Recently, I read on a tech site that a Facebook group called Secret London got so big, it had to start thinking bigger, meaning it had to become its own site. Secret London is a group of Londoners who share secret spots with each other in an effort to get to know the London that can’t be found through official channels. This London is about who you know because it’s the ‘whos’ that are the ones that know the ‘whats’ and the ‘wheres’. Anyways, a bit of a discussion is going on as to whether taste is best shared or guarded (best to read ‘guarded’ first).
In the same vein as Secret London, you can bet there exists a Secret Brazil, just not in any official capacity. Practically everyone in Rio, for example, has a secret spot or a favorite place to go to think, to see the sunset, to visit on certain days because they know there’s free admission that day, etc.
The interesting thing about taste is that it’s pretty personal. Socially-speaking, it could be said that taste is non-existent as long as others don’t share the same taste. Saying someone has good taste is also saying that you have enough taste to know such a thing. In terms of the masses and in the same sense as the concept of cool, the labeling of something as tasteful also slowly kills it off. In other words, it gets played-out, over-consumed or in the case of a place, over-crowded, etc. Perhaps it can even lead to a broken window.
So here I am, thinking that I’m giving away all my secrets about Brazil by having this blog/site where I am selective about its content. Upon second thought, I then realize that my purpose here is to show the world that Brazil isn’t just made up of the 4 things I virtually never mention here (Carnival, ‘naked women’, soccer and violence). There’s a Brazil that is little talked about and I’ve made it my job to ‘spill the beans’ (or rather the oranges) about the things and places that should be shared.
Where does Laranjeiras, a neighborhood of Rio, fit in? To make a short story long, I have several friends who call the neighborhood ‘home’ and they all say nothing but great things about it. Those who don’t live there but are from the city of Rio, haven’t ever mentioned the neighborhood to me, as if they never gave it any thought. I’ve only been there once so I don’t have much first-hand experience…but when speaking to my friends, I get the feeling Laranjeiras is a bit of a hidden gem, laid-back, upkept, not too crowded…just right.
Here’s a little background.
“Laranjeiras (Portuguese for orange trees) is an upper-middle-class neighborhood located in the Zona Sul area of Rio de Janeiro. Primarily residential, It is one of the city’s oldest neighborhoods, having been founded in the 17th century, with the construction of country houses in the valley located around the Carioca River, which bordered Corcovado Mountain. Because of this, the neighborhood was previously called “Vale do Carioca”, or Carioca Valley.
While primarily residential, several important governmental, cultural, and sports institutions and schools make this a bustling neighborhood. Well known landmarks in Laranjeiras include the Palácio Guanabara (seat of the state government of Rio de Janeiro), the Palácio Laranjeiras (official residence of the state’s governor), and the Parque Guinle (Guinle Park), as well as the headquarters and Laranjeiras Stadium of Fluminense Football Club, and Rio’s branch of the Hebraica Social and Sports Club, and several others.
Well-known people that live, or have lived in Laranjeiras include:
- Cartola, singer, composer and poet
- Cássia Eller, singer
- Cândido Portinari, pintor
- Oscar Niemeyer, arquiteto
- Machado de Assis, writer.”
A lot of history happened in and nearby the ‘Vale do Carioca’, as the region encompassing modern-day Glória, Catete and Laranjeiras once was called. The Vale’s claim to fame comes from the fact that the land used to build the first Portuguese house on Brazilian soil (the ‘house of whites’ where the term ‘carioca’ comes from) was built there where a little later, the failed French colony called the ‘French Antartica’ (lasting from 1555 to 1567) was founded. If the French and their indian counterparts (the Tamoios, with whom they traded and joined in an effort to fight off the Portuguese) had secured Guanabara Bay, today Rio, and all of Brazil for that matter, might be full of French descendents. Think that is far-fetched? A half of a century later, the French had control over the northern state of Maranhão, where its capital São Luis is named after King Louis IX. During the time of the two South American French colonies, France was after its fair share of the Americas (especially after taking Quebec in Canada), an effort they aptly called ‘Nouvelle France’.
As for the name Laranjeiras, it was said to have been bestowed upon the neighborhood by the visiting English author Maria Graham in 1821. She stated there were many orange trees in the area although today there is more evidence to the contrary, that there were many more coffee plants than orange trees back then. Besides, Laranjeiras was the name of a beach, albeit absent of orange trees, near Parati. The theory is that somewhere in the neighborhood of Laranjeiras in Lisbon (which had a garden orchard) lies the origins of its carioca cousin.
I’ll leave you with some photos.