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Rio de Janeiro History

Colonial Rio

Colonial Rio

Portuguese rulers were the first ones to rule Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, when they landed on the soil of Guanabara Bay on the 1st of January 1502. Guanabara Bay forms the opening of a river, hence the name 'Rio de Janeiro', which means 'River of January'. In 1555, one of the islands of Guanabara Bay, now called Villegagnon Island, was occupied by French colonists. The French wanted to make the best of Rio's strategic position in the Brazilian region and tried to achieve a foothold in the city but were debarred in 1567 from the city after two years of intense war.

In the late 17th century, the discovery of gold and diamonds in the neighbouring captaincy of Minas Gerais made Rio de Janeiro an important port for exporting gold, and precious stones, besides sugar. In 1763, the colonial administration in Portuguese America was moved to Rio from Salvador. The city was a colonial capital until 1808.

In the 19th century, sugar cane production faced stiff competition from other South American countries, and the gold and diamond reserves also dwindled, leading Rio on the path of economic crisis. To prevent this, it started exporting coffee, and the Portuguese royal family resettled in Rio. During their thirteen-year rule, Rio expanded economically, and the city started spreading out to its edges as new buildings started cropping up with state-of-the-art infrastructure. Rio de Janeiro was a city of slaves from the colonial period. The port of the city was the largest port of slaves in America. When the Portuguese declared Brazil's independence in 1822, they kept Rio de Janeiro as the capital city, which was enriched with sugar cane and coffee cultivation.

Liberated Rio

After the independence, the city expanded politically, culturally, economically and architecturally. Public transportation in the form of horse-drawn trolleys allowed transport to places like Botafogo, Sao Cristovao, and Tijuca, which were far from the city. Rio became the political, economic and cultural centre of Brazil. Many talented artisans, leaders, writers and notable people played a significant role in the city's cultural development. Along with being the busiest port in Brazil, the rail & road infrastructure led to the development of the trade industry.

Rio as capital of Brazil

Rio de Janeiro, the capital city of Brazil, changed in terms of infrastructure and finances. Central Zone was demolished to expand the city. The land was being reclaimed to build the Central Business District. Hills were being wiped out and were used to fill the marsh areas. The city was divided into three zones. The North zone became an industrial area and was the residence of the working sector, while the South Zone was limited to wealthy people.

After World War II, Rio shifted from an agricultural to an industrial economy. Bridges were built between important cities, skyscrapers were constructed, and freeways were developed. The population of the city increased in gigantic proportions, which turned out to be a curse. Even if labour needed the industries to develop, labourers were in excess, and the number of poor and unskilled people increased. This situation exists even today and puts intense pressure on Rio's resources. Rio is one of the most populated cities in the world.

Rio as capital of Brazil

Rio in present

In the 1960s, the capital of Brazil was moved from Rio to Brasilia and later to Sao Paolo to reduce the economic and financial pressure on Rio. Political power was moved to the interior of the country. Today along with its different ethnic groups, Rio is making its presence felt in the industrial, service and tourism sector. Major multinational companies have their headquarters in Rio, and the city does have its influence on the Brazilian economy, as a whole.

In 1992, the city hosted the Earth Summit, a UN conference to fight environmental degradation. In 2012, the city hosted a 'United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development'. Rio hosted the 2007 Pan American Games, the 2014 FIFA World Cup Final, the 2016 Olympic Games, and the 2016 Paralympic Games.

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