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.

Places to date in Rio – 1951



I came across a January 1950 article about “Pontos de namoro no Rio de Janeiro” (Places to date in Rio), and although it isn’t entirely focused on Rio, I thought I’d extract the interesting parts, which I’ll attempt to expand upon. The word “date” here refers more to making out and/or being affectionate.

In the section on how to date in secret,

Right after the Radio Patrol (emergency police patrol, circa 1948) showed up, it wasn’t possible anymore to even hold someone’s hand without running the risk of being arrested.

In the section on the best dating spots,

Dating in a small city is one thing; in a big one, it’s another. The guys in Rio know this. Here, love is distributed, according to the social condition of the couple, via cinemas, public transport, beaches and streets. But dating on the street is the most important. In the opinion of those in-the-know, the adequate quintessential neighborhood for honest dating is Botafogo. […] the neighborhood, once called aristocratic, was always said to be a great place for love. Its streets lined with old houses and trees, at night, allow for conveniently dark areas on certain walls, and these, naturally, become full of couples. They are decent, calm and poetic places. Showing themselves useful, at times, due to shadows that extend for about five meters, perfectly fit for five couples. Those who pass by hear nothing. They seem mute. The most one can see are mouths that are glued together. The neighbors never call the Radio Patrol, which apparently no longer deals with this kind of thing.

It seems that the best dating spots in Rio are varied. Meier, when speaking of the suburbs, comes in first as the most preferred. To date in Meier is good, even if he and she come from different (train) stations. The streets there are calm, remote and full of dark spots. Not all stations have this. Madureira, for example, isn’t good for dating. The streets are without vegetation and are dangerous – there are bad people there who attack couples.

But this is from one side of the suburbs, from the other, the most credentialed is Penha, where the streets are duly calm. Couples from several of Leopoldina’s stations make it their meeting place.

Dating in Copacabana is always unattractive. In truth, couples from Copacabana kiss unabashedly. No one really cares. [There’s a part that’s hard to read, but that’s the end].

Pasmado Hill – Making room for the rich


The Pasmado Tunnel connects Botafogo with Copacabana and Urca, passing through Pasmado hill. Construction started in 1947 and ended in 1952. The city, at the time, had horrible transit problems due to a surge in car ownership, which resulted in traffic congestion and accidents. The Lacerda government decided to relieve some of the pressure by making the tunnel. What ended up shortening travel time for those with enough money also meant increasing travel time for those with no money.

Following the opening of the tunnel, a small slum on top of the hill, known as the Favela do Pasmado, began to really grow in size, but by early 1964 it was removed and the space would be turned into a park and lookout point (which still exists).

Once the forced removal was complete (see images below), firefighters lit a controlled fire to burn any semblance of what existed before (a “purification by fire”, if you will). In total, 3,900 residents – or 887 families – were forced out and moved to the “projects”, mostly to Bangu. What was promised to them by the government, as incentive to accept the move, hadn’t become reality in October of ’64, as can be seen in this image saying they merely went from one favela to another.

Keep in mind, the post-removal fire is the opposite of what happened a few years later at Praia do Pinto in Leblon, which first was burned to the ground, then the residents were removed.

Screen Shot 2016-08-17 at 5.46.18 PM


If you’re interested in a good academic read on this favela removal, go here (PT). For the general wave of removals that happened in the 60s, there’s a promising 2013 documentary called Remoção out there but it doesn’t seem like it’ll be released publicly at any point. Below is the trailer.

The Pasmado tunnel, by the way, is also famous for a 1968 film starring singer Roberto Carlos, in which he passes through in a small helicopter.

Back when Botafogo had ferries


Botafogo beach around 1840 or 1850, by Iluchar Desmons

In the 18th century, getting to Botafogo was done by sea, via several popular sail & rowboat routes established between Valongo and Botafogo. In 1843, the first company of steam boats was inaugurated for service between Botafogo and Saco do Alferes (Gamboa). A few years prior, a sea wall and a quay were built along the coastline of Botafogo beach, which made for easier docking and protection against rough tide.

In February of 1844, another route from Botafogo to Cajú was established, with a stop at the Saco do Alferes, when the two sailboats – named “Alegria dos Amigos” and “Flor da Inveja” – used until then on this route, were substituted for steamboats.


