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The foundation of Rio de Janeiro

The Guanabara Bay was discovered by the 1501 Portuguese expedition led by Portuguese Gaspar de Lemos, in January 1st, 1502. It was then mapped as "River January". Although at that time there was not much distinction between the difference of major rivers, gulfs or bays. It´s not like they didn´t notice.

In 1555 French colonists led by Nicolas Durand de Villegagnon settled to start a colony -Antarctic France - and a city - Henriville -, but they were expelled by the Portuguese between 1560 and 1567.

The City of São Sebastião of Rio de Janeiro

São Sebastião of Rio de Janeiro was founded by Estácio de Sá March 1st, 1565, when he landed on an isthmus between Morro Cara de Cão and the Pão de Açúcar (Sugarloaf Peak).

The victory of Estácio de Sá over the French gave the effective control of the land to the Portuguese, which waged war against both Europeans and natives to gain control of the land. The town was refunded at the heights of Morro do Castelo (which was completely levelled in 1922), at what today is downtown Rio de Janeiro. This new settlement is the beginning of Rio´s urban expansion.

During almost all XVII century the development of the city was slow. A network of small streets connected the churches with the Paço and the Fish Market by the quay. Nowadays downtown main streets originated from these. With nearly thirty thousand inhabitants at the second half of the XVII century, Rio de Janeiro became the most populated city in Brazil and became a central piece in the colonial administration.

This area became even more important with the gold mines exploitation in what´s now the state of Minas Gerais (General Mines), in the XVIII century, which led to the consolidation of Rio as a major port and economic centre. In 1763, the Marquis of Pombal transferred the head of the Colony´s administration from Salvador to Rio de Janeiro.

Rio de Janeiro was the capital of Brazil from 1763 to 1960, when the government was moved inland to Brasilia. As of today, Rio is the second largest city, after São Paulo. Between 1808 and 1815, due to the Napoleonic Invasions, Rio was the capital of the Kingdom of Portugal and the Algarves, being the only European Capital outside Europe. Between 1815 and 1821, it was the head of the United Kingdom of Portugal, Brazil and Algarves. Then the Court moved back to Lisbon.

Imperial and Republic Periods

After the Independence the city continues as the Capital. In 1834, to separate the State of Rio de Janeiro from the city, it became a Neutral Municipality, while Niteroi became the state capital.

The political centre of the country, Rio concentrated the political life of the Empire. It was the stage for the Slave Abolitionist and Republican movements. During the Old Republic, due to the decadence of the coffee production, the State lost its prominence to São Paulo and Minas Gerais.

With the Proclamation of the Brazilian Republic, in the last decades of the XIX and the firsts of the XX centuries, Rio de Janeiro faced serious social problems due to its rapid and disorganised growth. With the end of slave labour, the city began receive large numbers of migrants from the countryside. There were also many European immigrants fleeing from poverty and war in the Old World. Between 1872 and 1890, its population duplicated, growing from 274,000 to 522,000 inhabitants.

The poverty rise worsened the house deficit, an unfortunately constant trait of Rio´s urban life since half of the XIX century. The epicentre of this crisis was the "Cidade Velha" (Old City) and nearby areas, where tenements multiplied and violent outburst of epidemics such as yellow fever, chicken pox and cholera gave the city and international fame of a dirty port.

Therefore the government of the time started a series of eradication campaign which were not well received by the inhabitants and ended up in popular riots. The most famous being the "Revolta da Vacina" (Vaccination Revolt), from 1904, which also protested against the modernization urban reforms in the Centre carried out by the Architect Pereira Passos. These reforms implied demolishing several buildings and the poor population of the Centre was pushed to the "morros" (the hills) at the Port Zone and the Caju, especially to the Morro da Saúde and the Morro da Providência. Such settlements grew in a disorderly fashion originating the "favelization" process of some areas of Rio de Janeiro. However the city was modernised and changed its old face.

After the Federal Capital was moved to Brasília in 1960, and until 1975 Rio was a city-state, the State of Guanabara. It joined the State of Rio de Janeiro March 15th, 1975.

In 1992, Rio hosted the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (CNUCED), known as Rio-92, or ECO-92 - the first important international meeting after the end of the Cold War, with the presence of delegations from 175 countries.

Rio was host city of the 2007 Pan-American Games, for which major investments were carried out (including the construction of the João Havelange Olympic Stadium) in the transportation, public safety and urban infrastructure departments.

Rio de Janeiro will also host the finals of the Football World Cup Brazil 2014 and the Olympic Games Rio 2016.

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