Rio de Janeiro

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Rio de Janeiro

(rē`ō də zhänā`rō, Port. rē`o͝o thĭ zhənĕē`ro͝o), state (1996 pop. 13,316,455), 16,568 sq mi (42,911 sq km), SE Brazil, on the Atlantic Ocean. The capital is Rio de JaneiroRio de Janeiro
[Port.,=river of January], city (1990 pop. 5,533,011; 1995 metropolitan area est. pop. 10,181,000), capital of Rio de Janeiro state, SE Brazil, on Guanabara Bay of the Atlantic Ocean.
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Rio de Janeiro

(rē`ō də zhänā`rō, Port. rē`o͝o thĭ zhənĕē`ro͝o) [Port.,=river of January], city (1990 pop. 5,533,011; 1995 metropolitan area est. pop. 10,181,000), capital of Rio de Janeiro state, SE Brazil, on Guanabara Bay of the Atlantic Ocean. The second largest city and former capital of Brazil, it is the cultural center of the country and a financial, commercial, communications, and transportation hub. It has an international airport and a subway. Rio, as it is popularly known, has one of the world's most beautiful natural harbors. It is surrounded by low mountain ranges whose spurs extend almost to the waterside, thus dividing the city. Among its natural landmarks are Sugar Loaf Mt. (1,296 ft/395 m); Corcovado peak (2,310 ft/704 m), site of a colossal statue of Jesus; and the hills of Tijuca (3,350 ft/1,021 m) and Gávea (2,760 ft/841 m).

The city acquired its modern outline in the early 1900s, and extensive public sanitation and remodeling are continuing. Hills have been leveled, tunnels bored (the longest underground urban highway, linking the northern and southern sections of the city, opened in 1968), parts of the bay filled, parks laid out, and beautiful palm-lined drives built to connect the various districts. Favellas, or slums, are interspersed throughout the city; they have been plagued by drug-gang-related crime since the late 20th cent., but a concerted federal, state, and local effort to break gang power began in 2010.


Rio's harbor is deep enough for the largest vessels to come alongside the wharves, which lie near the city center. Through the port flows the major portion of Brazil's imports and exports (iron ore, manganese, coffee, cotton, meat, and hides). Rio is also a distribution center for the coastal trade. The city's manufactures include textiles, foodstuffs, household appliances, cigarettes, chemicals, leather goods, metal products, and printed material. There are two major airports.

Rio's climate is warm and humid, and although the city remains a major tourist center, its success has been hampered by a serious crime problem. Of particular attraction are the crescent-shaped beaches, especially Ipanéma and the Copacabana, with its mosaic sidewalks. The most popular holiday is the pre-Lenten carnival, with its colorful street processions and reveling Cariocas (citizens of Rio).

Points of Interest

Examples of Rio's famous modern architecture are the ministry of education, the Brazilian press association headquarters, and the museum of modern art. More recent buildings of interest include the Cidade das Artes (2013), home of the Brazilian Symphony Orchestra, the Rio Museum of Art (2013), and the Museum of Tomorrow (2015, designed by Santiago CalatravaCalatrava, Santiago,
1951–, Spanish architect, grad. Institute of Architecture, Valencia (1974), Federal Institute of Technology, Zürich (Ph.D., 1981). He opened an architectural and engineering practice in Zürich in 1981 and later expanded to Valencia and Paris.
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). Older buildings house the national library, the municipal opera house, and several museums. The Itamarati Palace is also noteworthy. Foremost among educational institutions are the Univ. of Guanabara (formed 1920 as the Univ. of Rio de Janeiro), the Univ. of Brazil, now partly housed in University City on Guanabara Bay, and the Catholic Univ.; there are also military and naval academies and the Oswaldo Cruz biological research center and other scientific institutes. Notable churches include the ornate Candelária Church, the 18th-century Church of Nossa Senhora da Glória, the 17th-century Franciscan convent, and a 16th-century Benedictine monastery. Rio has beautiful subtropical parks, including the Quinta da Boa Vista (a former estate of the emperors) and the botanical garden (founded 1808). The sports stadium is one of the world's largest.


