Destination Rio de Janeiro, the second travel to the former capital of Brazil.
Praça XV de Novembro is a square that contains memories of Brazilian history.
Following my visit of Palácio Tiradentes, I went on with my exploration of downtown Rio. I rounded the corner, and walked past the left wing of Pálacio Tiradentes. There was the Museu Naval (Navy Museum) at the other side. I did not visit this museum; I did not have too much time to visit everything in great detail. I continued my walk in the direction of the quay. There was a large square in front of me. I already was warned various times for such locations in Rio; ideal locations for muggers. The square appeared almost empty, except some passers-by and a homeless man. It is hard to imagine that this square once was located at the mouth of a river, and that this mouth became filled up. This large square is called Praça Quinze de Novembro (also known as ‘Praça XV’). In the past, the square was subsequently named Largo do Terreiro da Polé, Praça do Carmo, Terreiro do Paço, Largo do Paço. Praça XV may be considered as the heart of the history of Rio, of Brazil.
There was a large rectangular white building along the square. The architecture might provide the hint that the bulding must have been constructed only recently, but the opposite is true. This Paço Imperial was the residence of Brazilian viceroys, a Portuguese king, and Brazilian emperors. The construction was started in 1733, and was meant as a seat for the governors of the capitania of Rio de Janeiro. Later it became the residence of the viceroys. King Dom João VI of Portugal lived there, when he arrived in Rio de Janeiro in 1808. He and his family left Portugal when troops of Napoleon were about to invade Portugal. Since 1822, when Brazil became an independent empire, it became the imperial residence. There is the story that Dom Pedro I announced his decision here: he disobeyed his fathers order to return to Portugal. This moment is known as “Dia do Fico’. Dom Pedro I became Brazil’s first emperor. In 1888, another historic event took place here: Princess Isabel, Dom Pedro’s granddaughter, signed the law ‘Lei Áurea), which made an end to slavery in Brazil. Shortly after the proclamation of the republic, the building suffered destruction. Only at the end of the past century, Paço Imperial was restored to as it should have been early 19th century. Now it is a cultural center. It is remarkable that the very first photograph taken on the Southern American continent, was taken of Paço Imperial. Since then, it has been photographed millions of times, and I became one of these countless photographers.
Paço Imperial hidden behind the trees…
There is a small construction on the square. A square-shaped little tower with a pyramid on top of it. It is called Chafariz (fountain) do Carmo, also known as Chafariz da Pirâmide or Chafariz de Mestre Valentim. This fountain was constructed by Mestre Valentim, an architect from Minas Gerais, who had a Portuguese father and an African mother. Just like Aleijadinho, the famous sculptor. At present, the fountain is not in function, but is one of the popular objects for photography.
Panteão de Osório
Another monument on this square with a rich history is the Panteão de Osório. A statue of a horseman. The horseman is the Brazilian general Osório, wearing sandals, as he was using when he was alive. The general started his long military career as a fourteen-year-old at the time of the Brazilian independence war. Osório has commanded many battles in the far south of Brazil: against the Províncias Unidas (what is now Argentina), Cisplatina (Uruguay) and especially against Paraguay. Unconfirmed sources state that the embalmed corpse of the general is buried in the pedestal of the monument.
Arco do Teles
Arco do Teles is located at one side-way of Paraça XV. This arc is the only remnant of the Paço do Conselho, which was destroyed by a dramatic fire in 1790. When you walk through the arc, you might consider yourself in the era of colonial Brazil: the Travessia do Comércio. Colorful houses (sobrados) – two or three stories high – with wrought iron balconies that were typical for the colonial era. The famous singer Carmem Miranda had lived in one of these houses. The side alleys of the Travessa do Comércio are really worth visiting: they are full of churches and historical buildings. There are also many restaurants that offer low-budget self-service buffet. A cheap alternative, when you compare the higher prices in Copacabana, for instance.
By Adriano Antoine Robbesom
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