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Summary Article: Rio de Janeiro
from The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

Port and resort in southeast Brazil; capital of Rio de Janeiro federal unit (state), and former national capital (1763–1960); population (2014 est) 6,453,700; metropolitan area (2000 est) 10,389,400. It is situated on the southwest shore of Guanabara Bay, an inlet of the Atlantic Ocean; Sugar Loaf Mountain (a 395 m/1,296 ft-high cone-shaped rock outcrop, composed of granite, quartz and feldspar) stands at the entrance to the harbour, and the city is dominated by the 40 m/131 ft-high figure of Christ on the top of Corcovado, a jagged peak 690 m/2,264 ft high. Industries include ship-repair, sugar refining, textiles, and the manufacture of foodstuffs; coffee, sugar, and iron ore are exported.

Portuguese explorers landed on the site on 1 January 1502. The city was founded by the Portuguese in 1567 as São Sebastião de Rio de Janeiro (although the site was occupied by the French as early as 1555 under Nicolas de Villecagnon). The name commemorates the arrival of the Portuguese, but there is in fact no river.

Some colonial churches, including the Candelaria cathedral (1639), and buildings survive; there are modern boulevards, including Avenida Rio Branco and Avenida Presidente Vargas. The The neighbourhoods of Rio de Janeiro include the middle-class residential beach resorts of Copacabana, Ipanema, and Leblon; more recent urban sprawl has resulted in the new suburbs of São Conrado, Barra da Tijuca and Itanhanga to the south. Tourists are attracted by the renowned annual carnival. One-third of the population lives in shanty towns, with an income of less than US$70 a month per person. Rocinha is the largest squatter settlement in South America and is located on the south side of the city in the neighbourhood of São Conrado.

Most of the colonial buildings have been destroyed following a programme of massive urban renovation which was begun in 1903 by the Rio Prefect, Francisco Pereira Passos. The renovations were inspired by similar urban renovations instigated by Georges-Eugène Haussmann in Paris and created grand avenues and public buildings.

Tourism, though still a major industry, has declined in recent years due to violence in the city as well as pollution along the city's beaches.

© RM, 2018. All rights reserved.

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