment buildings replaced homes and small buildings. Poorer residents were pushed further into the fringes of the city. Rio was now under siege from national interests. Many of Brazil's politicians wanted to develop the vast interior of the country. In 1957, Brazilians began to build the city of Brazilia, which replaced Rio as the national capital in 1960.

Yet Rio remained an important center of politics, culture, and business. By the 1960s, the beachside residential areas of Copacabana and Ipanema were among the most desirable addresses in the world. Its importance would in time turn against the city. Because it offered so many more opportunities than other cities and towns, Rio continued to grow as Brazilians without jobs or education continued to move into the city. They built massive favelas ( shantytowns) and contributed to massive social problems that continue to affect the city. Rio is no longer growing through massive immigration, but serious urban problems, like crime, overcrowding, and pollution, continue to plague the city.

7. Government

The city is governed by a prefeito (mayor). The government is divided into several departments, each administered by a secretary who answers to the mayor, who is elected to a four-year term. The Municipal Chamber, whose members are elected proportionally from Rio's 24 administrative regions, dictates legislation. The city is divided into five planning areas and 158 neighborhoods.

8. Public Safety

In February 2000, Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso called for immediate action to curb crime after his wife's car was stolen. His presidential car had been stolen three months earlier. Compared to the atrocious public safety situation in Brazil, the theft of these cars was minor but symbolic of how crime touches all people throughout the country.

In the 1990s, crime gangs controlled entire Rio neighborhoods. Corrupt police officers, hired by business owners, murdered homeless children and engaged in other criminal activity. By 1994, Rio had one of the highest murder rates in the world, at 61 per 100,000 people. While most crimes were directed at cariocas, tourists also suffered. The city saw a steady decline in the number of international visitors in the 1980s and early 1990s, deterred by highly publicized crimes against tourists. Rio authorities created a special police force to protect tourists and have tried to underplay the crime situation.

Whether Cardoso's call for action will bring any changes remains to be seen. One of Brazil's largest problems is the unrelenting poverty of its people, which is only augmented in cities like Rio, where shantytowns are built next to wealthy enclaves.

9. Economy

Only São Paulo is more economically important than Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. With a major port and international airport, Rio is an important industrial, financial, and commercial center. The city has a large tourism industry that appears to be bouncing back after years of decline. Rio remains the economic engine for a large regional area that extends for several hundred kilometers (miles).

Rio's factories produce processed foods, textiles, furniture, chemicals, petroleum products, pharmaceuticals, and metal products. The manufacture of electronics and computers has begun to play a major role in the economy. The city is a leading financial and banking center. The country's most active stock market, the Bolsa da Valores do Brasil, is located in Rio.

10. Environment

Guanabara Bay is highly polluted. Throughout the year, many of Rio's beaches, including the internationally known beaches of Ipanema and Copacabana, are off limits to swimmers because of high levels of fecal coliform bacteria. Poor sanitation in the favelas lead to the proliferation of many diseases.

11. Shopping

Rio is an important retail center. It has major shopping centers and countless small shops that specialize in different products. There are many street vendors. In Copacabana and Ipanema, street vendors sell men's and women's swim suits, towels, sunglasses, and just about anything needed on the beach. Some small boutiques specialize in native art from throughout Brazil.

12. Education

Brazil was expected to enter the twenty-first century with an illiteracy rate of 16 percent despite massive efforts to educate the population. About 25 percent of the poorest children do not attend school. In Rio, those numbers are better, with literacy rates at about 90 percent for people over ten years of age. Yet, many children in the favelas do not go to school, and thousands of homeless children lack any opportunity to better their lives.

In Rio, there are 1,033 primary schools with 25,594 teachers and 667,788 students (1995). There are 370 secondary schools with 9,699 teachers and 227,892 students. There are 53 college preparatory schools with 14,864 teachers and 154,447 students. The city has six major universities and 47 private schools of higher learning. The Federal University of Rio de Janeiro and the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro, which offer graduate courses, and the State University of Rio de Janeiro are located in the city.

