Places to date in Rio – 1951

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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].

Igreja da Penha origins

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While there are several origin stories that reference more miracles than reality, the official story is of Captain Baltazar de Abreu Cardoso, a Portuguese landowner, who would climb the hill to better see his plantations in Irajá. While doing this one day, he was surprised by a huge snake. Upon invoking the Virgin Mary out loud, a lizard appeared and attacked the snake. Thankful for the intervention, he built a chapel there where he featured the Virgin Mary. The Captain’s relatives, friends and neighbors, seeing the chapel from below, would climb up to see it in person. People soon went from saying “let’s visit the Virgin Mary at Penha” to “let’s visit the Virgin Mary of Penha”, as they still do today. As for the chapel, it was donated and rebuilt in 1728, and then again, in 1870 which, aside from some additions and remodeling, is what one sees today.

In Portuguese, a cragg or cliff is called a penhasco (unlikely where the name Penha comes from). More likely, it comes from Spain, more specifically Our Lady of Peñafrancia in Salamanca (related to the Virgin Mary), which became Penha da França in Portugal and thus the name was carried to Brazil.

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The church in 1909, back when people also had picnics there in October

There are 382 steps in all, with the original 365 steps dug out of the rock through the initiative of a couple that received an “act of grace” in 1819. As the story goes, they had climbed up to the chapel two years prior and asked the Virgin Mary for a child, and soon after their prayers were answered.

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Traditionally, October is the month to pay tribute to Nossa Senhora da Penha, as can be seen in the image above from 1950. All four Sundays of the month, the church would attract both the joyous and the unfortunate souls since some went to thank the Virgin Mary while others – those in need of miracles – went to ask favours of her. Many of the latter would climb the steps either shoeless, or on their knees, as a sign of devotion (and as thanks for a sucessful deal made with God – the famous “pagar promessa“). By the 1940s and 50s, the Festa da Penha, as the celebrations were called, became an opportunity for beggars and businessmen to make a dime from all the pilgrims.

I originally just wanted to tell the origin story but if I don’t stop here, I’m going to continue researching until there’s nothing left!

Source 1 & 2 (PT)

Creation of Penha – 1927

Construção da Penha - Apr 1927(uma bella rua já construida onde se vê a encantadora Igreja da Penha)

This cool picture (click to enlarge) was found in the April 9th 1927 edition of RdS, under an article called “A Solução do Problema da Habitação: As Obras da Cia. Brasileira de Terrenos na Penha” (The Solution to the Housing Problem: Construction by the Brazilian Land Company in Penha). The company was working on 700k square meters of land, divided up into 1,500 lots, building 500 “hygenic” houses to be sold in installments.

I tried to find what street this is today but had some difficulty. Given the angle, I’d venture to say it’s Estrada José Rucas that connects with Av. Nossa Senhora da Penha. Edit: I found a reference stating it’s actually Rua Maçapuri.