Builders of the City – 1921

Screen Shot 2015-06-22 at 9.57.58 AM

May 28, 1921

The announcement that the city government plans to excavate the Morro do Castelo to make an artificial inlet in Glória provoked a wave of protests, as violent as the undertow, the irreconcilable enemy of the wonderful Beira Mar. The city ordinance to earmark a violently conquered space to the Guanabara Bay was of no use as a mitigating crime of counter-aesthetics : an idea that seemed extravagant in a city that possesses a backdrop of forests and mountains, a huge natural park in comparison to the panoramas of the man-made gardens that are deplorably modest. A city friend, more exalted by anger in the face of a sacrilegious attempt, reduced his indignation to a rigorous maxim, exclaiming: Na bahia não se toca! (One doesn’t mess with the Bay!)

What weighs on a friend of the Guanabara Bay, the truth is that Rio de Janeiro wouldn’t exist if the prohibition of messing with it were a law since the times of Mem de Sá. One can say that the entire lower part of Brazil’s capital is an achievement of our ancestors over mangroves, grottos, swamps, lakes and marshes that covered, 400 years ago, the city where automobiles pass by today.

When the third governor of Brazil, anchoring in the bay in January of 1567, disembarked in the fortified village that the heroic Estácio, his nephew, built between the cliffs of Sugarloaf and the São João hill, he soon thought the hostile cradle and future capital of Brazil should be transported in the laps of the warriors to the hill, initially denominated as São Sebastião, which would be its throne, capital and reliquary for thee and a half centuries.

On the hill overlooking the Coligny fort, the bronze cannons, transported from the ships to the barbarian seafront, stucco fort, dominated the valleys and commanded the bay.

After his valiant nephew was buried, Mem de Sá started the construction of the city at the Piasaba port, near the Santiago stronghold, where the Misericordia church is today. Via the hill’s slope, the first steep and venerable street of the city of S. Sebastião began.

From the top, the navy, the soldiers and the indians, allies of Ararygboia, dug the fort’s canals, from parochial [], from the residence of the Government and the Parliament, walling the citadel with strong [pelissadas?].

Soon, however, the population felt that the mountain was small for them. Protected by the fort, they started going down the mountain side. Then man’s fight with the water started. At the foot of the hill, an extensive water-filled valley stretched out, which had to be dried out and landfilled. The colonizers and populators had to conquer, palm tree to palm tree, the lands of Rio de Janeiro. There still weren’t any aesthetic champions to defend Guanabara from the sacrilege of the landfills. From a salt water marsh, the inhabitants of S. Sebastião made a city. It was on the first conquered lands near the water that the streets and the maze of alleyways of Misericórdia aligned themselves – currently being demolished – and later Direita do Paço and do Cotovello streets. These formidable ancestors, who didn’t have dredgers nor automotive vehicles to excavate, managed to build, at the spot where they found mud and grottos, the Carmo convent and the S. José church.

They made a nation so that we today could create nationalism.

Among the hills of S. Sebastião (Castello), Carmo (Santo Antonio), Manoel de Brito (S. Bento), Paulo Caieiro (Formiga), Santa Thereza (do Pinto), da Lagoinha (Paula Mattos), Pedro Dias (do Senado) and Desterro (Santa Thereza), a plain of marsh and mangroves stretched out. In the spot where today are the Largo da Carioca and adjacent streets, was the Santo Antonio lagoon. Arcos street was opened on the Pedro Dias swamp. The current street Riachuelo was a trail that gave way from the Desterro to the Sentinella lagoon. Next to the Ajuda convent was the marshy Boqueirão lagoon, that was landfilled by order of the viceroy D. Luiz de Vasconcellos with land from the knoll of the Mangueiras ranch (today’s Largo da Lapa) for construction of the Passeio Público. Viólas street (today Theophilo Ottoni) and all the surrounding opening of streets were marshes fed by the tide. When, in 1600, Antonio Martins Palma and his wife D. Leonor Gonçalves started to build the first church at Candelaria, in fulfilment of vows, the bay waters reached the spot where Primeiro de Março street now is. All the large valleys from Gávea to Engenho Novo were marshes and sandbanks. In the current Largo do Machado was the Carioca lagoon.

Compared with these tenacious builders, who needed to landfill soaked plains so that in them they could improvise a city, government projects seem like simple engineering toys. Mr. Carlos Sampaio intending to landfill the Glória inlet, could invoke the cyclopic public works of those that came before as justification of his desires. Since the foundation of the city man has fought with Guanabara, ripping out land to build churches and houses. And the fight will continue, without truces.