13. Health Care

The city has made major improvements in health, dramatically reducing high infant mortality rates in a short number of years, from 75.3 to 36 deaths per 1,000 births between 1980 and 1987. The overall life expectancy has also increased, from 45 to 63 years between 1940 and 1980. Mortality rates have decreased by improving sanitary conditions throughout the city. Yet, some of those gains have been offset by increases in violence and accidents. There are more than 300 hospitals with 25,872 beds in metropolitan Rio.

14. Media

Rio remains one of the most important publishing centers in Brazil. The country's first newspaper, Gazeta do Rio de Janeiro, was published in Rio on September 10, 1808. Two of the country's leading newspapers today, O Globo and Jornal do Brazil, are published in Rio. Several daily and weekly newspapers, including the business daily Jornal do Commercio, are also published in the city. There are seven television stations and numerous AM and FM radio stations.

15. Sports

Capable of holding 200,000 people, Maracanã stadium is a symbol of Rio's passion for sports. There are more than 130 sports associations in the city, several professional teams, and thousands of cariocas playing soccer, volleyball, and many other sports on any given day. Rio is host to several international events each year in surfing, beach volleyball, car, motorcycle, and horse racing.

On weekends, the sprawling Copacabana beach is crowded with teams playing soccer on the sand. Brazilians are passionate about volleyball. The women's national team won the gold medal in the Barcelona Olympics in 1988. Cariocas have even managed to combine their passion for soccer and volleyball into one gamefutevolei. It is played on the sand with players kicking the ball over the net instead of using their hands.

16. Parks and Recreation

With more than 78 kilometers (48 miles) of coastline and 72 beaches, playing in the sand and water are among the most important recreational activities in Rio. The city has 33 parks and three natural reserves. It has 20 areas classified under environmental protection, ten permanent preservation areas, and three areas of ecological interest.

Samba schools are a popular source of recreation, especially in the favelas. The schools act as neighborhood clubs where residents come to meet each other, learn how to dance, and work together.

17. Performing Arts

Rio is an important center for the arts. The city is home to the Companhia de Balé Clássico do Teatro Municipal, the ballet company, and the Orquestra Sinfônica Brasileira, the symphony orchestra. The nationally renowned School of Music is part of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro. The Municipal Theater hosts ballet and operas. There are many theater groups in the city and dozens of cultural centers. Rio hosts many musical events, including jazz, dance, and cinema festivals. Rio has more than 60 art galleries, 75 bookstores and libraries, and dozens of cinemas, clubs and dance halls.

18. Libraries and Museums

The city's National Library was founded in 1810 to house the remains of the Royal Library of Ajuda, brought to Brazil from Portugal after the 1755 earthquake in Lisbon. There are many other libraries in the city.

Despite losing its title as capital city, Rio remained a center of culture after 1960. The Brazilian Academy of Letters and the Brazilian Academy of Sciences are in the city. The National Museum of Fine Arts was founded in 1818 and houses important twentieth-century works by leading Brazilian artists. The National Museum has a large collection of pre-Columbian ceramics, dinosaur fossils, and stuffed wildlife. Rio also hosts the National Historical Museum, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Indian Museum.

19. Tourism

International arrivals increased from 8.3 million passengers in 1994 to 10.3 million in 1998 at Rio's international airport. Domestic arrivals rose from 34.7 million to 63.7 million. Visitors come to the Cidade Maravilhosa for its beaches, restaurants, music, exhilarating city life, and the annual Carnival, one of the world's most famous festivals.

Celebrated for five days preceding Ash Wednesday, Carnival attracts thousands of visitors. While it is a national holiday, Carnival is often associated with Rio, which is consistently more exuberant than its neighbors. It is there that the major Carnival parade is held. Samba schools from the favelas and other Rio neighborhoods practice for months to prepare for the festival.

On the night of December 31, Copacabana hosts hundreds of thousands of people who come to celebrate the New Year. According to tradition, people dress in white for good luck and offer a white flower to Yemanjá, the goddess of the seas. Residents party well into the morning hours.

