Rio de Janiero, Brazil: "The Marvelous City"
Rio de Janiero is truly close to paradise: its natives (otherwise known as the cariocas claim that God worked for six days and on the seventh, created Rio to rest in.
Rio de Janiero is located in Brazil, a part of the South American continent. Founded in 1502 by Portuguese navigators, Rio was so named because the scouts mistook the mouth of the Guanabara Bay for the mouth of a river ("Rio"). This is why Brazilians today speak Portuguese, Rio began as a part of colonial Portugal. Sixty years later, French explorers were routinely checking out pao-brazil ("Brazilwood"), hoping to take some land under the Portuguese crown. Two years of bloody conflict ensued, with the Portuguese retaining their rightful land. For many years, Rio was merely a cowtown, but by the beginning of the 18th century it transformed into a booming cultural center as it was the main shipping port for gold and diamonds. In 1763, Rio became Brazil's colonial capital.
While Rio became a haven of peace and a beacon of trade, its mother country was not faring well overseas. In 1808, as Napoleon's armies began the invasion of Portugal, the decision was made to transfer the monarch and his court to Rio de Janeiro, where he would remain until 1821. During this time Brasil was elevated in status from a colony to United Kingdom with Portugal. Rio became the capital of this new empire. By 1891, Rio's 500,000 + population prospered economically, making Rio one of the most populated and richest cities in the world.
Today, Rio de Janiero is not Brazil's capital (Brasilia was inaugurated as such in 1960). While some complain about the shifting of government, many locals and tourists alike still consider the city to be its cultural capital. And who could not? Nestled between a magnificent bay and two beautiful beaches (Copacabana and Ipanema) on one side and a mountain range with a tropical rain forest on the other, there is no doubt as to why jet-setters love to frequent Rio, and why it is called "The Marvelous City".
The only parallel to Rio de Janiero's Carnaval is perhaps Mardi Gras, but even that comparison is to mild for what Carnaval truly is. Carnaval is a hedonistic Pre-Lent festival that owes its origins to similar Roman pre-Christian celebrations. Every year, seven weeks before Easter, Brazilian activity stops to celebrate for four days (Saturday to Tuesday). Expect to see clowns, pirates, sheiks, Indians, and lots of men dressed up as women. Expect to hear wild music, like a three-hundred-piece escola-de-samba drum section, a horn-and-percussion band, or a spontaneous group of people beating cans and bottles. Expect to shed all of your previous inhibitions, and strip off your clothes like your Aunt Tillie ain't watching.
Admittedly, Carnaval is a descendant of the much more disgusting Portuguese entrudo , in which celebrants would go to the streets and throw mud, dirty water, flour balls, and suspect liquids at one another, often triggering violent riots. The first Carnaval ball, in 1840 was stiff and prim and proper; the only dances were the waltz and the polka! A young Portuguese shoemaker, José Nogueira Paredes, beat a huge drum at the 1848 Carnaval parade, inspiring others to introduce a more heavy rhythmical form of music to the celebration. Even now the musicians of Carnaval are sometimes referred to as the Zé Pereiras .
In the 19th century Carnaval was often excluded to the poor. Frustrated with this, the urban poor formed cordoes , male-only groups that would parade down the streets to African-inspired rhythms. The African edge comes from the many slaves and black workers that emigrated to Rio looking for work after the decline of sugar plantations in 1870. Groups would evolve later, including the ranchos and marcha-ranchos .
Carnaval would not be complete without its trademark song, the marcha . The original was penned by the cordao group Rosa de Ouro, and composer Chiquinha Gonzaga. The lyrics are easy to memorize:
Hey, make way
I want to pass
I like parties
I can't deny that
Innumerable Carnaval songs and marchas would later be composed by the likes of Caninha, Sinhô, Eduardo Souto, Haroldo Lobo, Joubert de Carvalho, Benedito Lacerda, Antônio Nássera, Romeu Gentil, and Wilson Batista.
Most people immediately want to hit the beach the second they arrive at the airport- and for good reason. Not only are the beaches beautiful, they also sport other kinds of natural beauty- the women of Brazil are famous for their lanky-yet-curvy physiques and their.. um.. predilection for waxing in naughty places. By the way, appearing topless on the beach is no longer couture. Brazilians would rather sport creations with names like "tanga" (thong), "sunquini" (sunkini), "asa-delta" (delta-wing), "fio-dental" (dental-floss) and even "cepacol" (very small bikinis ironically named after a product for cleaning teeth because, according to its ads, it reaches places not reached by a dental-floss). The other side of Brazil is also great for outdoor aficionados- Sugar Loaf Mountain comes to mind.
Rio is so teeming with nightlife, it is hard to recommend one spot as the only place to go. Behind Copacabana and Ipanema is a butterfly shaped lake called Lagoa Rodrogoi de Fritas. Along the waterfront are many resturants/nightspots which have great live music and fantastic outdoor seating. They are open until late which make it a perfect place to eat, listen to music and dance all in the one venue. The Copacabana district, besides hosting many five-star hotels, is usually the classier area to go club-hopping in.
Rio also hosts several intellectual delights, including a Musuem of Modern Art, National Musuem, and the National Musuem of Fine Arts. Architectural flourishes, such as gargoyles, are on most buildings, although the Rua Sete de Septembro is particularly ornate. Historic buildings are everywhere, including the Fort Copacabana, Sao Bento Monastery, and the ]National Library]. The coolest monument to see would have to be the the 710 meter Cristo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer), on the Corvocada mountain.
The wiles of South American food may tempt you, but keep in mind that hygeine is not exactly the best in Rio de Janiero. For fast eating, there are many corner shops that sell , hotdogs, beans, rice, fruit shakes, pizzas, etc. While there are possibly hundreds of these stores in the Copacabana area alone, I particularly recommend Rue Barata Riberio and Constante Ramos. Their cooks work on spotless stainless steel, so you know you won't suffer from Rio Belly, and the food runs around $2 US money.
Don't worry about the weather.. it is nearly aways perfect . One of the many reasons why Rio is the coolest.
What else do you need to know?
Important Disclaimer: Rio is NOT devoid of social problems, as my w/u might suggest. I have been messaged several times about this, and feel that it is necessary to set the record straight in the spirit of Node for the Ages.
Many of Rio's citizens live in poverty. The favelas which blanket the slopes of surrounding hillsides house approximately 20 percent of the city's residents and are often dangerous, unsanitary, and lacking in basic services such as water, sewerage, and, to a lesser extent, electricity. Many of the city's poor have no jobs, no access to schools, and only limited access to medical care. However, literacy rates for Rio are high, nearly 90 percent, and a system of public hospitals and clinics provides at least some medical care to the city's poorest residents. Police corruption is widespread. Environmental pollution is a problem throughout the metropolitan region, and the waters of Guanabara Bay are considered too polluted for safe bathing.
Rio experienced serious crime problems in the early 1990s, when powerful criminal gangs took over entire favela neighborhoods. The murders of homeless children in 1993 by corrupt police officers acting on behalf of commercial interests drew international attention to Rio's social and criminal problems. With a murder rate of 61 per 100,000 people in 1994, Rio was one of the world's most violent cities. This was more than twice the rate of 28 per 100,000 for São Paulo.
No city is perfect. Rio de Janiero may appear as utopia to outsiders, but let's face it: Brazil is a third-world nation. This does not detract from its beauty and wealth of culture but is an important point to remember.
Special thanks to 123-Rio.com and the Node Your Homework project.