Rua Santa Luzia


I was looking at a large number of Fon Fon magazine covers from the 1920s when I came across this one from November of 1921. I didn’t recognize the street, which is odd, but I did recognize the name at the bottom – Praia de Santa Luzia. Still, a beautiful tree-lined street near the beach? So I did what any armchair historian would, and pulled the thread, as it were. Here’s what unraveled.


It seems quite likely that street in question, Rua Santa Luzia, is the one on the left of the photo above, beside the Hospital da Misericórdia, which dates back to 1582. There was, of course, a time when there were no trees (1856) and a time when the trees were starting to grow (1895).

Regarding the trees themselves, a blog with an even more narrow topic than mine called Árvores Cariocas, says the following:

“Originally from India, the Figueira-religiosa (Ficus religiosa) was introduced in Brazil by the French landscape artist Glaziou, in the second half of the 19th century. The tree impresses with its size, which can reach 30m high, but also by the sculptures formed by its adventitious roots. In Buddhist culture it is considered a sacred tree, being that under its canopy, Buddha discovered the secrets of life.

Although exotic, the species acclimated well here, being found in several points in the city. A highlighted collection is located on Rua Santa Luzia, in downtown, in front of Santa Casa de Misericórdia. The seedlings were planted in November 1873, by the botanist Francisco Freire Alemão (possibly a German preist).”

Here’s a 1950’s photo of the street:


These days, you’ll find that the street still exists, located near Rio’s domestic airport, Santos Dumont. There are less trees now but you can still get a feel for what it was. And when you try to look to the edge of the city, like so many must have done hundreds of years ago, at the water’s edge, the image is no longer that of man versus the sea, but rather of people spreading their wings.


Darwin in Rio – 1832


A 23-year old Charles Darwin, in his travels around the world aboard the Beagle, went to Brazil in 1832, and stayed in the state of Rio de Janeiro from April 4th to July 5th. The actual time he lived in the city itself is hard to track down, but from what I can tell, it was apparently from April 4th til the 8th, and from April 23rd or 25th til July 5th. The last link at the bottom has a section talking about how Darwin received a guided tour of the city by a friend.

His diary, on the day he arrived in the city of Rio, is as follows:

“The winds being very light we did not pass under the Sugar loaf till after dinner: our slow cruise was enlivened by the changing prospect of the mountains; sometimes enveloped by white clouds, sometimes brightened by the sun, the wild & stony peaks presented new scenes. — When within the harbour the light was not good, but like to a good picture this evenings view prepared the mind for the morrows enjoyment. — In most glorious style did the little Beagle enter the port & lower her sails alongside the Flag ship. We were hailed that from some trifling disturbances we must anchor in a particular spot. Whilst the Captain was away with the commanding officer, we tacked about the harbour & gained great credit from the manner in which the Beagle was manned & directed. — Then came the ecstacies of opening letters, largely exciting the best & pleasantest feelings of the mind; I wanted not the floating remembrance of ambition now gratified, I wanted not the real magnificence of the view to cause my heart to revel with intense joy; but united with these, few could imagine & still fewer forget the lasting & impressive effect.”

Around April 23rd or 25th, he went to live in Botafogo, for which he had the following to say:

“During the remainder of my stay at Rio, I resided in a cottage at Botofogo Bay. It was impossible to wish for anything more delightful than thus to spend some weeks in so magnificent a country.

Every one has heard of the beauty of the scenery near Botofogo. The house in which I lived was seated close beneath the well-known mountain of the Corcovado. It has been remarked, with much truth, that abruptly conical hills are characteristic of the formation which Humboldt designates as gneiss granite. Nothing can be more striking than the effect of these huge rounded masses of naked rock rising out of the most luxuriant vegetation.”

Parting Thoughts

“It was impossible to wish for any thing more delightful than thus to spend some weeks in so magnificent a country. In England any person fond of natural history enjoys in his walks a great advantage, by always having something to attract his attention; but in these fertile climates, teeming with life, the attractions are so numerous, that he is scarcely able to walk at all.” – Charles Darwin

On the flip side, upon leaving, he vowed to never again visit a slave country due to the horrors he witness regarding poor treatment of slaves.