One of the most visited sites in Rio is Mount Corcovado, 704 meters (2,310 feet) high. On top, is Christ the Redeemer, a massive 907-metric-ton (1,000-ton), 30-meter (98-foot) statue standing with welcoming outstretched arms over Rio. Another frequently visited site is Sugar Loaf, which reaches a height of 395 meters (1,296 feet). At the entrance of Guanabara Bay, Sugar Loaf is only reachable by cable car. It offers impressive views of the city below. Many people go to the Quinta da Boa Vista, a park that is home to the National Museum, and the Zoological Garden. The historic Botanical Gardens (1808) and the Tijuca National Park are located in the Forest of Tijuca.

20. Holidays and Festivals


Carnival (five days before Ash Wednesday)

Tiradentes Day

May Day

Corpus Christi

Independence Day

Our Lady of Aparecida Day

All Soul ' s Day
Proclamation Day

21. Famous Citizens

Olavo Bilac (18651918), Brazilian poet.

Fernando Affonso Collor de Mello (b. 1949), became Brazil's youngest president in 1990, with his promise to cut inflation and reform the economy, but was impeached in 1992 by the Chamber of Deputies on charges of corruption.

Afonso Henriques de Lima Barreto (18811922), novelist and journalist.

Antonio Carlos Jobim (192794), composer, guitarist, and pianist, who pioneered the musical style known as bossa nova (new wave).

Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis (18391908), great master of Brazilian literature.

Oscar Niemeyer Soares Filho (b. 1907), one of Brazil's most important modern architects, known for the fluid lines of his buildings.

Heitor Villa-Lobos (18871959), important twentieth-century composer, self-trained and influenced by the music of Native American people, credited with revolutionizing musical training in public schools.

22. For Further Study


Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics. [Online] Available (accessed February 5, 2000).

Rio de Janeiro Modern Museum of Art. [Online] Available (accessed February 5, 2000).

University of Texas Latin American Network Information Center. [Online] Available (accessed February 5, 2000).

Government Offices

Embassy of Brazil
3006 Massachusetts Ave. NW
Washington, D.C. 20008
Government of Rio de Janeiro. [Online] Available (accessed February 5, 2000).

Tourist and Convention Bureaus

Ministry of Sport and Tourism. [Online] Available (accessed February 5, 2000).


O Globo. [Online] Available (accessed February 5, 2000).

Jornal do Brazil. [Online] Available (accessed February 5, 2000).

Jornal do Commercio. [Online] Available (accessed February 5, 2000).


Burns, E. Bradford. A History of Brazil. New York: Columbia University Press, 1993.

Fausto, Boris. A Concise History of Brazil. London: Cambridge University Press, 1999.

Gay, Robert . Popular Organization and Democracy in Rio de Janeiro: A Tale of Two Favelas. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1994.

Levine, Robert M., and John C. Crocitti. The Brazil Reader. Raleigh: Duke University Press, 1999.

McGowan, Chris, and Ricardo Pessanha . The Brazilian Sound: Samba, Bossa Nova, and the Popular Music of Brazil. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1997.

Rojas-Lombardi, Felipe. The Traveler's Guide to Latin American Customs and Manners. New York: St. Martins Press, 1991.

Skidmore, Thomas E. Brazil: Five Centuries of Change. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999.

Rio de Janeiro

views updated May 23 2018


RIO DE JANEIRO , state in the United States of Brazil; capital of the state and capital of the Republic until 1960 (when the capital was transferred to Brasilia); area of the state: 43.696 km2; population: 14,391,282 (2000); population of the city: 6,094,183 (2005); estimated Jewish population: 30,000 (2000).

New Christians from Portugal immigrated to Rio de Janeiro from the 16th to the 18th centuries, and they played a significant role in the city's social and economic life. The Inquisition accused and prosecuted more than 300 New Christians in the city's region for practicing Judaism. With the proclamation of the independent Brazilian empire (1822) and the promulgation of the Constitution (1824), which espoused relative religious tolerance, some individual European Jewish dealers and immigrants began to appear in Rio de Janeiro, which was the capital and one of the most important harbors of the country. One of the prominent individuals among these first newcomers was Denis de Samuel (1782–1860), a young immigrant from England who gained great success and influence and earned the title of baron from the king of Portugal. Another prominent dealer who had business in Rio de Janeiro was Bernard Wallerstein.

