Rio de Janeiro Overview
Rio de Janeiro, was discovered on January (Janeiro) 1, 1502 by Portuguese navigators who mistook the entrance of Guanabara Bay for the mouth of a river (Rio). Sixty years later because French traders in search of pau-brasil (Brazilwood) were routinely "visiting" the area the Portuguese crown established the city of Sao Sebastiao do Rio de Janeiro. After 2 years of bloody conflict the French were expelled and settlers began to cultivate the surrounding fertile lands. In the beginning of the 18th century the city's importance and population increased immensely as it became the main shipping port for gold and diamonds that came from Minas Gerais. In 1763 the colonial capital of Brazil was transfered from Salvador, Bahia to Rio. In 1808, as Napoleon's armies began the invasion of Portugal, the decision was made to transfer the monarch and his court to Rio de Janeiro, where he would remain until 1821. During this time Brasil was elevated in status from a colony to United Kingdom with Portugal. With the advent of Independence Rio became the capital of the new empire. The city prospered economically, and by 1891 it had a population of over 500,000 inhabitants ranking it one of the largest cities in the world. As the city grew in prominence mountains were removed, bay water reclaimed, and skyscrapers constructed.
With the inauguration of Brasilia in 1960, Rio de Janeiro ceased to be Brazil's capital. Even today discussion is rife concerning whether Rio was improved or hurt by the transfer of the government. In any event, this second largest city in Brazil is still a major cultural capital and, to some extent, its "emotional" capital as well. Rio de Janeiro has a majestic beauty, with built-up areas nestled between a magnificent bay and dazzling beaches on one side and an abruptly rising mountain range, covered by a luxuriant tropical forest, on the other. This unique landscape makes Rio one of the most beautiful cities in the world, justifying its title of "Marvelous City" (Cidade Maravilhosa). Rio's cultural life is intense and varied. Perhaps at no time is the city's festive reputation better displayed than during the annual carnaval which enlivens the city for 3 solid days with music, singing, parties, balls, and desfiles (street parades of brilliantly-costumed dancers performing the samba.) Economically it is a service industry center, a key financial center, and the producer of foodstuffs, building materials, electrical equipment, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, beverages, and textiles. But it is in the pursuit of leisure that Rio is outstanding. With its world famous beaches free to all (such as Copacabana and Ipanema), its splendid bay, one of the loveliest in the world, and its wonderful climate, a blend of summer and springtime, Rio de Janeiro is a city that lives in and for the sun. Its population is around 5,750,000 inhabitants.