Praia do Flamengo wall

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Above is an “instantâneo” from February 2nd, 1924 on Flamengo beach (with its famous paredão). Below, I’ve dated the wall through archived images. Why write about the wall in the first place? It’s always captured my attention due to the lack of such big walls at any of Rio’s beaches today, not to mention the now-lost sensation of crossing a street and immediately being at the beach, within a few steps of the water.

Through my research, I’m able to see that the paredão existed in this form in 1914 photos as well as in images taken as far as the 1930s and 1940s (but with a high wall and with a more crowded beach). There is an image I found from 1916 where the wall is also really high, so I’m guessing the sand bank got eroded at different times. By 1958, the beach had a larger area of sand.

From previous knowledge and what I can gather, the wall itself was created by the Pereira Passos government around 1906, and by 1961, it had been removed due to the Aterro project in 1965. Somewhere in between, it was seemingly calm and quaint (baring ressacas, as seen here in 1915).

By the way, notice the useful but dangerous hooks in the wall for hanging clothes, and see here how they used to advertise products and services.

Soccer Fans – 1916

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In one of the November 1916 editions of Careta, I saw the curious way fans were watching a game at Flamengo’s club – by standing on benches (stadiums weren’t yet the norm, as can also be seen in this match from 1923). It was with this image I also found an interview with a die-hard fan.


It’s 7 at night. On Rua Guanabara [1], talking about the sports that dominate Rio de Janeiro, the author of these lines and one of the most corageous Carioca rowers pass by.

At the gate of the Fluminense Foot-ball Club, together is a group of elegant, charming ladies speaking and smiling, attracting the attention of the passers-by.

The rower says:

– Just so you see how sports seizes the hearts of beautiful Carioca women, I am going to do, for you, a quick interview with the most intelligent of these women. They approach us. After introductions, solemn like someone who wears an overcoat to see Venceslau Braz (the president), we immediately start asking questions, receiving the following answers:

– What is the main trait of your character, miss?
– To be a big Fluminense fan.

– What is your dominating passion?
– Foot-ball.

– What qualities do you prefer in a man?
– Sportive ones.

– And in a woman?
– To be a big fan of her team.

– And your main quality?
– To be partisan.

– And your main defect?
– To be the adversary of the team that opposes mine.

– How do you want to die?
– For Fluminense, on a day they win.


The actual interview is longer than this but it’s telling of how quickly soccer caught on in Brazil among both sexes, only a few years after the first teams came about.

Flamengo High-Life

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  1. Timid swimmers who don’t let go of the bouys and don’t explore.
    2. Audacious swimmers, whose intrepidness shames and fascinates the timid ones.
    3. Praia do Flamengo, in a spot called High-Life, where the streets Payasandú and Barão do Flamengo meet.

“In Flamengo, on the beach where [the two streets mentioned above meet] and where the charming women of Laranjeiras, Catete and Botafogo often visit, there’s a sordid mansion, of the most venerable antiquity, in whose soiled frontispiece the passage of time magnanimously erases the tremendous irony painted there in large letters – High-Life.” [1911]

…..

“Early in the morning, Catete has the spectacular amusement of sea baths. At the unembellished beach called High-Life, every morning a lively bunch of people bathe there. Kids, girls and women from the high society, the pretty boys from the rowing clubs, and all castes of men dip their bodies in those calm waters. Along the walls of the wharf there’s another group: those that don’t swim, made up of women that accompany the swimmers of their own sex and of men who go there to think about the beautiful swimmers. These ones, in truth, are worthy of being seen, and some of them feel a certain pleasure in being thought about and to excite the inocent curiousity of the thinkers they adopt these ingenuous pants that leave their legs nude, from the knee down.” [1912]

…..

Here’s an additional mention of High-Life, from 1913, only it starts with a run-on sentence I found hard to parse for translation.

High Life 3

Also, on the Facebook page Rio que foi notícia e virou história [1], I found a little bit more information regarding High-Life. The place definitely existed prior to these 1910-1913 references I’ve provided, as evidenced from an “Administrative, Merchantile and Industrial Almanac” from 1904, which lists it as an actual establishment, not just a beach.

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Such information coincides with mentions I’ve come across of the Hotel Central taking up High-Life’s location in 1915 – all of which tells me the area of the beach took the name of the closest establishment to it.

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.

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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).

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Sources: Wikipedia, ESPN FC, Revista da Semana, Flamengo.com.br (I translated directly)