The first attempt at communal organization was made in 1840–50 by Jews originating from Morocco who went to Rio de Janeiro from northern Brazil. The organization União Shel Guemilut Ḥassadim, which still exists, ascribes its origin to this attempt. In 1867 a council of the Alliance Israélite Universelle was established in the city. In 1873, Sociedade União Israelita do Brazil, a society for religious and welfare matters was registered; it continued its activities until 1893. Another institution of the imperial period was Sociedade Israelita do Rito Português (Jewish Society of the Portuguese Rite).

At the time of proclamation of the Republic (1889) the number of Jews in Rio de Janeiro was estimated at 200. In 1900 there were two synagogues, one formed by North African immigrants and the other by West European immigrants. In 1900 a new wave of Jewish immigration began, and by the end of World War i the city's Jewish population was estimated at 2,000.

A great wave of Jewish immigration to Rio de Janeiro occurred after World War i, and as the Jewish community grew, communal life became more diversified. The Jewish community established a well-organized institutional life and reached successful economic, social, and cultural integration into local culture and society.

In 1910 the Centro Israelita do Rio de Janeiro was founded; its principal objective was the establishment of a synagogue and a cemetery. The latter was founded in 1920 in Vila Rosali. The first philanthropic institution was established under the name Achiezer in 1912; its name was changed later (1920) to Sociedade Beneficente Israelita e Amparo aos Imigrantes (Hilfs-Ferein-Relief). The "Relief " was linked to ica, hias, and Emigdirect, and in 1942 founded a Departamento de Seguro Mútuo Social (Department of Mutual Social Insurance), which in fact was a credit cooperative.

Other social institutions founded were: Sociedade das Damas Israelitas (Jewish Women's Association–Froein Farein, 1923); Lar da Criança Israelita (Jewish Children's Home, 1923); Policlínica Israelita (1937, that later became a hospital); and Lar da Velhice (Old Age Home, 1963), created by Sociedade das Damas Israelitas). Jewish women prostitutes founded in Rio de Janeiro the Associação Beneficente Funerária e Religiosa Israelita (Beneficient, Funeral, and Religious Jewish Association) that functioned from 1906 to 1968.

During World War ii the Jewish community was active and founded the Comitê Hebreu-Brasileiro para as Vítimas da Guerra (Jewish Brazilian Committee for War Victims) and the Comitê de Socorro aos Israelitas Vítimas de Guerra (Aid Committee for Jewish War Victims). The writer Stefan *Zweig immigrated to Brazil in 1936, joined the Jewish community, and wrote a famous book about the country: Brasil, país do futuro. His suicide in 1942 (together with his wife, Lotte), in the countryside city of Petrópolis, was a notable event in the life of the Jewish community and Brazilian history.

The community had its social and cultural center in the Praça Onze, close to the downtown area and the port, where an atmosphere of "Yiddishkeit" was present in daily life until the 1950s, when the Jews moved to other neighborhoods. The writer and Zionist leader Samuel Malamud is the main narrator of the memories from Praça Onze and of Jewish life in Rio de Janeiro. In Praça Onze, also the center of the local Carnaval and a cultural and social meeting point for black people, almost 3,000 Jews frequented the socialist club Cabiras, the parties of the Azul e Branco Club, and other local non-Jewish institutions.

The Zionist movement and the socialist groups were both very active in Rio de Janeiro. The First Zionist Congress in Brazil took place in 1922 with the participation of four different movements, including Tiferet Sion (1919). In 1921 a Brazilian delegate took part in the 12th Zionist Congress in Karlsbad. In 1929 a Brazilian delegate to the 16th Zionist Congress was elected by 1,260 votes. In 1934 the elections drew 2,647 voters. In 1927 the Central Committee of the Po'alei Zion Party was founded and later the Grêmio Hebreu-Brasileiro (Hebrew-Brazilian League).

