By Elise Vaux, Cassie Pacenka, and Mekelia Channer
The final stop on our Brazilian documentary adventure will be Rio de Janeiro, the location of the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics. As this spirited city feverishly continues preparations for these mega sports events, the world is anxiously standing by watching the controversial proceedings unfold. The international events are not only causing panic attacks for the hundreds of thousands of tourists in search of housing and accommodations while attending the games; Brazilians from all walks of life are debating whether their tax dollars have been well spent on modernized “sustainable” transportation and the construction of five lavish stadiums while the cultural fabric of the sprawling favelas, the city’s famous hillside settlements, is threatened by crackdowns by the Brazilian government.
Rio was established in the 16th century to protect the Portuguese colony from French invasion and then transformed into a bustling metropolis thriving on exports of sugarcane, coffee, gold, silver, and other minerals. During the 19th century, the Portuguese monarchy modernized the city with the latest technologies and lavish architectural indulgences. The monarchy not only maintained progressive ideals regarding infrastructure, but also social reform when Prince Pedro II abolished slavery, culminating in the replacement of the Portuguese monarchy with a Brazilian Republic. In late 19th and early 20th centuries, in order to fill the workforce void left by the abolition of slavery, Brazil experienced its first of many waves of immigration. Thousands of Portuguese, Italian, Japanese and Spanish immigrants flocked to Brazil to find work in the coffee and sugar fields.
Traces of Brazil’s rich and eclectic history can be still found all around Rio de Janeiro today. Tourists can experience former Portuguese architectural indulgences in the Theatro Municipal, a beautifully ornate theatre hosting performance companies from across the globe. As you walk the streets of Rio de Janeiro, it’s hard to miss the Japanese influence in Brazilian cuisine. Sushi restaurants can be found on almost every corner, from a fine dining atmosphere to all you can eat sushi lounges. Rio de Janeiro and Ipanema beaches also seduce thousands of tourists with their laid back beach atmosphere and modern tastes for organic foods. ZaZa Amazon Tropical is a quaint, tasty laboratory for new age recipes featuring fresh ingredients. From the fruit dips to the filet, it’s easy to find an item that even the most dairy- and gluten-restricted guests can enjoy.
Rio melds old and new, with the Teleferico do Aemeo, a six-station gondola transportation network, connecting residents of the Complexo do Alemeo to downtown Rio. This push for modern sustainable transportation not only decreases local commute times, but also offers tourists a breathtaking aerial view of the hilly, mountain-fringed city. Locals are offered two free rides a day aboard the gondola from 6am-9pm Monday to Friday.
Heading to a new country is always exciting. With everything Rio de Janeiro has to offer, we will never run out of things to see. We will try to get off the beaten track with the help of Brazilian students and tour guides. Our visit will take us into one of the favelas. Favelas typically develop when squatters occupy vacant or steep-sloped land. Although favelas are said to have high crime rates, a tour and interviews with the help of Brazilian guides will be a memorable experience. A recent article in The New York Times discussed the dangers and haphazard construction in the favelas, but noted that residents are opening their doors to World Cup fans looking to beat the prices of the expensive or overbooked hotels.
Rio, known as the Marvelous City, is ready and waiting for Pace University’s documentary film team to come and explore. What will become of this budding world power as businesses, leaders and citizens scramble to meet the global expectations of millions of fans? We are ready to find the answers, so follow us on our road to Rio.