History Class: Rio de Janeiro, from Past to Present
history of Rio de Janeirostarted at the 1st of January 1502: Portuguese navigators sailed into the Guanabara Bay and thought this was the estuary of a river. Not much time was spend on name giving, so the place was simply called River of January, in Portuguese: Rio de Janeiro.
In the following years, history really took off when Portuguese and French settlers arrived in the Rio de Janeiro area, claiming this part of Brazil for their respective motherlands. From 1565, the territory became Portuguese at last, after the founding of São Sebastião do Rio de Janeiro, but in the following century it was still regularly under attack from the French and the Dutch.
King João VI of Portugal - Residing in Rio de Janeiro... Nice
|At the end of the 17th century, Rio de Janeiro had become an important seaport for the Portuguese, with a hinterland full of sugar cane. After Salvador and the Recife-Olinda area, Rio de Janeiro was the 3rd most important Brazilian settlement at the time.
But soon Rio de Janeiro would surpass these two after gold was found in Minas Gerais;
Rio de Janeiro was perfectly located to ship out the minerals to Europe. Finally, in 1763 the colonial administration of Portuguese America was moved from Salvador to Rio de Janeiro, making it its de facto capital.
In 1807 the Portuguese crown prince Dom João VI had to flee his country head over heels, while Napoleon was approaching Lisbon. A fleet of 40 vessels and 15,000 people sailed for Rio de Janeiro, where João was welcomed as if he was Santa Claus himself. Portuguese settlers organized street parties and the city and the royal family became fond of each other right away. When João became king of Portugal,
Rio de Janeiro became even the capital of the entire kingdom of Portugal; not only its colonies, also of the motherland itself.
But not for long. In 1822, Brazil became independent from Portugal and Rio de Janeiro switched from being the capital of Portugal to being the capital of prince Pedro I’s new Empire of Brasil. After 1889, when the monarchy was replaced by a republic, Rio de Janeiro continued as the Brazilian capital. At that time, the city of Rio de Janeiro was more or less the same as what is now Centro.
First the city expanded to Botafogo and, after the construction of the tunnels, further into Copacabana and the rest of the Zona Sul. Not much later the Zona Norte became developed. In the 1930s, 40s and 50s modern Rio de Janeiro had its heyday, reflected by the honour of organising the final of the
FIFA World Cup in 1950. At the time, Brazil was a sleeping giant and Rio de Janeiro was its prosperous, proud and progressive capital.
However, for decades Brazilian rulers dreamed of a more inland, centrally located capital. Many thought that Rio de Janeiro as a seaside capital would not have enough federal grip on inland backbone industries: agriculture and mining.
Cristo Redentor statue under construction, 1930
Furthermore, the growing nation of Brazil needed to expand inland anyway, back from the overcrowded coast. A centrally located capital would help to develop and promote these areas. President Kubitschek was bold enough to endorse this philosophy and masterminded the new capital city of Brasilia. In 1960, Rio de Janeiro lost its status as capital of the Federal Republic of Brazil.
In the following decades, Rio de Janeiro lost a bit of its iconic status as the biggest beach resort in the world. Stories of poverty, corruption, crime and drug related gang wars appeared in the headlines as often as the pictures of a still Marvellous City. A military junta (which was harsh on ‘leftish’ Rio), hyperinflation and economical crises did not help much to prevent the favelas (shanty towns) growing faster than the city itself...
|Nevertheless, with a booming Brazilian economy at the turn of the century, things can change for the better. Brazil is considered as a candidate for becoming one of the leading economic powers in the 21st century (BRIC).
This is indirectly emphasized by granting Brazil the organization of the FIFA World Cup 2014 and the city of Rio de Janeiro hosting the Summer Olympics 2016. Both
events have put Rio de Janeiro in the centre of global attentiononce more...
More on the history of Brazil