Many Jewish leftist movements and parties were very active in Rio de Janeiro, among them socialists, communists, and the Bund, in the Biblioteca Israelita Brasileira Scholem Aleichem (Jewish Brazilian Sholem Aleichem Library, 1915), Colégio Israelita Brasileiro Scholem Aleichem (Jewish Brazilian Sholem Aleichem School, 1928), Sociedade Brasileira Pró-Colonização Judaica na União Soviética–Brazkor (Brazilian Society for the Jewish Colonization in the Soviet Union, 1928), and Centro Operário Morris Vinchevsky (Morris Vinchevsky Labor Center, 1928). The last two organizations founded a workers' school (Arbeter Shule) and edited the newspaper Der Onheib. Other leftist organizations were the União Cultural Israelita Brasileira Ikuf, Clube dos Cabiras (1941–50), the Associação Feminina Israelita Brasileira Vita Kempner, and the Associação Kinderland. In 2005 the Associação Scholem Aleichem (asa) was an active political and cultural center and edited the Boletim da asa, the sole Jewish leftist publication in Portuguese.

The Yiddish press was very active in Rio de Janeiro with the publication of a few newspapers: Dos Yidishe Vochenblat, Yidishe Presse, and Brazilianer Yidishe Tzaytung. Other important publications in Portuguese were the weekly magazine Aonde Vamos?, and O Reflexo. Adolf Eizen was a Brazilian pioneer of comics.

Later Developments

The Jewish community of Rio de Janeiro is the second largest Jewish community in Brazil, after São Paulo. The community has a solid network of institutions and a very active religious, social, political, and cultural life and is well integrated in the city's and the state's social and cultural life.

In 2005 there were 80 entities affiliated with the Federação Israelita do Estado do Rio de Janeiro (Jewish Federation of the State of Rio de Janeiro–fierj, founded in 1947), among them 30 synagogues, five schools, four other non-formal educational institutions and youth movements, Zionist women's organizations, beneficent and social assistance entities, sport and cultural associations. These institutions include: Organização Sionista, B'nai B'rith, Sociedade Beneficente das Damas, Lar da Criança Israelita, Sociedade Beneficente Israelita Hospital Albert Einstein, Hebraica, Monte Sinai, and Clube Israelita Brasileiro. In 1979 a Jewish industrialist, Israel Klabin, became the mayor of the city of Rio de Janeiro. fierj has a weekly tv program and is very active in political issues concerning the Jews in Brazil.

According to official numbers of fierj, 3,000 students attended the Jewish day schools: Eliezer Steinberg–Max Nordau, Colégio Israelita Brasileiro A. Liessin–Scholem Aleichem, Bar Ilan (Zionist religious), ort, and the Machané Or Isreal and Beit Menachem (both non Zionist Orthodox).

Rio de Janeiro has a variety of synagogues, from ultra-Orthodox to Reform-Liberal, Ashkenazi and Sephardi, with imposing edifices and tiny shtibels. The Associação Religiosa Israelita (ari) was founded by German Jewish immigrants in 1942 and follows a Liberal tradition. With a membership of 850 families, ari supports Lar União–Associação Beneficente Israelita (founded in 1939) and the youth Zionist movement Chazit. ari is the first synagogue in Brazil to have a woman as a rabbi and is very active in inter-religious dialogue and in cultural events in the city.

Congregação Judaica do Brasil (cjb) is a small Reform synagogue. Under the guidance of Rabbi Nilton Bonder, cjb was the most active Jewish presence at the ngo Global Forum during "Eco-92", the United Nations ecological conference held in Rio de Janeiro in June 1992. Bonder is the author of many books about Judaism that became bestsellers in Brazil. There are programs for Jewish studies and Hebrew in both the Federal University and the State University of Rio de Janeiro.

Jewish Organizations in the Interior of the State of Rio de Janeiro

Niterói has had an organized Jewish community since 1916. Its activities include religious services, with a synagogue and a cemetery, and it maintains a local school and organizes cultural and social activities. Petrópolis is a resort city for the residents of Rio de Janeiro. Its community is small, but it nevertheless established a yeshivah to train rabbinical students. In Nilópolis, situated on the route of the central railway of Brazil, a Jewish community was organized in the 1920s with a Centro Israelita (1936), the Sh. An-Ski complementary school, a synagogue, the Macabi club, Wizo, and a Yiddish theater group. In 1947, when Nilópolis became a city, there were 300 families, but later all the members moved to other cities. In Campos, the Sociedade União Israelita de Campos was established in 1929 by 40–50 families.


