Sweeping history of Rio de Janeiro that captures both its uniqueness and tumult.
Debut author Morton handily captures the allure Rio holds for those who visit—its natural and cultural beauty, the great food and drink, the beaches, the people, etc. “For those seeking more than a beach and a view,” he says, “Rio has many attractions: a major game in Maracanã, a candomblé ritual, a performance in the Teatro Municipal.” If you’d like to do more than people watch, “Rio is said to have more museums than Paris.” And, of course, “Rio’s reputation for an easy-going sexual culture should not be forgotten.” However, from the very beginning Rio has always been a volatile brew, uneasily juxtaposing wealth and poverty, religion and secularism, modernity and tradition. Often, Rio’s identity crisis has expressed itself as a pendulum swing between stubborn resistance to Europeanizing and an enthusiastic embrace of it. While this panoramic account will largely interest those with a personal attachment to the city, the author deftly connects the history of Rio to Brazil as well as Latin America as a whole. This painstakingly researched account of Rio’s history is amazing in scope; Morton even discusses the first human inhabitants in the area some 12,000 years ago. He charts Rio’s trajectory from a lesser-known city essentially run by Jesuits to the cosmopolitan center now known for its revelry. Along the way, he also discusses its persistent class conflict, the birth of the notorious favelas, culture and geography so colorful they inspire poetry, and the racial fallout of its earlier dependence upon slavery. The work is speckled with illustrative photos and art, which help convey the flavor of the city. Readers might sometimes get bogged down in the avalanche of detail, but the drama of the city’s evolution, and the skill with which it’s reported, more than makes up for it.
A meticulously researched guide to one of the world’s most famous cities.