According to tradition, the Rio de Janeiro area was visited in Jan., 1502, by Portuguese explorers who believed Guanabara Bay to be the mouth of a river; it was therefore named Rio de Janeiro. It is more likely that the region was discovered in 1504 by Gonçalo Coelho. In 1555 the French Huguenots established a colony, but they were driven out (1560–67) by Mem de Sá, governor-general of the Portuguese colony of Brazil. At the same time the city of São Sebastião do Rio de Janeiro was founded by Mem de Sá's cousin. The settlement was captured and held for ransom by the French in 1711. Rio gained importance in the 18th cent., when it was designated the shipping point for all gold from the interior. It replaced Bahia (now Salvador) as the capital of Brazil in 1763 and subsequently became capital of the exiled royal court of Portugal (1808–21), the Brazilian empire (1822), and the federal republic (1889). It was superseded as capital by BrasíliaBrasília
, capital city and federal district of Brazil (2,264 sq mi/5,864 sq km; 1996 pop. 1,817,001), an enclave in the southwest of Goiás state. Inaugurated in 1960, it is situated in the highlands of central Brazil, and its ultramodern public buildings (designed
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 in 1960. The city hosted the 2016 Summer Olympics.


See J. E. Periman, The Myth of Marginality: Urban Poverty and Politics in Rio De Janeiro (1976); B. Weber, O Rio de Janeiro (1986); C. Pickard, The Insider's Guide to Rio de Janeiro (1986); J. Perlman, Favela: Four Decades of Living on the Edge in Rio de Janeiro (2010).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Rio de Janeiro


a state in southeastern Brazil that includes the former state of Guanabara, which was incorporated in 1975. Area, 44,300 sq km. Population, 9.3 million (1970). The capital city is Rio de Janeiro.

In Brazil, Rio de Janeiro is a leading producer of coke, cast iron, steel, and cement, and it is important in oil refining. Industries are represented by the metallurgical industry, with a plant in Barra Mansa and the largest combine in the country in Volta Redonda, the machine-building industry, with plants in Rio de Janeiro and Niterói, and the oil-refining industry, with Duque de Caxias refining approximately one-third of the country’s petroleum. The cement industry has enterprises in São Gonçalo and Campos, the chemical industry in Rio de Janeiro, Niterói, and Nova Iguaçu, and the textile industry in Rio de Janeiro. The food-processing industry is also important.

The main agricultural crops of Rio de Janeiro are coffee and sugarcane; corn, rice, tobacco, cacao, bananas, vegetables, and citrus fruits are also grown. There is livestock breeding in the Paraíba River valley.

Rio de Janeiro


a city in Brazil, the capital of the state of Rio de Janeiro; an important commercial, financial, industrial, and cultural center. Situated on the Bay of Guanabara of the Atlantic Ocean, Rio extends over a narrow coastal plain and up the slopes of the mountains that border the bay. The promontories and the hills along the shores of the bay jut out dramatically over the ocean, for example, Sugar Loaf (Pão de Açúcar), which measures 395 m high. The climate is tropical. The average temperature in January is 26°C, and in July, 21.1 °C. Annual precipitation totals approximately 1,100 mm; the rainy season is from November to May. The relative humidity is approximately 80 percent. Population of Rio de Janeiro proper, 4.3 million (1972); population of greater Rio de Janeiro, which includes the industrial cities of Nova Iguaçu, Duque de Caxias, São Gonçalo, São João de Meriti, and Nilópolis, 7.1 million.

In January 1502, Portuguese navigators, mistaking the entrance of the Bay of Guanabara for the mouth of a large river, named the site Rio de Janeiro (Portuguese for “River of January”). In early 1531, French conquerors settled in the bay. That same year, Portuguese conquistadors defeated the French troops and built Fort Rio de Janeiro. In 1555, French colonizers once again landed in the bay and settled there. The French were finally driven out by the Portuguese in 1567. The fortress was renamed São Sebastião do Rio de Janeiro in honor of the Portuguese king Sebastian I. In 1763, Rio de Janeiro became the capital of the viceroyalty of Brazil, a Portuguese colony. After Brazil declared its independence from Portugal in 1822, the city became the capital of the Brazilian empire. From 1889 to 1960 it was the capital of the republic of the United States of Brazil. Since the beginning of the 20th century, Rio de Janeiro has been a major center of the working-class movement, with strikes and demonstrations taking place in 1905-07, 1918, and the 1960’s and an armed uprising in 1935.

Rio de Janeiro is one of South America’s most important ports, with a freight turnover of 26.1 million tons in 1973. It handles one-third of Brazil’s imports, including coal, petroleum, cement, machines, and wheat, and a significant share of the exports, namely, coffee, sugar, hides, valuable wood, manganese ore, cotton, and fruits from the states of Rio de Janeiro, Minas Gerais, and, to some extent, São Paulo. The port also plays an important role in coastwise shipping. A major junction of railroads, highways, and air routes, Rio has two airports: Santos Dumont, for domestic flights, and Galeão, for international flights. The city’s shipbuilding, flour-milling, textile, and clothing industries are highly developed. There are enterprises of the leather-goods, woodworking, chemical, metallurgical, machine-building, and metalworking industries. There are also diamond-cutting factories. The city accounts for approximately 10 percent of the total output of Brazil’s manufacturing industries. Rio is a major tourist center. The various sections of the city are separated by hills; vehicles travel to and from the sections by way of tunnels, or they must travel around the hills. Construction of a subway system has been under way since 1970.

