With Brazil’s largest concentration of historic landmarks and famous landscapes, Rio de Janeiro’s passionate heritage debates have helped to define both the city and the country. Taking a critical preservationist stance, Brian Godfrey explores how historic designation and urban rebranding have shaped Rio’s distinctive sense of place.
Official heritage programs date from the 1930s, when federal authorities centralized power and promoted nationalism. The city began a heritage-based strategy of urban revitalization and rebranding in the 1980s––the “Cultural Corridor” of historic places downtown. Subsequent rediscovery of the old “Little Africa” district and continuing struggles of favela communities have emphasized narratives of “counter-memory” against racism, social injustice, and governmental neglect. Meanwhile environmental activism has encouraged programs to conserve the historic landscapes of Rio’s famous mountains, forests, beaches, and bays.
While historic preservation often presumes to conserve or restore heritage sites according to a preexisting authenticity, Godfrey shows how the past actually becomes a resource for present-day interests. Memory brokers have guided the reinvention of historic places, determining whose past has been preserved. Debates over the “right of remembrance,” he argues, shape place memories and identities in this spectacular if highly unequal megacity, which has much to teach the world about conserving cultural diversity and urban environments.
Brian J. Godfrey is professor of geography at Vassar College. His books include Neighborhoods in Transition: The Making of San Francisco's Ethnic and Nonconformist Communities; Rainforest Cities: Urbanization, Development, and Globalization of the Brazilian Amazon; and Cidades da Floresta: Urbanização, Desenvolvimento, e Globalização na Amazônia Brasileira.
1 Uses of Memory: Preserving Whose Rio de Janeiro?
Narratives of Historic Placemaking
“Civilizing” Rio through Urban Design
The “Land of the Future” Discovers Its Past
Memory, Preservation, and Heritage
Approaching Place Memory and Identity
2 Preservation Politics: Narrating a City and a Nation
Postcolonial Urbanism in Rio de Janeiro
November 15th Square: Placemaking on the Praça
Adaptive Reuse of the Imperial Palace
Reinvention and Continuity
3 Little Africa: Afro-Brazilian Heritage and Placemaking
Counter-Memory and Cultural Reinvention
Slave Port and Divided City
Valongo Wharf: Making a World Heritage Site
Little Africa and the African Heritage Circuit
Community Identity and Cultural Politics
4 Resilient Favelas: Pride of Place, Heritage of Resistance
Contested Origins: Invention of the Favela
Favela Expansion, Removal, and Resistance
Favela as Spectacle: “They Don’t Care about Us”
The Rise of “Favela Chic”
Favelas: A New Urbanism?
5 Environmental Heritages: Defending Carioca Landscapes
Carioca Landscapes: Making a World Heritage Site
Tijuca National Park: One Park, Many Symbols
Guanabara Bay: Conservation Turns to Environmental Justice
Copacabana and Ipanema: Democratic Beaches?
Environmental Heritages: Protecting Carioca Landscapes
6 Remembering Rio: The Politics of Memory
About the Author
In a nation celebrated for its iconic modernist structures, the notion of having a historic preservation tradition might seem incongruous. Yet, as geographer Godfrey demonstrates in this important study of preservation projects undertaken in Rio de Janeiro, Brazilians have labored to conserve prominent buildings since at least the 1930s. For Godfrey, the question is which of Rio's legacies should be highlighted: the churches and upper-class residences on which the 1930s efforts focused; the 1980s projects, which emphasized preserving the working-class environment; the areas of the city most closely associated with slavery (the wharf where bondsmen arrived and home to a huge slave cemetery), which were uncovered during preparations for the Olympics; or the physical environment associated with the conservation program to protect the Carioca Landscapes, which included designating the surrounding Tijuca Forest a National Park. By examining these efforts, Godfrey presents a case for sympathetic placemaking and also addresses the tension between memory and counter-memory. He has a superb understanding of shifting preservation paradigms as well as of Brazilian history. An excellent addition for Brazilianists; a wider professional preservationist audience might also learn much here. Highly recommended. Advanced undergraduates through faculty; professionals
For many reasons, the arrival of this book is timely. At a time when the world is critical of the Brazilian government and the loss of Amazonian rainforest, Brian J. Godfrey casts his 40-year gaze on Rio de Janeiro. We learn of a concerted if not irregularly paced program of historic preservation. Geographer Godfrey deftly uses various scales of analysis—global, hemispheric, national, regional, metropolitan, and neighborhood—to point out how memory can be used to reinvent places both in Rio and elsewhere. Optimistically, the author contends that “[b]y representing the city’s past in its complexity, rather than according to the fictive authenticity of an urban theme park, heritage sites become more fully educational and socially inclusive” (3)…. Godfrey adroitly shows how heritage programs and collective memory challenge the status quo. Understanding political alliances, social standings, and narratives is essential if readers are to unpack the histories of these built environments. Geography courses at the advanced levels, Latin Americanist focused ones, and the fields of historic preservation, urban design, planning, and politics will gain much from these pages. After all, despite the tensions inherent in historic preservation, it turns out that the collective memories of cities may be the only great equalizer to mitigate problems and instill unity.
Multi-dimensional and compelling! Brian Godfrey has brilliantly examined various facets of Rio’s landscapes in this distinct and elegantly written book. From contested cultural politics and sense of place to historical landmarks and urban design, Godfrey provides a unique gaze into carioca placemaking.
A panoramic examination of how diverse economic, political, social, and cultural forces have disputed and promoted the preservation, memorialization, and recognition of different spaces in Brazil’s former capital of Rio de Janeiro. By drawing on both historical records and contemporary accounts about the importance of the city’s historical zones, rediscovered locations of the African slave trade, favela communities, and natural sites, this innovative study helps us understand how the cityscape has become valued in an era of neoliberal hegemony over the political economy of the country.
Brian Godfrey’s book is timely, urgent, and very much in line with the current conversations and inflection points with which we are living in Rio de Janeiro today. He does a brilliant job of describing Rio’s special significance as a city of memory, the role of memory in placemaking, and what we've come to describe as the right to roots. All of the forces he describes continue to shape the city, often in conflict with each other. But he defends the prospect of a more inclusive and compassionate Rio. If we find that path, the city may just find its true vocation and realize its potential.
Rio de Janeiro is a megalopolis that embraces self-mythologizing, and Godfrey deftly guides us through the mythmaking. With close attention to placemaking in eclectic urban landscapes and dizzying natural features, Preserving Whose City? brings together the diverse residents and the contested politics that make Rio a ‘Marvelous City’ of memory and counter-memory. An excellent read for the cultural geographer, the educated traveler, and any student of global cities.