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The Portuguese took sugarcane from their Atlantic island holdings to Brazil in the first decades of the 16th century, using their model of extensive agriculture and coerced labor to turn their new colony into the world’s largest producer of sugar. From the middle of the 17th century through the 20th century, Brazil faced increasing competition from Caribbean producers. With access to abundant land and forest resources, Brazilian producers generally pursued an extensive production model that made sugarcane’s footprint a large one. Compared to competitors elsewhere, Brazilian farmers were often late in adopting innovations (such as manuring in the 18th century, steam power in the 19th, and synthetic fertilizers in the 20th). With coffee’s growth in the center-south of the country during the middle of the 19th century, sugarcane farming shifted gradually away from enslaved African labor. Labor and production methods shifted at the end of the century with slavery’s abolition and the rise of large new mills, called usinas. The model of steam-powered production, both for railroads carrying cane and for mills grinding it, and a work force largely resident on plantations persisted into the mid-20th century. Rural worker unions were legalized in the 1960s, at the same time that sugar production increased as a result of the Cuban Revolution. A large-scale sugarcane ethanol program in the 1970s also brought upheaval, and growth, to the industry.

Article

All cities are forged by politics. But Brazil’s “informal” neighborhoods—and especially the favelas that now shape every Brazilian urban landscape—have an especially raw link to the political world. Favelas and other informal settlements are vital to Brazil’s cityscapes; they are also spaces historically defined by weak formal regulation and tenuous urban citizenship. In the informal city, property tenancy, city services, and basic civil protections were historically defined as privileges rather than rights. This was not for lack of claims-making; favela residents demanded urban belonging and engaged in intense legal battles over issues of property and regulation long before Brazil’s “rights to the city” movements gained international recognition. But Brazilian institutions proved mostly unwilling to recognize those claims, forcing informal residents to rely on a wide range of political strategies to achieve some modicum of permanence, citizenship, and rights to the city. Urban informality and urban politics thus developed in tandem in Brazil before 1960, as favelas successfully rooted themselves in Brazil’s most significantly “informal” cities: Rio de Janeiro (Brazil’s national capital until 1960 and the birthplace of the term “favela”) and Recife (the Northeast’s regional capital, long Brazil’s third largest city, and a hothouse for the politics of informality). In both places, informal politics involved grassroots mobilization, symbolic contestations in the public sphere, and engagement with a remarkably diverse tangle of activists, patrons, bureaucrats, entrepreneurs, politicians, intellectuals, artists, policymakers, and politicians. Informal residents were agile and effective political actors, who managed collectively and incrementally to establish favela residents’ de facto right to occupy Brazilian cityscapes. At the same time, the contradictions of favela politics made it difficult to convert de facto permanence into juridically enforceable rights to the city. The outcome was a politics of permanence rather than a politics of equality, the results of which are still all too apparent in Brazil’s contemporary urban form.

Article

Commercial recordings in Brazil were first made in 1902 in Rio de Janeiro. During the first two decades of the 20th century, however, the recorded repertoire centered around the same musical genres established in the final decades of the previous century: for sung music, this meant modinhas, lundus, waltzes, and cançonetas; for instrumental music, this meant polkas, maxixes, marches, and tangos. During this period, sheet music for pianos and musical bands played a greater role in disseminating popular music than did mechanical recordings. This included dissemination by the medium of radio, which had begun in the country in the early 1920s but only expanded when its commercial operation was authorized in the 1930s. Of the leading musical genres of the period, samba and carnival marches (always sung) came into their own during the 1930s. Rio de Janeiro, at that time the capital of the republic, the cradle of the burgeoning phonograph recording industry, and the center of the still extant sheet music publishing business and radio broadcasting, is key to understanding Brazilian popular music of the time. During the entire period, however, migrants from other regions, especially from the northeastern states of Bahia, Pernambuco, and Ceará, made crucial contributions to popular music. These contributions became particularly significant during the final years of that decade with the success of baião, a sung musical genre with a distinct northeastern flavor whose influence would stretch into the 1950s.