1
Introduction: The Marvelous City
Cidade maravilhosa, cheia de encantos mil
Cidade maravilhosa, coração do meu Brasil
[Marvelous City, full of a thousand charms
Marvelous City, heart of my Brazil]
—André Filho, “Cidade Maravilhosa” (1934)
The opening lines of “Cidade Maravilhosa” gracefully capture the enchant-
ment of Rio de Janeiro. Composed by Rio native André Filho (1906–1974) for
the 1935 Carnaval season, the memorable phrasings “Cidade maravilhosa”
(Marvelous City) and “encantos mil” (a thousand charms) have acquired
the aura of foundational myth. In 1960, municipal leaders designated Filho’s
march as the official anthem of a city originally founded on March 1, 1565.
The song has been covered by samba schools, North American jazz greats,
the titans of Brazilian Popular Music, and countless amateurs. The Brazil-
ian axé musician Daniela Mercury belted out a spirited version of “Cidade
maravilhosa” at the opening ceremonies of the 2007 Pan-American Games,
held in the great Maracanã stadium. The nickname “Marvelous City” and
variants such as “Wonder City” and “A Marvel of a City” have served as
shorthand for all that is extraordinary about The Very Loyal and Heroic
City of Saint Sebastian of Rio de Janeiro (A Muito Leal e Heróica Cidade de
São Sebastião do Rio de Janeiro), as the city is known in its fullest glory. Ca-
riocas, the modern demonym for Rio’s native-born, are the beneficiaries and
proponents of such beguiling formulations of pride, awe, and amazement.
Yet Filho was hardly the first to rhapsodize on his hometown. His now-
famous Carnaval ditty took its inspiration from idioms dating back to the
late nineteenth
century.1
Even before Rio was officially established in 1565,
European travelers and early modern humanists marveled at a place of natu-
ral beauty and abundance inhabited by a theretofore unfamiliar people of
preternatural goodness. In 1765, a colonial governor wrote to the reform-
minded Portuguese prime minister Sebastião José de Carvalho e Melo about
a port city of such great richness and potential that it would be a “funda-
mental stone” of the empire and “a key to Brazil.”
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In the 1820s, the heir
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