General Osório Market – 1913


General Osório Square market – 8AM

It’s well known that Ipanema is home to a square with the name General Osório but back in 1913, there was another public square in downtown Rio which had this name first. Meaning there weren’t two squares with the same name at the same time. The Ipanema location was called Praça Marechal Floriano Peixoto back in 1913, only being renamed General Osório in 1922.

As it existed in the photos shown here, it served as an open-air vegetable and bird market.


The downtown General Osório went by different names at different times, starting with Largo da Forca (where public hangings took place) and Largo do Capim (where Angola grass was sold), before becoming General Osório, and later being destroyed to make room for the opening of Av. Presidente Vargas.


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.


The Story of Samba’s Praça XI


Note: The following is almost entirely translated (by myself) from Wikipedia, partly due to Brazil’s National Library online archives being temporarily unavailable.


Praça Onze (Plaza Eleven) is a sub-region of downtown Rio, whose name was inherited from the old plaza that once existed there. The original Praça 11 de Junho (the date of the Battle of Riachuelo) existed for more than 150 years prior to its destruction in the 1940s. Initially called Largo do Rocio Pequeno (Little Rocio Square), it became in the first decades of the 19th century one of the most cosmopolitan places of the then Federal Capital, upon housing families of recently arrived immigrants. The most popular ethnicities around Praça Onze were blacks (mostly from Bahia), followed by Jews from several origins. Portuguese, Spanish and Italians were also numerous.

Preceding Events

The region where Praça 11 de Junho would later exist was uninhabited by the end of the 18th century, being that the land was inadequate for farming and building due to marshes. It was only after the arrival of the Portuguese Royal Family in Rio and their installation at the São Cristóvão Palace that the first access roads towards that area were built. In 1810, by order of King Dom João VI, Cidade Nova was created, which went from Campo de Santana to São Cristóvão. With rectilinear streets and extensive lots, it looked very different from downtown, overflowing with houses and narrow lots. At the same moment, the king created a plaza where the Mangue de São Diogo started: Largo do Rocio Pequeno.

Why Pequeno? Largo do Rocio Grande was already taken. Today, it’s Praça Tiradentes

Despite being the only commercial plaza in Cidade Nova, Rocio Pequeno continued almost deserted. It was only in 1842, during the second reign that the location began to receive attention from the city authorities. A cobblestone fountain, in neoclassical style, designed by Grandjean de Montigny, was installed in the middle of the square, serving as water supply for the surrounding homes and establishments .

In 1854, with the construction and inauguration of the Fábrica de Gás (Gas Factory), the Viscount of Mauá saw the need for canalizing the mangrove, sanitizing the road towards the Guanabara Bay, as well as allowing for a waterway connecting the suburb to downtown. In 1858, Mauá inaugurated the Estrada de Ferro Dom Pedro II (Railway), which cut through Cidade Nova, connecting it to several suburbs and to the provincial inland area.

With the emergence of the Paraguayan War, a wave of nationalism took hold of the empire. With the Brazilian victory at the Riachuelo Battle, the Largo do Rocio Pequeno was rebaptized with the date of the confrontation. It was also at this time, with the decline of the slave system, that Praça 11 de Junho started to be a good destination for immigrants, due to the proximity with the port and the varied types of commerce.

African Culture


With Abolition, large masses of ex-slaves settled in the precarious “casas de cômodos” (single-room shacks) that abounded on streets adjecent to the Praça 11 de Junho. Soon, with space running out, these same blacks began to inhabit improvised huts on the sides of hills. One of these headlands near Praça 11 de Junho was baptized as Morro da Favela by soldiers returning from the Canudos War and resulted in contemporary international denomination of miserable urban clusters.

At the start of the 20th century, Praça 11 de Junho was the quintissential meeting point of Rio’s black residents. From batucadas brought by black Bahians, mixed with Rio’s lundu, samba was born. Scholars and contemporaries of those times are unanimous in pointing out the importance of the mythic “Casa da Tia Ciata” (119 Rua Visconde de Itaúna, pictured above before being demolished) for this cultural synthesis. Tia Ciata was a Bahian woman that moved to Rio and who undertook the profession of confectioner. Thus her house was famous in the plaza, and was transformed into a meeting place for musicians and residents. There, the rhythm of samba began to take shape.

Tia Ciata’s home was the main place where the community played music and african rhythms, from which historical sambas and talented composers came. In 1926, due to police persecution, some local composers founded a “samba school”, a euphemistic name for a recreational association that, in truth, was not educational in nature. The first was “Deixa Falar“, whose divisions, years later, would result in several other schools, such as Estácio de Sá, Mangueira and Portela. In 1933, mayor Pedro Ernesto organized the first offical samba school parade in Praça 11 de Junho, which Mangueira would win. The parades became an annual occurrence, with a huge public influx.

Jewish Neighborhood

Praça 11 de Junho also brang together the largest Jewish concentration in the city’s history. Jewish immigrants choose Praça 11 since the configuration of houses in the region, with space for stores and residences above them, was perfect for commerce. Hundreds of Jewish establishments, as well as clubs, political societies and sinagogues settled in the area, giving Praça 11 the appearance of a European village. [book]

The Shrinking of Praça 11


In the 1930s, the government of the Federal District planned modernization works in the region, which included the construction of a new public transportation artery to improve access to the North Zone from downtown (and plans were drawn up, but thankfully never acted upon, to further modernize the area). With it, Praça 11 was notably reduced. Through the project, the blocks between Senador Eusébio and Visconde de Itaúna streets would be demolished to make way for the new Presidente Vargas Avenue (see before & after above). In 1941, the demolitions began, which dislodged hundreds of families and destroyed 525 buildings, among them some historic ones, such as the São Pedro dos Clérgios and São Joaquim churches.