In proportion to the ongoing development of Botafogo as well as the popularity of therapeutic “sea baths“, this type of “bonde marítimo” (maritime trolley) became more and more lucrative and thus other companies started ferry routes from the four existing boarding points on the beach: in front of streets São Clemente, Marquês de Olinda, Marquês de Abrantes and next to the Morro da Viúva.

Screen Shot 2016-02-10 at 8.34.56 PM

Map of the Botanical Garden company’s trolley routes, 1870

Meanwhile, maritime transportation decreased considerably after the appearance of the “Botanical Garden” trolleys in late 1868, thus the ferries were only really used on Sundays and holidays. Even the interesting floating boats, used by seabathers that didn’t want to bathe on the beach itself, disappeared by the early 1870s. As the trolley service and the road quality improved over the years, Rio’s ferry service companies began to focus exclusively on service to Niterói and Paquetá.

Having lived in Niterói and taken the ferry across many times, I would have really enjoyed a more maritime Rio de Janeiro with a few strategic stations from downtown to the Zona Sul and Zona Oeste, unless, of course, it’d have progressed like the city’s metro!

Botafogo’s Moorish Pavillion – 1910


Moorish Pavillion / Pavilhão do Mourisco – 1910
(w/ the Botafogo Rowing Club Pavillion in the backround, along the water)

The Pavillion was planned by the architect Alfredo Burnier during the Perreira Passos government as an end marker of the Avenida Beira-Mar but it was built during the Souza Aguiar administration, from 1906 to 1909. The Pavillion was actually destined to become a music hall, but it never ended up as such, rather it became a tea room, restaurant and cafe. Its construction was quite remarkable, with its five golden domes, and it quickly went from being a simple building to being a placename.

One might wonder why build something Moorish in what was a chic Zona Sul neighborhood. Well, during the Passos era, there was a push to leave certain architectual aspects (colonial, Luso-Brazilian) in the past and to look towards Europe (Iberia, in particular) for inspiration, where neo-Moorish architecture was popular. Above the main entrance, they even placed the words “Café Cantante” (lit. Singing Cafe, also the name for flamenco clubs in southern Spain) written in Arabic. By the way, here’s a 3D model of the building.

(The Pavillion wasn’t the only neo-Moorish construction in Rio at the time, there was also the castle at the Oswaldo Cruz Institute in Manguinhos, and the Basilica of the Immaculate Heart in Meier.)

From 1934, it housed the Biblioteca Infantil (Children’s Library), managed by poet Cecília Meireles. In her hands it transformed into a cultural center for children, as it went beyond the objectives of a simple library because it brang together other activities such as films, music, maps, games, etc. The enterprise was very original because, at the time, libraries didn’t allow the presence of unaccompanied children. The Mourisco’s Children’s Library didn’t just allow children there, rather it incentivized them to visit. The library was closed in 1937 by the Estado Novo. The building later served as a tax collection office and then it was demolished in 1952, in order to build the Pasmado Tunnel. The name, however, survived and the area near the tunnel is still called Mourisco by some.

Click to see what exists in its place…(the Centro Empresarial Mourisco, built in the 90s)



praiadebotafogo1926(Another child clothed by the Pavillion)

Manequinho is the popular name of a statue of a boy urinating, in front of the Botafogo Soccer and Rowing Club. In 2002, the statue was declared part of Rio’s heritage.

In the Pavillion’s early years, many charity events were hosted by the city’s most elegant women, who would raise money for at-risk children (likely what is being referenced in the picture above), as evidenced at a 1914 charity tea session (here, 1, 2, and 3). Seeing as the Manequinho was transferred from downtown Rio to a place near the Pavillion in 1927, I’d guess the sign and clothes were put there between ’27 and ’34, before the building became a children’s library. Another possibility is that the word Ouvidor at the bottom means the statue was still downtown. Decades later, the statue would be redressed for another purpose.

Manequinho+1957In 1957, when Botafogo won the Carioca Championship of soccer, someone dressed the little man in a Botafogo jersey (news clip), making it a symbol of the neighborhood from then on. Unfortunately, since that time, it has been stolen, destroyed, remade, vandalized, and repaired…but it still stands.