URCA, the “in” thing of the moment (condensed).
Published in TAM NAS NUVENS magazine, march 2009 - NewContent.
By Nathalia Lavigne
For about 3,000 tourists who use the cable car every day during the high season, it is likely that the word “urca” does not signify anything more than the name of the mountain at the first part of the route up to the Sugar Loaf. But, if someone on the way back held back from immediately boarding the bus for a stroll around the district, he/she will discover one of the most charming tourist points.
Surrounded on one side by
Guanabara Bay and the sea on the other, the district, in the format of a
peninsula and in a corner of
There you come across
those who carry their barbecue grills and spend the day at the beach,
the fishermen not worried about catching fish and couples looking for a
romantic sunset with a view of the small boats in
houses, nearly all without fences and with their heritage-protected
façades, preserve the same style of when the district was founded 87
years ago after the completion of the landfill works, in 1922. The name
Urca actually comes from the initials of the company that handled the
project. Long before this, it was on this small stretch of land that
Estácio de Sá disembarked with his companions in 1565 to found the city
One of the famous buildings is the
Urca Casino, now the IED (Istituto Europeo di Design). Built in 1922 to
be a luxury spa, the building in eclectic style with neoclassical traces
has been abandoned for over 20 years. At the time of the casino, which
lasted from 1934 to 1946, the building on
When gambling was
prohibited and the casino closed, the building became the headquarters
of TV Tupi and the district retuned, once again, to the spotlight. “Once
upon a time some compared Urca to a
The atmosphere of a
Gomes, 93, owner and founder of Bar Urca, has never been part of the
estimated 6,750 residents of the district but is an authority when the
subject is the history of Urca - including the extinct casino. Gomes is
considered the oldest trader in activity in
In spite of his advanced age, never a day goes by that he doesn’t visit his business. On a sunny Saturday in February, the Vascan soccer team fan remembers when he worked at the Casino as a guimbeiro, picking up the cigarette butts that multiplied next to those who were without luck. “When they started to lose a lot, many would give me some chips so I’d drop out of sight”, tells Gomes.
Judging by the success of his
business, Gomes was never a spoilsport. On weekends it becomes more
difficult to get a table at the mezzanine, where the seafood restaurant
is located. But the most sought after place on the Urca Embankment is
the one in front of the bar, the new summer hotspot of
By the way, for those who have never been on the top of a wall, the hint from veterans is to pick a point close to a concrete post or a signpost when you feel the lack of support for your back.
A few meters from there, the São João Fortress no longer enjoys the same popularity. Among the small group that makes a guided tour of São João Fortress, the third oldest of the country, a couple of engineers named Leila Borges and Evaldo Zilio say that for the last nine years they have been trying to visit the historic site, built in 1578 at the point of Guanabara Bay. “It was always bureaucratic, one couldn’t visit it on weekends,” they complained.
If the arrival of IED will make Urca a better or worse place, one has to wait for the next round. But those who have never visited the district must hurry. It will never be the same again.
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