Christ watches over the
The other landmark is the
around 130 foot (40 m) tall statue of Christ that stands on top of the
approx. 2,300 foot (700 m) high Corcovado rocks to the west of the Sugar
Loaf with his arms stretched out over the city. A winding road through
a section of ancient rain forest and a rack railway reach the top. The
mountain ridge from which the Corcovado rises separates the southern part
of the planned rich suburb of Barra da Tijuca from the northerly National
Park da Tijuca.
|Rio de Janeiro owes its
stunning beauty to its position on the west- ern shore of the wide Guanabara
Bay, at the foot of the slopes of the Morros, and the foothill of the Brazilian
mountains that is covered in lush vegetation.
This surely also impressed
the Portuguese discoverer, Andre Gon-calves when he entered Gunanabara
Bay on New Year's Day 1502. He mistakenly imagined there to be a river
and named it Rio de Janeiro or "January River." Because the bay is an ideal
natural harbor Goncalo Coelho built a Portuguese settlement at Urea, the
hill below the Sugar Loaf. The first foundations of Cidade de Sao Sebastiao
do Rio de Janeiro were laid in 1565 in the place that is now the center
of the city.
When gold was found in the early
eighteenth century at the Gerais mines to the south of present-day Brasilia
it led to a wave of immigration from Europe. The town quickly grew beyond
its walls and replaced Bahia as the colonial capital in 1763. The gold
mines were soon exhausted but after a short economic downturn the country
turned to exporting coffee. When the Portuguese Royal family fled here
to escape Napoleon in 1808 the colony grew even faster. New buildings were
constructed, old ones were restored, new streets were driven through the
town, and the public water supply was extended.
Brazil shares a border with
almost every other country in South America--only Chile and Ecuador are
untouched--and covers almost half the continent. It is the fifth largest
country in the world, behind Russia, Canada, China, and the U.S.A., with
an area of eight and a half million square kilometers.
Despite its vast expanse
of territory, Brazil's population is concentrated in the major cities of
its coast. The urban sprawls of Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo dominate the
southern coast. Further north, towns such as Salvador and João Pessoa
retain the colonial atmosphere of the early Portuguese settlers. The great
interior, much of which is covered by the rainforest basin of the Amazon,
remains sparsely settled.
The Treaty of Tordesillas (1494)
settled the question of possession of the new lands between Spain and Portugal.
It was agreed that territories lying east of a meridian 370 leagues west
of the Cape Verde Islands should belong to Portugal, the lands to the west
to Spain. This imaginary line, from pole to pole, cut through the eastern-
most part of the South American continent and constituted Brazil's first
frontier, although the formal discovery by Pedro Alvares Cabral did not
take place until six years later in 1500
||Portuguese Discoveries (1487-1497)
In the 15th and 16th centuries
Portugal, an Iberian Kingdom with barely a million inhabitants, was hemmed
in by the Atlantic in front and by a hostile Castile behind. After years
of struggle against the Moorish occupation, the Portuguese turned their
attention and energy to the sea and what lay beyond. While the Spaniards
set out in search of a route to the Orient by voyaging to the West, the
Portuguese opted for the so-called Southern Cycle down the African coast.
Reaching the Cape of Good Hope in 1487, they were led by the navigator,
Vasco da Gama, across the Indian Ocean to discover the sea route to the
Far East in 1497. They knew of the existence of lands across the Atlantic
and they had made several expeditions to the West before Columbus discovered
the Antilles in 1492, but they had kept the knowledge to themselves in
order to forestall the ambitions of Spain, England, and France. For a small
nation, secrecy was the only available method of safeguarding the rewards
of bold and successful exploration against exploitation by more powerful