Rio and its History

How it all began

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Rio de Janeiro

In its prime at over 400 years old, Rio de Janeiro is the host city of the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Brazil’s current intellectual and cultural hub is working to deliver the greatest sports festival in the world in 27 days of competitions.

Rio de Janeiro is located in the state of the same name in a southeastern strip of Brazil’s Atlantic coast. The most visited south hemisphere metropolis has frontiers with three other states of the Federation: Espírito Santo, Minas Gerais and São Paulo.

Rio is widely known for its breathtaking landscapes and its people’s unique joie de vivre. A combination of lakes, ocean and lush mountains marks the natural exuberance and typical colours of the Marvellous City. The friendliness of the cariocas (or “people born in Rio”) can be  witnessed in the streets, in bars and at the beach, where the sunset is a rare experience worth enjoying with an open heart by visitors and locals alike.


Walking in the streets of Rio feels like going back in the history of Brazil. The old buildings of the city centre and its surroundings  hoard  the memory of Brazil’s greatest moments.

In January 1502, the second exploratory expedition of the Portuguese, led by a captain by the name of Gaspar Lemos, reached Guanabara Bay.  It is legend that he caught sight of what he thought that was a river, so he eventually named it Rio de Janeiro (“River of January”).

But it was not until 1565 that Estácio de Sá founded the municipality which he named São Sebastião do Rio de Janeiro, in honour of the then King of Portugal, Dom Sebastião.

At the time of the Empire, the region’s economy expanded its port business potential and the cycles of sugarcane, gold and coffee through slave labour and in 1763 Rio de Janeiro became the capital of the Brazilian Empire.

There was a military coup in 1889 that made Brazil into a republic under Marshal Deodoro da Fonseca, who ousted the emperor and took over the country. With the Proclamation of the Republic in 1889, the capital of the Empire became the federal capital of Brazil.

In the early 20th. C, the first broad streets and imposing buildings, most of which of French fin-de-siècle style, were built. In 1920, the first Brazilian university - URJ, Universidade Rio de Janeiro was founded in Rio.  After that period, several higher education institutes and centres for Rio de Janeiro culture and history studies were created. They aimed to preserve the memory of the state and build an identity for the people of Rio de Janeiro state, which had been economically and politically weak since the end of the Second Empire.

Rio remained the capital of the Republic until Brasília was inaugurated in 1960.

After the 1964’s military coup, Brazil was plunged into nearly twenty years of military regime. Most the artists that represent Brazilian culture in the fields of literature, music and the arts worldwide were born at that time. Many of them are still remembered as Brazilian icons, such as Tom Jobim, Oscar Niemeyer, Chico Buarque and many other.

The military regime ended in the early 80s, when Brazil experienced a hyperinflation scenario. At that time, with the country’s political opening,  a governor was elected for the state of Rio de Janeiro and was eventually responsible for the construction of Sambódromo and the Public Education Integrated Centres (CIEPs).

In 1985, the National Congress passed some of the measures that eliminated the last traces of Brazilian dictatorship and in 1988, the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Brazil was enacted. Up to that time, Brazil had been fighting inflation, which could only be controlled with the launch of Plano Real (“Real Plan”) in 1994.

With a stable economy, Rio de Janeiro has increasingly enjoyed its vocation for tourist destination and has become a great cultural and tourist hub in Brazil.