Our grandchildren will see, possibly, avenue Rio Branco extended til Villegaignon. The Passos, the Frontins and the Carlos Sampaios of the future will continue being like our ancestors, destroyers of hills, drainers of lagoons, landfillers of mangroves, conquerors of Guanabara.

To this conclusion one arrives examining any city plan and considering that, based on its geographic situation, by the ampleness of its port and by its demographic conditions, already impossible to correct, Rio de Janeiro will represent in Brazil the corresponding function of New York to the United States. The removal of the capital to the Goias plateau will be imperceptably influential in the solution to the extremely enormous problem that future generations will be faced with. Rio de Janeiro will be, in less than a century, a city with 3 million inhabitants and to accommodate this population and create the conditions in which it can exercise its activities, in accordance with the categorical imperatives of space and time, it’ll be necessary to impose a sacrifice of much of its natural beauty which we defend today, to landfill considerable areas of the liquid plains of Guanabara, to enlarge the scanty valley, still pregnant with knolls and hills.

There would still be time for the city government to entrust the study of the problem of Rio’s transformations to a commission made up of more competent figures of national engineering, adding to this technical commission some architects and artists, and asking them to prepare a project together which would represent an agreement of authorized opinions. Otherwise the future will be sacrificed to mere momentaneous desires and the discussion around each partial project will be renewed.

I0000760-2Alt=002089Lar=001430LargOri=004794AltOri=007002

Carioca do anno 2000

A tale about how Cariocas will live in the year 2000 (RdS, Jan 15, 1927). Written by Saul de Navarro, pen name of Capixaba writer Álvaro Henrique Moreira de Souza.

Um conto sobre como os cariocas iam viver no ano 2000, escrito em 1927. Clique para aumentar.

B3Ifbqe

“Descendo de um aeromovel, que pousou, com elegancia de passaro, no terraço amplo, situado no 58º andar do Palace-Hotel da Tijuca, cuja floresta fôra convertida em parque nacional, Mme. Borboleta Simões dirigiu-se ao seu apartamento. O marido atual (já era o quinto do anno, pela extrema liberalidade do divorcio…) a esperava com a maior calma e paciencia, lendo a edição das 12 horas de O Jornal, emquanto ouvia, pelo relogio radio-phonico, um concerto, executado em Tokio, com programma de musicas classicas brasileiras: chôros e serestas de Villa-Lôbos.

Mme. Borboleta chegou lepida e risonha, tendo ainda a caricia do mar pelo banho que tomára, momentos antes, no grande balneario de Guaratiba, a praia favorita da elegancia carioca do seculo XXI. Depois de dar um beijo rapido no esposo amavel e displicente, entrou nos seus aposentos particulares, expedindo ordens ao pessoal encarregado de sua toilette. E logo após, deitada num largo divan de borracha, cujo ar comprimido fôra renovado pela simples apertura de um botão electrico, tirou a cabelleira postiça — uma bella peruca azul de pennugem de passaros do Amazonas — deixando a sua deliciosa calva á mostra…

Estava algo fatigada, porque tivera grande trabalho em salvar num movimento de piedade feminina, o seu 1º marido, que por um triz não morrera afogado quando se banhava naquella manhã esplendida de verão: tomou uma injecção de somnol e segundos depois estava adormecida serenamente. Era durante o seu repouso diario de duas horas (a sua noite de descanso) que se fazia a sua complicada toilette. O artista japonez Fu-Lito fazia-lhe, a nankim, o desenho subtil das sobrancelhas e a pintura de seu rosto, num requinte de maquillage. A manicura ia, ao mesmo tempo, tratando-lhe as unhas, emquanto a pedicura se entregava ao amanho dos pés pequenos e alvos.

Feito esse trabalho delicado e minudente, uma esponja, embebida em finas essencias, fazia a hygiene do corpo, que, estando enxuto, recebia então a veste da ultima moda; um decorador paulista estylizava nos seios, espaduas etc. motivos floraes, como si estivesse a traça paisagens na Lua…

O marido, o engenheiro Simões, billionario pela concessãõ das minas petroliferas de Alagoas, gastava mil cruzeiros nesse capricho diario, durante o qual, para matar o tempo. lia autores novecentistas — epigrammas de Ronald e poemas bravios de Catullo — quando não se deixava ficar nos braços de Morpheu — uma injecção de somnol, formula do saudoso e notavel Prof. Austregésilo, do seculo passado.

