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Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Rio Photo The site of the present day Rio de Janeiro was first identified by Portuguese explorers in January 1502. Finding what they believed to be the mouth of a great river, they named the area "River of January". A permanent settlement was established in 1536. In 1763, Rio displaced Salvador de Bahia as the colonial capital of Brazil, and for the next two centuries the city went unchallenged as the urban center of Brazil.

Following the independence of Brazil from Portugal in 1822, Rio became the capital city of the independent empire of Brazil. But this imperial period came to an end and a republic was established in 1899; this was the first blow to the supremacy of Rio. Even then it continued to be the capital, but eventually in the 1960's the creation of a new capital, Brasilia, was a statement that the political supremacy of Rio had run its course.

Currently the second largest city in Brazil (Sao Paolo being the largest), Rio has experienced steadily declining population growth over the past several decades and is currently the most slowly growing mega-city in the developing world.

Even though the growth of competing metropolitan regions has eroded its leading edge, Rio continues to be an important urban centre. Industry has continued to grow. The clothing industry and pharmaceutical as well as the medical and food industries are highly important.

As in many other major cities, air pollution, housing, homelessness and sanitation, are problematic. These, however, are problems which the government works on constantly. While there is pollution leaking into the water supply from industry, the water is treated and made available to 77% of the city's population (93% in the city centre).

One cannot write of Rio without mentioning the Carnival when all the city comes together in a week of processions and festivities. Not only does the whole city come together, it seems at times during this week that the whole world converges on Rio.

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