Tuesday, March 01, 2011

World City-Zen: Rio de Janeiro


Although the picturesque coastal setting of Guanabara Bay - where today South America's third largest conurbation resides - was first explored by Gaspar de Lemos in January 1502 (thus its name) the city itself wouldn't appear there for more than six decades; and while it was a French explorer named Nicolas Durand de Villegaignon who founded the area's first European settlement at Fort Coligny on the bay's Serigipe Island in 1555 (during the France Antarctique period) it was actually on this day in 1565 that Estácio de Sá established Rio de Janeiro following a successful military action against the French.

De Sa's contribution is now commemorated in the naming of thousands of schools and roadways throughout Brazil, including Rio's Estácio neighbourhood.

The city was made capital of Brazil when the Portugese royal family found itself exiled from Europe in 1808. It would remain the capital following the establishment of the Brazilian monarchy under Pedro I in 1822, would continue in that role after the country became a republic in 1889, and was only relieved of the duty when administrative authority decamped to Brasília in April 1960.

As so often happens, the tropical paradise of Rio de Janeiro has also earned a reputation for crime; amidst its Carnival celebrations, famous beaches such as Copacabana and Ipanema, and major tourist attractions like Christ the Redeemer atop Corcovado, gangs of heavily armed thugs roam the city's favelas and posh neighbourhoods alike wreaking mayhem. The city's residents, known as cariocas, seem to take it all in their stride as they strive to provide visitors with the warm welcome generations of tourists have come to expect from them. It only remains to be seen if the city's problems can be successfully curtailed by the time it welcomes the world as the host of the 2016 Summer Olympic Games.
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