Mme. Borboleta levantou-se ás 14 horas, para ter tempo de ir á Camara, a fim de cumprir o seu dever civico de representante do Acre, principalmente porque era relatora do orçamento da Aviação. Olhou-se no espelho oblongo e ficou satisfeita com a sua toilette do dia: a pintura bizarra de seu vestido symbolico suppria, admiravelmente, a ausencia capillar em seu corpo hellenico á guisa de uma estatua dynamizada e maravilhosa.

Chegou ao parlamento justamente na hora da votação do seu orçamento, tendo ainda tempo de defender o augmento de alguns milhões de cruzeiros para novas linhas de communicação aérea e responder, com vantagem e logica, aos discursos da esquerda, composta de mulheres velhas e solteironas, ainda conservadoras e devotas do regimen republicano abolido, quando o Brasil se compunha apenas de 20 Estados federados e o Rio de Janeiro não era ainda a séde da grande feminocracia latina como capital da Republica Sul Americana e a maior potencia do mundo.

Os orçamentos foram votados numa sessão estafante de 30 minutos, pela obstrucção de alguns discursos das esquerdistas, que combatiam o deficit — mal chronico das finanças nacionaes — e profligavam as caudas orçamentarias.

Depois do sacrificio feito á Patria, por força de seu mandato, foi almoçar, com a leader da maioria Mme. Veiga, no restaurante de luxo mais proximo: o “Retiro”, em Petropolis, accessivel pelo vôo de alguns minutos, em omnibus aéreo, embora não o fosse a qualquer bolsa, pelo preço elevado…

O cardapio agradou ao appetite das duas damas influentes: ovos de andorinha, sumo de fructas e sorvetes do Polo Norte, servido por esquimaus trajados a rigor.

Depois do leve repasto, accenderam os cigarrilhos de fumo aromatico e tomaram algumas gotas de café, bebida de luxo vendida em dóses minimas, por effeito da valorisação iniciada um seculo antes…

Fazia-se ouvir um jazz de arapongas, grillos e cigarras…

— Vaes hoje ao chá dansante em Buenos Aires? — perguntou Mme. Veiga á sua graciosa companheira.

— Não sei ainda. Tenho um compromisso…politico para as vinte e duas horas em S. Paulo.

— Mas a festa promette ser optima. Não leste o programma publicado na 12.a edição do Radio-Jornal?

— Não.

— É um chá que vae ficar celebre: imagina tu que a presidenta da Republica da Europa, Mrs. Kingston, foi especialmente convidada e se comprometteu a comparecer, mandando apresentar o seu hiate aéreo.

— É possivel que vá, então. Adiarei o meu encontro politico para amanhã… — disse Mme. Borboleta, num sorriso de malicia.

Minutos após estavam de volta, regressando ao Rio numa baratinha alada de Mme. Veiga, desembarcando na torre da praça circular Washington Luis e tomando a avenida Santos Dumont, que ligava Guaratiba ao Pharoux, transformado num parque de diversões. Beijaram-se despedindo-se. A tarde estava deslumbrante e amena, pois a canicula de Dezembro era combatida pela viração que soprava da Guanabara e pelos colossaes ventiladores electricos collocados na via publica.”

Predictions – Rio in 100 years

Screen Shot 2014-03-20 at 5.50.46 PM“In the year two-thousand. — Prophetic photograph of what Rio will be like at its 5th centennial”

_____

The text images that follow, from the May 20th (1900) edition of Revista da Semana, go on to describe how Rio will be 100 years from then but, being that it’s antiquated Portuguese, I preferred to just post the text as is. What I will also leave you with are some choice excerpts. I’ll put a X next to the incorrect predictions, (a √ next to the correct ones,) and nothing if I don’t know how to answer. 

Χ – Rio’s avenues will be way better than the Champs-Élysées in Paris (not quite)
Χ – Rua do Ouvidor will be nothing but a memory (still there, luckily)
Χ – Rio will have 1.5 million residents (currently 6.5 million)
Χ – Women won’t say ugly things like “vi elle”, “qui home”, “me deixe”, “tá bom”
Χ – Botafogo, with its lovely bay, will attract tourists from the world over (it fell short)
Χ – By 1940, yellow fever will be gone (…nope)
– Morally, Brazilians will have the same defects, vices and passions as in 1900
Χ – In commerce and industry, there’ll be big thieves who cheat the public
– In the press, there’ll be illiterate writers and journalists for sale
– The city still won’t have money to pay its employees
Χ – The only ugly thing left in the city will be the Mangue canal (still there)

Screen Shot 2014-03-20 at 6.29.08 PM Screen Shot 2014-03-20 at 8.03.34 PMScreen Shot 2014-03-20 at 6.29.27 PMScreen Shot 2014-03-20 at 6.29.37 PM