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Interpreting the Evidence

Rio Branco Avenue, Rio de Janeiro, 1935

  • Documents in this Activity:
  • Historical Eras:

    The Great Depression and WW II (1929 - 1945)

  • Thinking Skill:

    Historical Analysis & Interpretation

  • Grade Level:

    Lower Elementary
    Upper Elementary
    Middle School
    High School
    College University

  • Topics:

    Global History and Geography

  • Primary Source Types:


  • Regions:


  • Creator:

    NYS Archives Partnership Trust Education Team

  1. Load Rio Branco Avenue, Rio de Janeiro, 1935 in Main Image Viewer

Suggested Teaching Instructions

Document Description
Avenida Rio Branco in Rio de Janeiro with the harbor and Sugarloaf Mountain in the background, 1935.
Historical Context
Brazil is a vast country.  Covering almost half of South America, it is the fifth largest country in the world in size and population.  It has the largest rainforest in the world, but also one of the world’s largest cities.  The Portuguese settled the country in the sixteenth century and named it Brasil after the brasilwood tree, which was used to make red dye.  Today, Brazil is a republic with twenty-six states.  It is a melting pot of cultures and a country of contrasts – modern and primitive, rich and poor, industrial and agricultural, urban and rural and wild.

The second-largest city in Brazil, Rio de Janeiro, received its name from Portuguese explorers who discovered the mouth of Guanabara Bay in January of 1502 and named it Rio de Janeiro, or the River of January.  Founded in 1565 as Sao Sebastiao do Rio de Janeiro, the city grew in size and importance in the early 1700s as a shipping port for gold and diamonds.  It served as the capital of Brazil from 1763 until 1960, when a new capital city, Brasilia, was constructed from scratch by the government.  When Napoleon invaded Portugal in 1807, Rio de Janeiro even served as the capital of the Portuguese Empire for several years.

Rio de Janeiro is called "Cidade Maravilhosa" ("Marvellous City"), and with good reason.  Tourists flock to the city, which is situated among inspiring mountains, spectacular beaches, and tropical rainforest.  An active nightlife and the world-famous Carnival give Rio de Janeiro a reputation for being an exciting city to visit.

This photograph shows the Avenida Rio Branco (formerly called Avenida Central).  This street is a major business street that runs north and south through Rio de Janeiro. In the background of the photograph is Sugarloaf Mountain, which has become a symbol of the city and a popular tourist attraction.

Essential Question
How does geography impact human settlement and economy?
Check for Understanding
Describe the city of Rio de Janeiro using evidence from the photograph and discuss the influence of geography on city's development and economy.
Historical Challenges
During Carnival in Rio de Janeiro, some of the Samba Schools parade down Avenida Rio Branco (the street shown in this photograph). Research the origins of Carnival. How do other countries celebrate Carnival? How do students or teachers in your school celebrate Carnival? Compare and contrast parades you have seen in the United States to the Carnival parades in Rio de Janeiro. Form your own Carnival parade.
Interdisciplinary Connections
Math: Sugarloaf Mountain is 396 meters high. About how many feet high is Sugarloaf Mountain?
Science: From what kind of rock is Sugarloaf Mountain made? What minerals are mined in the mountains around Rio de Janeiro?
English Language Arts: Create a travel brochure for Rio de Janeiro highlighting its features and encouraging people to visit.
Music: Name two kinds of music that originated in Brazil. Listen to an example of each kind of music. What instruments do you hear? Write a persuasive paragraph about why Brazilian music is better, as good as, or worse than your favorite music.