“An emblematic piece of Tijuca celebrated 100 years in 2011. A natural junction of the main thoroughfares of the neighborhood, a place of abundant commerce and, as people say there, “close to everything”, Praça Saens Peña was opened to the public on April 30, 1911, a Sunday, with pomp, circumstance and band in the gazebo. Since then, it has seen its heyday, its decadence and, in recent times, its recovery. One of its best known spots, Casa Granado was replaced by a common pharmacy in the beautiful building on the corner of Rua Conde de Bonfim. Also lost in the past is the glamor of Cine Metro, transformed into a clothing store, and the Olinda, with its 3,500-seat hall, considered the largest in Latin America, was demolished in the 1970s. Battered by subway works for almost two decades , The plaza acquired railing to prevent the homeless from making their permanent abode on the benches. But none of this is a reason to lament among Tijuca residents. Friendly retirees maintain their card games under the shade of the kiosks, a few meters from a Military Police cabin. Mornings are filled with oriental exercises. The handicraft fair stirs up the environment on the weekends and illegal street vendors are shunned by the police. A reflection of the growth, the changes in Praça Saens Peña are faced naturally by the majority of the residents. “It’s part of the dynamics of a big city, as long as growth is done with at least a small amount of planning,” says Marcos Amorim, a history professor in the state education system.
With the same territory as in the era of the Amerindians and the Jesuits, a little more than 1,000 hectares, the neighborhood has much more flexible borders when taking into account the criteria of residents who moved there by choice or the newspapers’ classified section. Some bordering blocks of Rio Comprido are now part of Tijuca – and no one disputes it. Some of Andaraí’s streets and buildings also took sides with the neighboring Tijuca, which is more famous and highly-valued, for reasons of real estate evaluations. And areas like Aldeia Camperista, scenery of Nelson Rodrigues’ plays, simply disappeared from the official map (it still exists). It all became a single entity with the high demand for housing and commercial spots like never before.
There are those who want to be Tijuca because of the tradition it holds. Others choose it because of the location (it’s right next to downtown). And today many people choose to live in the region in the face of a greater sense of security, a result of the action of the Peacekeeping Police Units (UPPs), implanted in their largest favelas. But hardly anyone would like to call themselves Tijucan based only on what the name of the place means. The word, of indigenous origin, means rotten water. It emerged to designate an area located 20 kilometers from its current core, the marshes of Barra. In the 18th century, the denomination was adopted on the ground where the pulsating center of the neighborhood is located today. The official year of its foundation was 1759, when the priests of the Society of Jesus were expelled from the lands, by determination of the Portuguese crown.
A lot of coffee would be planted there, in the fertile and mild climate. Sugar mills were erected all over the region. Defined as “rural” until the 19th century, it was once famous as a summer resort, mainly on the slopes of the forest park. Rugendas painted his pleasant landscapes there in the 1870s. It was in the midst of his views and farms that Machado de Assis set the honeymoon of Capitu and Bentinho in his book Dom Casmurro and the retreat of the main character of Memórias Póstumas de Brás Cubas after his mother’s death. A pioneer, the neighborhood received the first trams in the country – still pulled by donkeys -, and came to be called the “second Cinelandia”at the end of the first half of the 20th century and was the birthplace of a handful of celebrities who were born within their borders.
Not everything was glorious. With progress, came the swell of people, the chaotic traffic and, from the 60’s, an accelerated process of favela and urban violence. At over 250 years old, Tijuca can take pride in its past, rethink the present and keep an eye on the future.”
– Source (PT)
PS – Here’s a great modern overview of Saens Pena, from the Like Tijuca FB page.