Rio de Janeiro is one of Brazil’s most beautiful cities. Squeezed between the sea and the cliffs, it has grown upward, with intensive construction of skyscrapers. Slums (favelas) exist in various parts of the city; a significant portion of the population lives in overcrowded agglomerations of hovels. The downtown area is located in the northeastern part of the city, near the port, the central square, and the Praça Paris and along the esplanade where the main thoroughfares Avenida Rio Branco and Avenida Presidente Vargas meet. Various architectural landmarks from the 16th through 19th centuries have been preserved in the downtown area, including the monastery of São Bento (late 16th century; facade, Herreran style, luxuriously decorated interior, 18th century), the baroque churches of Nossa Senhora da Glória (1714) and São Francisco da Penitência (1772), the city hall (1743) and the cathedral of Our Lady of Candelária (1775, principal architect F. J. Roscio), the aqueduct (now a viaduct) Arcos da Carioca (1750, engineer F. Gomes da Andrada), and the classicistic Itamaratí Palace (1856, architect J. M. J. Rebelo). At the turn of the 20th century, numerous eclectic public buildings were constructed, including the Municipal Theater, the National Museum of Fine Arts, and the National Library. The 20th century has witnessed the erection of multiapartment dwellings, predominantly along the beaches of the Copacabana, Ipanema, Flamengo, and Botafogo regions, as for example the structures of the Morro da Viuva district, built in the mid-20th century. As a whole, 20th-century residential and public buildings and structural ensembles, which represent a variety of architectural solutions, are distinguished by striking spatial compositions, bold designs, and the manner in which they conform to the terrain and climatic conditions. Noteworthy are the Ministry of Education and Public Health building (1937-43, principal architects L. Costa, O. Niemeyer, and A. E. Reidy), the hydro-airport (1938, architect A. Corrêa Lima), the Boavista Bank (1946, architect Niemeyer), the residential buildings Nova Sintra, Bristol, and Caledonia (1948–54, architect Costa), Maracanha Stadium (1950, main architects P. P. B. Bastos and A. A. Dias Carneiro), the structural group on Pedregulho Hill (1950-52, architect Reidy), the university campus (1955, architect J. Moreira), the Museum of Modern Art building (1958, Reidy and R. Burle-Marx), a trade building (1960, H. Mindlin), and the Hotel National (1970, Niemeyer). The picturesque private houses and villas that were built in the 1950’s and 1960’s, including Niemeyer’s own house (1953), are also of interest. Monuments include the statue of Christ on Mount Corcovado (1931, French sculptor P. Landowski) and the Monument to the Brazilian Dead of World War II (1960, architects E. Marinho and M. Conder Neto). The city’s appearance is enhanced by public parks and a botanical garden.

Rio de Janeiro has six universities—four state and two Catholic—the most important of which is the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro. Also in the city are the Brazilian Academy of Letters, the National Atomic Energy Commission, the National Observatory, 25 scientific research institutions, more than 20 scientific societies, and the National Library. Among the museums are the National Museum, the National Historical Museum, the National Museum of Fine Arts, the Museum of Modern Art, the Museum of the Geography of Brazil, and the Indian Museum.

As of 1975, Rio de Janeiro’s theaters and dramatic companies included the Municipal Theater, the Brazilian Comedy Theater, the Juan Caetano Theater, and the Opinião and Copacabana troupes; the city’s professional symphony orchestras included the National Symphony Orchestra. Among Rio’s theatrical and music schools are the National Conservatory of Dramatic Art, the National School of Music of the University of Brazil, the Brazilian Academy of Music, the O. L. Fernandez Music Academy, and the National Conservatory of Choral Singing.


Karfeld, K. P. Rio de Janeiro. [São Paulo] 1955.
Coaracy, U. Memórias da cidade do Rio de Janeiro. Rio de Janeiro, 1955.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

Rio de Janeiro

, Rio
1. a port in SE Brazil, on Guanabara Bay: the country's chief port and its capital from 1763 to 1960; backed by mountains, notably Sugar Loaf Mountain; founded by the French in 1555 and taken by the Portuguese in 1567. Pop.: 11 469 000 (2005 est.)
2. a state of E Brazil. Capital: Rio de Janeiro. Pop.: 14 724 475 (2002). Area: 42 911 sq. km (16 568 sq. miles)
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
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