Civilizing Rio

Reform and Resistance in a Brazilian City, 18891930

By (author) Teresa Meade

Paperback - £33.95

Publication date:

15 September 1996

Length of book:

224 pages


Penn State University Press

ISBN-13: 9780271028705

A massive urban renewal and public-health campaign in the first decades of the nineteenth century transformed Brazil's capital into a showcase of European architecture and public works. The renovation of Rio, or "civilization" campaign, as the government called it, widened streets, modernized the port, and improved sanitation, lighting, and public transportation. These changes made life worse, not better, for the majority of the city's residents, however; the laboring poor could no longer afford to live in the downtown, and the public-health plan did not extend to the peripheral areas where they were being forced to move. Their resistance is the focus of Teresa Meade's study.

Meade details how Rio grew according to the requirements of international capital, which financed, planned, and oversaw the renewal—and how local movements resisted these powerful, distant forces. She also traces the popular rebellion that continued for more than twenty years after the renovation ended in 1909, illustrating that community protests are the major characteristic of political life in the modern era.

'Civilizing’ Rio is a concise, well-written social history that will be invaluable to anyone conducting an examination of the modern urban environment’s evolution. Professor Meade utilizes Manuel Castels’s ‘theory of collective consumption’ to examine Rio de Janeiro’s growth and development. She effectively argues that the allocation of urban space and its amenities are not accidental, but planned in a manner that purposely separates the rich from the poor. . . . ‘Civilizing’ Rio will be of great appeal to all who are interested in Latin American urban and social history. It also serves as a foundation upon which other comparative analyses of developing cities can be examined. It is unfortunate that the book will likely be ignored by the architects and planners who are responsible for the design of today’s cities.”

—Sam Amado, Hispanic American Historical Review