City Organizer: Danielle Hoppe
Walk Leader: Danielle Hoppe
Text by: Danielle Hoppe
Photographs by: José Scilipoti
On a sunny afternoon, 21 curious citizens joined together for the first ever Jane’s Walk in Rio de Janeiro. Over three hours we traversed Rio’s port area, examining up close the different kinds of urban fabric overlaid in the region and its ongoing transformations.
We walked along the coast on a new walkway, on the original track of a recently demolished elevated highway that ran through part of downtown for more than 40 years. At the end of the walkway we reached Praça Mauá (Mauá Square), the centre of the port area revitalization and beautification that took place before the 2016 Summer Olympics. The “Museum of Tomorrow” dominates the scene with its remarkable shape designed by the Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava.
Praça Mauá is also the gateway to an area full of African- and Portuguese-Brazilian history and culture. After an stimulating discussion on pros and cons of the square’s renewal, we went uphill to Morro da Conceição (Conceição Hill), a historic Portuguese neighbourhood that dates back to 1565. For centuries it survived as the surrounding area saw transformation and is now slowly feeling the impacts of the revitalization, getting adapted to new residents and visitors. A local resident was invited to join the walk and gave her perspective on the area’s transformation. She shared concerns on gentrification, lack of public participation during the planning process and the fact that the area seems to be now attracting interest of organized crime. From Morro da Conceição we went down and visited the old slave port, Valongo Wharf, where one million enslaved Africans first arrived in Brazil several centuries ago. The site was rediscovered in 2011 and is one of the greatest testimonies to the city’s African roots.
We continued through a newly built tunnel (unfortunately not designed for pedestrians!) which helped contrast the old industrial area that served the nearby port and is still under transformation. At the end of the walk we arrived at the Santo Cristo neighbourhood, where the large-scale urban fabric and warehouses are now being combined with modern high-rises, starting to reflect a new, globalized urban development model. After we walked for five kilometres in this thought-provoking region, we certainly went home with new friends and a deeper view of Rio’s port area.