You can find all of his diary entries, by date, in the archives of this blog (here’s a detailed version in Portuguese, as well as a shorter mapped version). There’s also a nice post on Darwin’s time in inland and coastal Rio here.

Carnival flirtations – 1840s


I’m in the middle of reading “O Livro de Ouro do Carnaval Brasileiro” [1] by Felipe Ferreira which covers the way in which Brazilians celebrated Carnival throughout the country, though with a focus (thus far) on Rio de Janeiro. The current chapter, part of which I’ve translated a section of below, deals with an earlier style of Carnival called Entrudo. Scroll further down for the same section in Portuguese.

In truth, what one starts to understand from all of this is what we call “Entrudo Familiar” which, in the 19th century, was a private party whose most important actors were young people, mainly women. They had become, already at the start of the 19th century, the ones responsible for the management of the home and of all of its cerimonies, including the Entrudistic games. In this way, from the production of limões-de-cheiro (“smelly lemons”) to their use as battle weapons, the actions related to a good part of colonial Brazil’s revelry was relegated to the feminine sex. It was the young daughters of Brazilian families, for example, who most times would take the initiative of throwing the little lemons on some boy that interested them, taking advantage of this rare opportunity to exercise some control over their own destiny. Of course, those boys, mostly flattered with being chosen, took advantage of the atmosphere of subtle permissiveness to risk touching, via the throwing of lemons, some forbidden part of the young women’s bodies, like the shoulders or, in surpreme audacity, the lap.

Machado de Assis, in his tale “Um dia de Entrudo“, taking place in 1848, describes the strong connections of the drenchings with romantic relations among the young members of Brazilian families. The mother of one character declares to her cousin Angelica: “I was about to go inside, when guess what I found in the corner of the dining room? I found your son Benjamin breaking lemons on my daughter’s shoulders! What insolence! I didn’t know what to do…” Another character, upon arriving at Angelica’s house, is immediately played tricks on by the sons of the host, which ends up incentivizing his romance with one of the boy’s sisters, in other words, aside from serving as a factor in social togetherness, allowing contact and good business between members of the elite, the apparently innocent game of the Entrudo Familiar also facilitated the meeting of young people from “good families” and incentivized their coming together.

Na verdade, o que se depreende disso tudo é o que chamamos de “Entrudo Familiar” era, no século XIX, uma festa privada cujos atores mais importantes seriam os jovens e, principalmente, as mulheres. Estas tinham se tornado, já no início do século XIX, as responsáveis pela gerência do lar e de todas as suas cerimônias, inclusive das brincadeiras entrudísticas. Desse modo, desde a produção dos limões-de-cheiro até sua utilização como arma da batalha, cabia ao sexo feminino o comando da ação relacionada a boa parte da folia do Brasil colonial. Eram as jovens filhas das famílias brasileiras, por exemplo, que muitas vezes tomavam a iniciativa de lançar os limõezinhos sobre algum rapaz que lhes interessasse, aproveitando-se dessa rara oprotunidade de exercer algum controle sobre seu próprio destino. É claro que os rapazes, muitas vezes lisonjeados com a escolha, tiravam proveito da atmosfera de sutil licenciosidade para arriscar tocar, através do lançamento de um limãozinho-de-cheiro, alguma das partes proibidas do corpo das jovens, como os ombros ou, suprema audácia, o colo.

Machado de Assis, em seu conto “Um dia de Entrudo”, passado em 1848, descreve a forte vinculação das molhaças com as relações românticas entre os jovens das famílias brasileiras. A mãe de uma personagem declara à prima Angélica: “Ia eu agora lá dentro, quando encontrei na sala de jantar a um canto, adivinhem o quê? Encontrei seu filho Benjamin quebrando limões no ombro de minha filha! Que desaforo! Fiquei sem saber de mim..” Outro personagem, ao chegar à casa de Angélica, é imediatamente entrudado pelos filhos da anfitriã, o que acaba incentivando seu romance com a irmã dos rapazes, ou seja, além de servir como fator de agregação social, possibilitando contatos e bons negócios entre os membros das elites, a aparentemente inocente brincadeira do Entrudo Familiar também facilitava o encontro dos jovens das “boas famílias” e incentivava a aproximação entre eles.