A. Dines, Morte no Paraíso. A tragédia de Stefan Zweig (2004); A. Wiznitzer, Os judeus no Brasil colonial (1960); A. Milgram, O 'milieu' judeu-comunista do Rio de Janeiro nos anos 30 (2001); B. Kushnir. Baile de Máscaras: Mulheres Judias e Prostituição. As Polacas e suas Associações de Ajuda Mútua (1996); E. and F. Wolff, Campos. Ascensão e declínio de uma coletividade (1986); E. London. Vivência judaica em Nilópolis (1999); S. Malamud, Documentário. Contribuição judaica à memória da comunidade judaica brasileira (1992).

[Roney Cytrynowicz (2nd ed.)]

Rio de Janeiro

views updated May 21 2018

Rio de Janeiro

The city of Rio de Janeiro was founded by the Portuguese in 1565, and in 1567 was relocated to a hill in the Guanabara Bay. At the beginning of the seventeenth century port activities, based on slave labor, took place along the coastline close to the base of the hill, where sugar, produced in the mouth of the bay, was transported.

An urban center of regional importance during the seventeenth century, Rio experienced large economic growth in the following century thanks to mining in the region of Minas Gerais. Portuguese ships frequently visited exporting gold and diamonds, and receiving foodstuffs, fabrics, and slaves, the port of Rio. When Rio became the seat of the vice-kingdom of Brazil in 1763, its new political-administrative role helped offset the declining economic importance of mining that began in the mid-eighteenth century.

The transfer of the Portuguese court to Rio in 1808 signified the end of Brazil's colonial status; this was confirmed by independence in 1822. The opening of the port to nations friendly to Portugal allowed Brazil to freely export cotton, sugar, coffee, and animal hides; at the same time, the Brazilian market was inundated with manufactured products and foodstuffs, primarily from Britain. In 1807 only one of the 778 ships that entered Rio's port was foreign; in 1811 the more than 5,000 incoming ships hailed from diverse nations.

In the second half of the nineteenth century the use of steam power in maritime transport made freight cheaper and assured the safer and quicker movement of merchandise. Brazil was integrated into the world market as a large provider of coffee, its main export since the 1830s, and an importer of manufactured goods. The port of Rio was the point of convergence of the export/import flows of the entire country, and it grew in importance in world trade. However, its technical and material base had only slightly changed since the colonial period: ships were not able to dock directly on the shoreline, and loading and unloading could not keep pace with the increasing volume of merchandise, which at times had to be stored in precarious conditions. Numerous projects aimed at modernizing the port were conceived, but few were implemented.

At the beginning of the twentieth century Rio lost export leadership to Santos due to the decline in coffee production in the state of Rio de Janeiro, but it strengthened its role as principal port for imports. In this period an ambitious policy of urban reform was implemented in Rio that provoked profound transformations, especially in the central area. The axis of this reform was the construction of a new port. Initiated in 1904, the works consisted basically of landfill of a wide section of coastline, which straightened the shoreline. A large pier was built in this landed area that permitted ships to dock directly along the wharf. The renovations were completed in 1911, when eighteen internal and ninety-six external warehouses and ninety electric cranes began to function.

A second section of new docks was executed in the final years of the 1920s. In the 1980s the modernization of port activities, with a container system and conveyor belts, made clear the current structure was out of date. The solution was the transfer of the port's main activities to Sepetiba Bay, at the opposite side of the city of Rio de Janeiro.

SEE ALSO Brazil; Coffee; Empire, Portuguese;Port Cities;Portugal;Rubber;Slavery and the African Slave Trade;Sugar, Molasses, and Rum.


Burns, E. Bradford. A History of Brazil, 3rd edition. New York: Columbia University Press, 1993.

