Photography by Tiago Sperotto
Rio de Janeiro, city purgatory of beauty and chaos. The city where everything happens at once. The contrast is strong, sharing and manifesting itself in many ways, from the beautiful scenery to traffic turmoil, the slums to luxury apartments.
Founded in 1565 Rio de Janeiro is one of the oldest cities in the country with a population that exceeds 6 million, and behind only SÃ£o Paulo in both population and the economic sector. Your beauty enchants the eyes of those who have the privilege to visit a place so incredible. In Rio, you have access to nearly everything that nature can offer. The city is surrounded by sea ?and small islands, by gigantic mountains and rocks, and by the Tijuca Forest, the largest urban forest in the world, boasting diverse flora and dozens of species of animals.
Beyond that, the city has a huge lagoon, known as the Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas, complete with waterfalls and and stones for climbing. With the tropical climate and great natural diversity, the city is an attraction for sports of all kinds — climbing, running, hiking, soccer, surfing, rowing, voleyball, kite surfing, abseiling, hang gliding flight, or paragliding.
Living more than three months here, I was able to adapt to the rhythm of the city and its rich culture. Everything happens very quickly around here, people going straight to the point, and a complete lack of organization in traffic, or respect and caution for pedestrians. I confess that after living for more than eight years abroad, I had a shock when I first left the house and came across certain realities facing Brazil.
For one, I came face to face with the extreme poverty that still exists in many parts of the city, dividing an urban setting that is beautiful on one side and an ugly on the other. In the beautiful, storied coastal region of Ipanema, located on the south side of town, it is easy to find apartments that sell for well over 15 million dollars. I found it hard to make sense of this contrast, seeing how some have so much, and others so little.
Far from the reality of the millionaire lifestyle lies a Rio de Janeiro plagued by prejudice, social inequality and violence. Due to starvation by the government state, the city experienced a heavy influx of immigrants from the poorer states located in north during the late ’50s. Over the course of that decade, the city underwent several transformations, including the construction of new roads and access tunnels. Making their way to the city in search of work and better living conditions, many migrant workers found temporary jobs as a result of these public works, but with the completion of those projects, many found themselves unemployed.
Out of work and a without place to live, immigrants from the Northeast, better known as “nordestinos” settled on the slopes of the mountains and created the infamous slums, urban areas usually built on hills. Over the years the number of immigrants, many from the Northeast, grew, as did the slums and poverty levels in the city. The largest and most famous of slums, Rocinha, has more than 150,000 inhabitants and is widely considered the world’s largest slum.
No matter where you are in the city though, there is always great music in Rio, the birthplace of Bossa Nova, samba, and plenty of other musical styles. More recently, hip-hop has grown in popularity in the suburbs of Rio, fueled by strong, direct lyrics critiquing politics and the media.
I am privileged and fortunate to live in a great area, quiet and right next to the ocean. A short walk away, you’ll find thousands of palm trees with coconuts, jasmine and little monkeys climbing trees, sharing the space with the residents. Even with all the differences and social conflict, Rio is one of the most beautiful places in the world to live.