Bull fighting in Rio

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What few people know is that Brazil and Rio de Janeiro were once the stage of many bull fights. For almost two centuries, they were popular there. In 1907, a law made by mayor Francisco Marcelino de Souza put an end of the Carioca bull fights, a tradition that was part of the city since at least the 17th century. These were events narrated with poems, that included religious parades and allegorical cars, and demanded the setting up of arenas for the admittance of thousands of spectators.

The bull fights came to colonial Rio de Janeiro as a sign of fidelity to the Portuguese kingdom. The largest of the monarchy’s affairs were commemorated in all of its dominions with a three-day party, whose planning included academic encounters, plays and games. The main attraction, however, were the men with three-pointed hats and silk clothes, that, for one hour, challenged European bulls, in an arena set up at Campo de Santana (above), financed by the City Council.

The previous parts of the show had a hint of protocol — gypsy dances, shows prepared by the professional classes. But the popularity of bull fighting was incontestable. In the week prior to the event, the Carioca press boasted of the presence of famous Portuguese bull-fighters, like Luiz Antônio Gonzaga and Joaquim Ferreira de Vasconcelos. The duo were in charge of the festivities of 1762, in honor of the birth of Dom José, the Portuguese prince. For the short performance, each one received the equivalent of four months of a teacher’s salary.

The nobility, while less accostumed to sports, would also give prestige to the event: it was their way of showing joy along with the official dates of the Court. And an intellectual would make it his business to pen a small book about the festivities, to later send to Lisbon. The author of the 1762 book, of unknown identity, innovated by criticizing the bull fights. “This barberous remains of Roman ampitheaters, which the nations of Spain religiously conserve to be performed at their biggest parties. (…) Everything was superb; sweet and melodic songs and the agreed effect of so many instruments formed the joyous prelude of a tragic scene”.

Arenas spread after Independence


It was a rare sign of discontentment. The bull fights survived after the country’s proclamation of independence, when the Portuguese Court would stop being a motive for the festivities. It also survived the loss of a stadium, at Campo de Santana. Around 1870, the area was landscaped with a garden, taking on its current decoration, and stopped receiving large public events.

— Starting from the mid 19th century, businessmen started to set up their own venues — according to the architect and historian Nireu Cavalcanti. — The arenas, also known as curros, were put up where one now finds the streets Marquês de Abrantes (above), in Flamengo, and Lavradio, in Lapa. They were temporary wooden structures, that could be dismantled, and received bull fights on Saturdays, Sundays and a third day during the week. To attract spectators, their owners announced the importation of European bulls in the newspapers.

The public surged at the end of the 19th century, when a large wave of Spanish immigrants arrived in Brazil. Their arrival coincided with the height of Carioca bull fights. The city finally got its first and only definitive ‘curro’, made of bricks next to the current corner of streets Ipiranga and Laranjeiras. Beside the structure, designed in 1898, there was an Aliança fabric factory. There, around one-thousand people worked — members of a social class that would frequent the bull fights.

The newest meeting spot in the city, however, had a short lifespan.

— The 20th century arrived with new attractions, like the appearance of cinemas and the proliferation of theaters — Cavalcanti points out. — Besides this, Rio’s bull fights followed a Portuguese model, in which the bull was left alive after the show, and not the Spanish one, where he is killed. This may have contributed to the audience’s loss of interest.

The bull fights also confronted other obstacles. The necessary budget for the event was too high. The importation of bulls cost a fortune, and the event’s expenses included, also, the payment of bands, two bull fighters, their assistants, and the hats.

Another challenge for followers of the games: the bulls, at last, got defenders. The Society of Animal Protectors fought for the end of the events. And the militancy bore fruits in 1907, when the mayor signed a law banning the sport.

The city’s power, in truth, no longer hid the insatisfaction with the arenas. The Praça dos Touros de Laranjeiras collided with the city’s modernization project, headed by Pereira Passos. When the Rio Carioca, which cuts through the neighborhood, was channelized, the mayor dreamt of handing over the region to collective housing.

— Laranjeiras is next to the city center and already had trolley service — mentions Cavalcanti. — It was natural that the urbanization which spread through Rio extended to that area. The mayor defended the relocation of industrial and commercial activities, such as the arena and the fabric factory, to São Cristóvão, far from the center of his reforms.

