This edition of Rolé Carioca will take us through the history of a neighborhood that coincides with that of a forest - Tijuca Forest, which today is the result of a combination of reforestation and natural regeneration of various parts of the forest. During the Portuguese colonization, human occupation advanced along the slopes, where the highlands and mild climate represented an escape from the dirty, unhealthy, crowded streets of the center. From this noble point, the city was viewed in a beautiful way - that is, from afar!
The establishment of the first coffee farms in Rio practically transformed the massif into open land. The most devastating period was in the early 19th century, when farms with between 5 and 100,000 coffee trees set up in the area. The product would soon deplete the soil, being taken and multiplied in the Paraíba Valley and later in São Paulo. What remained of native vegetation on the tops of the steeper hills and slopes, and the resulting scarcity of water, caught the attention of our rulers. Between 1844 and 1890, regulations were issued and enforced to preserve the original forest, replant devastated parts and relocate streams to ensure water supply for the urban population. It is estimated that more than 200,000 seedlings were planted under the command of Major Manuel Gomes Archer and Tomás Nogueira da Gama, in the upper Tijuca and Paineiras regions.
Subsequently, measures such as the improvement of trails and access to the region continued these policies, making the Forest a sanctuary for nature lovers, tourists, visitors and for the recreation and environmental education of the population. Despite being located in the middle of a chaotic metropolis, subject to fire, robbery and invasion, the replanted Tijuca Forest is in a healthy state of 'regeneration'. This relative stability contrasts sharply with what happened in the not too distant past: when Rio was still a small town, in a short time the surrounding forests were almost completely decimated.
Image Credit: BN Digital