Rua do Lavradio and other streets of Rio
Not far from the famous Lapa Arches, the ancient aqueduct that once brought much needed water to the center of the then small city of Rio de Janeiro, and today carries the tramline that transports residents and tourists (when it is running) to and from charming Santa Teresa and the city center, there are some interesting streets, full of colonial architecture, antique stores, bars and restaurants, night-clubs and office buildings.
Rua do Lavradio, one of the oldest streets in Rio, was opened in 1771 by the second Marquis of Lavradio, who lived on the corner. Once a quiet street living its downtown life just like its neighbors in Lapa, everything changed in 1996 when a group of antique dealers and owners of bars and restaurants decided to create the Feira do Rio Antigo, and when this became a success City Hall decided to initiate a Recovery and Redevelopment project and make the street more attractive.
The antique shops normally bring some of their wares onto the sidewalk, but on the first Saturday of the month the whole street is full of stalls, offering all sorts of hand-made and manufactured products, as well as antique and not so antique furniture and objets d’art. There is also entertainment, and depending on the hour visitors can enjoy singers, dancers and musical groups, such as the samba bands and their very attractive “choro” numbers. This is one of the more popular types of samba music – for an example click here. It is common to find these groups playing in the streets, and another popular area of Rio on a Saturday morning for a “chope”, “salgadinhos” and music is the Arco do Teles, just off Praça Quinze.
The other attraction is of course food and drink. There are various bars and restaurants along the street, possibly the most famous being Scenarium. The Scenarium group has an antique shop, a restaurant and a nightclub. They are all housed in ancient buildings, with brick walls and other building artifacts apparent, and display cabinets all over the place, full of antiques.
If you walk to the end of the Rua do Lavradio, you come to the Rua Visconde do Rio Branco, and turning left you will soon be in the Praça da Republica, also known as Campo Santana. Turning right just before the Praça, you find yourself in the Rua Republica do Libano, You are now on the edge of the shopping area known as the SAARA, which is the acronym of an association that incorporates 1250 shopkeepers in an area situated on the axis of downtown Rio de Janeiro, including eleven streets – both parallel and transversal – to Rua da Alfandega. Recently the shopping district itself became known as the “SAARA” – pronounced Sahara, which in truth stands for “Society of Friends of the Alfandega and Adjacent Streets”.
There is an enormous mix of origins in the district. First came the Syrians, Lebanese and Armenians, fleeing from economic difficulties or religious persecution when the Middle East was dominated by the Turk-Ottoman Empire. The majority were Orthodox Christians or Maronites; and some were Muslims. Here they came to be known generically as “Turks”. Later they were joined by the Jews, many coming from the same area (the Sefardi), as well as from Eastern Europe (the Ashquenazi). Then the Portuguese, Spanish, Italian and Argentines started to arrive. As of the 1960s, and particularly during the 1990s, the neighborhood began to receive a great number of Chinese, Koreans and Japanese. A merchant of the area summarizes the feeling of fraternity that overcomes the differences and animosities that might affect relationships among people from such mixed ancestry: “All immigrants who leave their country and come to one where they find other immigrants, quickly become friends or even like siblings. Here I found many Jews, Greeks, and other races, and all are like siblings”.