Pereira Passos didn’t touch the arena, but the Praça de Touros, as was already foreseeable, succumbed to real estate speculation. In the 1930s, it was taken over by a large building. The bulls, which animated so many festivities, were not missed, as historian Ferreira da Rosa wrote: “The amusement was losing fans; the bull fighters gave up: the arena was dismantled. The city didn’t take notice”. – Source 12.

Flamengo – Rowing to Football

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Hardcore Flamengo soccer fans might know this but I’d guess most regular people do not. Flamengo isn’t actually a soccer team, but rather a “multi-sport body” known as the Clube de Regatas do Flamengo (The Flamengo Rowing Club), or simply Flamengo. It started out as a rowing only group but later branched out into soccer. Some of the original rowing members are pictured above, in 1896.

Towards the end of the 19th century, rowing dominated Rio de Janeiro. Soccer had just started to appear at some clubs, but it was still looked at with a bit of apprehension, as it wasn’t being welcomed enthusiastically by Carioca society. The Botafogo rowing club already existed and their rowers would often pass in front of Flamengo beach, catching the attention of the young women there. This was a ‘call to arms’ for a group of young men from Flamengo, not wanting the Botafogo boys to steal ‘their’ women, to start their own club.

The new group now had their first challenge: how to get a boat. They decided to all chip in some money (400 mil réis) and invest in an old lifeboat with 5 paddles, which was sitting in front of a beach house in Flamengo for quite some time. The second step was to restore it completely, since it was far from new. They took it by trolley to the then beach of Maria Angu, known as Ramos beach today, so a local trapper would fix it up for 250 mil réis.

On October 6th of 1895, the boat was baptized by the group as the Pherusa (from Greek mythology, meaning ‘she who carries’ and associated with the power of the ocean) and launched into the sea. They left in the afternoon from Caju, downtown, with Flamengo as their destination but soon after a strong wind knocked them all over. As they fought against drowning, one of the team went for help on the coast and eventually returned with a barge that had passengers coming from Penha church (in my recent post on Penha, I mentioned the celebrations occur in October). The whole story came out in the newspaper Commercio the next day and the club was born under an aura of heroism and triumph.

The initial design of the club shirts was made up of blue and gold horizontal stripes, however, in 1896, it was changed to the famous red and black everyone knows today. The reason for the change is that the original material, which came from England, was hard to source and would fade and come apart due to the Brazilian sun and salinity of the sea. In the pictures below, from 1924, one can see what the striped shirt evolved into.


Even though the club’s sport was rowing, on October 25th of 1903, before the Flamengo soccer club was founded, the Flamengo rowers got together with their Botafogo colleagues for a friendly soccer match (Botafogo won, 5-1).

As for a quick timeline, here it is:

1889 – Brazil is proclaimed a Republic
1895 – Grupo de Regatas do Flamengo was formed
1898 – They won their first title
1902 – They became an official club – Clube de Regatas do Flamengo
1911 – The soccer team was founded
1914 – Flamengo soccer team won their first title

By the way, rowing never disappeared from Rio’s waters (proof)

Starting in 1902, soccer started to become as popular as rowing. Being as such, members of the Flamengo club started joining Fluminense club to keep up with the soccer happenings, while those from the Laranjeiras club would come to Flamengo to watch the rowing. Alberto Borgerth was a prime example, since in the mornings he’d row for Fla and in the evenings play for Fluminense.

In 1911, there was an internal misunderstanding at Fluminense. Some of the players talked about changing clubs, while others even thought of giving up soccer. That’s when Alberto Borgerth, one of the Fluminense players, made a proposal to create a soccer team in Flamengo, where there was already rowing. The idea was approved in November and the Departamento de Esportes Terrestres rubo-negro was created.

The new team drew the puplic’s attention and took their first steps to becoming enormously popular, training on the Praia do Russel (where Hotel Glória is). On May 3rd of 1912, the first Flamengo game took place: a huge victory of 15 x 2 over Mangueira. Below is a picture of the team in 1912, after another match. Their jerseys are different-looking because the rowing club didn’t allow them to wear the same uniform (something that changed by 1917, as can be seen in the second picture below).


Sources: Wikipedia, ESPN FC, Revista da Semana, (I translated directly)