Below is an image from late 1945 of an almost unrecognizable Praça Onze at the bottom and a view of the Canal do Mangue.


Cultural References

Herivelton Martins & Grande Otelo – Praça 11

Chico Anysio & João Roberto Kelly – Rancho da Praça XI

Quatro Ases e Um Curinga – O Samba não morre (can’t find a link)

I also recommend reading through Daniella Thompson’s archives on Praça XI, focusing on music related to the location, which I sadly only discovered after completion of this post.

Present Day

Swallowed up by President Vargas Avenue, Praça 11 shrank in size, becoming a place for regular presentations for circus shows. In the 1970s, the Praça Onze metro station was inaugurated. Between 1983 and 1986, the State government of Leonel Brizola tried to transform the location into a legal spot for street vendors, but the project didn’t happen due to the distance in relation to downtown. The Zumbi dos Palmares monument currently there is located on a piece of land that was part of the old Praça 11. Nowadays, the plaza houses a space for popular music shows, called Terreirão do Samba. The Jewish presence remains near the plaza, in the traditional commercial region called SAARA.

Life of a female factory worker – 1941

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In a 1941 edition of Revista da Semana, I discovered a slice of life piece on Rio’s female factory workers, which includes a short interview with one such lady. At the bottom, one can find the original. 

Between six and seven in the morning the trams arrive full into the city and the factory neighborhoods. The trains from Central Station pass by quickly, and on them thousands and thousands of people travel standing up, due to the accumulation of people who wish to get to work on time. In both primary and secondary means of transport, there are large numbers of young, Carioca female factory workers.

Early on, not long after having left behind the cheerful days of infancy and schooling, these young women start to intensely experience the fight for life, to earn one’s daily bread with the sweat of one’s own face. They aren’t familiar with the ease of life nor with the laziness of days spent reading a novel or relaxing during a walk in the forest. Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and the rest of the working week are all the same for them. They leave home in a hurry, get on the tram or train, traveling almost always in discomfort and they go to the stores, the offices, the factories or to the sweet shops. They are always waiting for their Prince Charming, of the Delly or Ardel type, who never comes.

The woman today works all over. This is one of the biggest contemporary realities. The Revista da Semana wanted to focus on a quick story about the life of one of these factory workers in Rio de Janeiro. It isn’t the kind of life that differs from the others, on the contrary. It also has its bitterness and its distractions, its sadness and its happiness. And there’s a good matinee at the Encantado or Madureira cinema, in which one can see Henri Garat or Dorothy Lamour. And one day the definitive boyfriend comes along. It isn’t the Prince Charming conjured up in the calming romance novels, but rather a work colleague, a flatmate, or the brother of a female friend.

At last, this is how life is. Dreams only exist because they don’t come true, otherwise they wouldn’t be dreams.

The female characteristic which one can most easily find in the working woman is vanity. They all get dolled up, carefully brushing their hair, looking just right, never forgetting a woman’s common chores. That’s why we said just prior — the young women who work are just like other young women.

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Norma works in one of the hundreds of factories in Rio, one of the thousands of factories in Brazil.

RS – What kind of things do you like to read, Norma?

N – Romance novels and newspapers made for young people. I don’t know anything about war, I never did, nor do I want to. Besides, Yugoslavia is a difficult word and I don’t even know where Greece is. In terms of newspapers, I only like those that have stories about Zé Mulambo or Tarzan.

RS – Do you like to live in the suburbs?

N – No, and I still have yet to meet any young woman that likes living in the suburbs. It seems like romance novelists and poets go around complimenting the suburbian girl, but we would prefer to be from other places and not get those compliments. Though with the guys it’s different. Most of them really like the suburbs.

RS – And the movies, Norma?

N – Movies are the most wonderful thing in the world. We love movies above all else that exists. A lot of people would commit suicide if there were no more movies. Circuses are also good because of the orchestra at the front before the show starts.

RS – Do you date?

N – No. We talk a lot and once in a while with different guys, but we don’t date. Dating, for us, is very dangerous.

RS – Have you been to Corcovado, Sugarloaf, Copacabana or Santa Tereza?

N – No, no, no and no.

RS – And Paquetá?

N – Yes! Lots of times, for delicious picnics. Oh, how it’s nice!

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This quick talk happened at the Encantado station, while waiting for a train to arrive. All of a sudden, a tram appeared. Norma and her colleagues didn’t get on at the wagon in front of us, but they ran down to get in another that was further back.

RS – Why didn’t you get on the other, Norma?

N – Because we bought second-class tickets.

One of the girls who was in her company said, sadly, “We’re poor travel companions, aren’t we?”

For the first time we were melancholic, as those women thought that traveling second-class was a huge difference and that we took ‘notice’ of the fact. We could give them philosophic lessons to prove that these external things aren’t important. But what better response is there than the palpitable truth?

RS – Well, girls. We, too, are traveling in second-class!

10-05-41 P1                        10-05-41 P2

Santa Luzia – 1910

Careta 1910 - e84

(click to enlarge)

An interesting set of photos, especially the bottom one with people hanging from ropes,  at the old Santa Luzia beach (located between today’s Santos Dumont airport and Praça XV). In 1905, the Passos reform mandated a ‘garage’ for row boats to be built there, taking away a little of its shine. In 1922, with the destruction of the Castelo hill, the beach was again altered but one could still swim there. By the 30s, work began on Santos Dumont and the beach was no more.


The reason people are hanging from ropes, I believe, is due to it possibly not being shallow enough and because there was apparently a wall between them and land, as can be seen just above, in an image from the Cidade Esportiva blog. The beach, as can be seen, was next to the chruch of the same name. Here’s an additional photo from a little further down the coast, also from 1910. And, of course, prior to the 1900s, it looked a lot better.