Fausto, Boris. A Concise History of Brazil, tr. Arthur Brakel. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1999.

Lamarão, Sergio Tadeu de Niemeyer. Dos trapiches ao porto: um estudo sobre a área portuária do Rio de Janeiro (From the warehouses to the port: a study of the harbor area of Rio de Janeiro). Rio de Janeiro: Departamento Geral de Documentação e Informação Cultural/Secretaria Municipal de Cultura, Turismo e Esportes, 1992.

Sergio Lamarão

Rio de Janeiro

views updated May 18 2018

Rio de Janeiro

Rio de Janeiro means River of January in Portuguese. It was so named because the bay on which it is located, Guanabara Bay, was discovered on January 1, 1502, by European explorers who believed it to be the mouth of a river. The leader of the expedition was Gaspar de Lemos, a Portuguese captain following in the wake of Pedro Alvars Cabral (1468–1520) who was the first discoverer of the Brazilian coast in 1500. In 1530 the Portuguese court sponsored a further expedition, this time to colonize the region and establish a permanent settlement. There was much rivalry with French and Dutch colonists with whom there were frequent skirmishes. The first settlement in the bay area was called Antarctic France and was founded by Nicolas de Villegagnon (1510–1571) in 1555, but by the 1560s the Portuguese achieved preeminence despite the French alliance with the Tamoio. The city of Saint Sebastian of Rio de Janeiro was founded on March 1, 1565, by Estacio de Sá (1520–1567). It was named after the namesake of Sebastian (1554–1578), the king of Portugal. By 1585 Rio de Janeiro's population was 3,850, including some 750 Portuguese and approximately 100 Africans who had been brought to the Americas as slaves.

During the 1600s Rio de Janeiro developed into an important port, especially for the export of sugar derived from sugar cane production in the hinterland using enslaved indigenous people. Brazil wood (Cesalpina echinata), known as pau-brasil, a dense hardwood red in color, also became a major export. The city also benefited from the discovery of gold in the state of Minas Gerais (meaning General Mines) toward the close of the seventeenth century. This brought growth, wealth, and influence, and in 1764 Rio de Janeiro replaced Salvador as Brazil's capital. During the period 1808 to 1821 the Portuguese royal family, led by the prince regent (to become Dom Joã VI [1767–1826]) adopted it as their home as Napoléon Bonaparte (1769–1821) threatened their homeland. By the time they returned to Portugal, Brazil had declared independence in 1822, under the direction of Dom Pedro I (1798–1834), the son of Dom João VI, as its first emperor. He was a weak ruler abdicated in favor of his son, Dom Pedro II (1825–1891), who was then only five years old. A triple regency provided rule but only until Dom Pedro II came of age; he ruled for 50 years and established a state that would eventually deny the monarchy. The gold mines had been exhausted by this time but coffee production provided a new wealth to boost Rio de Janeiro's economy. The city continued to expand, first to the north and then to the south, and enjoyed a buoyant period until the late 1880s. The abolition of slavery and a series of poor harvests then resulted in economic hardship as labor and primary produce became increasingly expensive. Political problems ensued and in 1889 Brazil declared itself a republic after a military coup; the emperor was exiled and died in 1891. Rio de Janeiro remained the capital of the new republic until 1960 when it was moved to Brasília.

see also Brazilian Independence; Empire in the Americas, Portuguese; Minas Gerais, Conspiracy of.


Fausto, B. A Concise History of Brazil. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1999.

Rio de Janeiro

views updated Jun 27 2018

Rio de Janeiro City on Guanabara Bay, se Brazil. Discovered by Europeans in 1502, it was later colonized by the French, then the Portuguese. By the 18th century, it was a major outlet for gold mined in the hinterland. In 1763, it became the seat of the viceroy. and then Brazil's capital (1834–1960). The second-largest city in Brazil, Rio is its commercial and industrial centre. Its climate and beaches make it a popular tourist resort. There are large shanty towns surrounding the city. Industries: coffee, sugar refining, shipbuilding, pharmaceuticals, publishing and printing, engineering, textiles. Pop. (2000) 5,850,544; 10,894,156 (metropolitan).