Rio de Janeiro Geography and History

Rio de Janeiro flagRio de Janeiro is one of those cities with an almost mythical quality. Without ever having set foot in South America a person will automatically possess a preconceived conception of Rio, whether for the debauchery and glitz of Carnival, the shocking slums of the favelas, or a blurry image of a large statue of Jesus Christ on top of a hill.

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=> Probably the only rival in glamour and reputation would be Buenos Aires, an altogether different city but equally recognizable to people and places far away from the southern continent of the Americas.
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A Short History
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Rio de Janeiro is the old capital of Brazil, having been knocked off its throne by Oscar Niemeyer’s butterfly Brasilia thanks to the constitution of 1891 that stated that the capital should be moved to a more central position in the nation, allowing for better communication and cooperation between the people.

Rio de Janeiro Candelaria ChurchOriginally, the grand old dame of Brazil held the title for two centuries, from 1763 to 1815 during the Portuguese colonial era, 1815 to 1821 as the capital of the United Kingdom of Portugal, Brazil and Algarves, and 1822 to 1960 as an independent nation. Not a bad run really. This historical identity can be seen all over the city today, from the wild beauty of the Botanical Gardens to the majesty of the Candelaria Church and the legacy of the favela’s, such as Providência, that overlook the city center as well as the beautiful beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema.

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Rio de Janeiro Morro do Providencia
Morro do Providência is today perhaps the least glamorous of Rio de Janeiro’s
historical landmarks, but the importance of this disappearing community is not to be underestimated.

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When veteran soldiers of Brazil’s Canudos war returned to the federal capital from the bloody battlefields of Northeast Brazil in search of the land they were promised they were turned away from the governmental gates. With nowhere to go to and no land available for them, the ex-soldiers were forced to move to the empty hills surrounding the capital that belonged to a high-ranking colonel. Originally these hills were named Morro do Favela after the name of the Favela plant native to the region of Canudos, and the previous home of the destitute soldiers.

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As time went on these hillside communities grew populous with freed slaves and European immigrants, thankful of a home near to work in the city and at the port. Providência became the heart of the Afro-Brazilian community in Rio de Janeiro, and developed into a musical and cultural focal point, where Samba flourished and families made a home generation after generation.

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Today the Olympic furor in advance of 2016 has made a victim of Morro do Providência, threatening large swathes of the neighborhood with imminent destruction in the name of modernization and infrastructural development. It remains to be seen what will became of the interlinked communities of such favelas, but hopefully the excitement of the Olympic Games Rio 2016 won’t trample over the history of the "Cidade Maravilhosa".

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=> Also read about the Population of Rio de Janeiro and the climate of Rio de Janeiro
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