Rio On Location: Santa Teresa in “Rio”

Credits: Fox Animation

Rio (2011) is one of those computer animations that will put a spell on you. Its main characters, Blu (voice by Jesse Eisenberg) and Jewel (voice by Anne Hathaway) are considered to be the last blue-macaws in the world, and they are responsible for making the movie so adorable. Blu was born in Rio de Janeiro, but at an early age went to live in Minnesota, in the United States, where he picked up some – let’s say – “human” habits. On a beautiful sunny day, he returns to his home town to meet with Jewel. The journey is planned for them to ensure the survival of their species for generations to come, though the young bird has yet to find that out.

After arriving on Brazilian land, the couple ends up being kidnapped by wild animal smugglers. Blu and Jewel escape captivity and search for a means to get rid of their handcuffs. On their way – filled with stunning natural and urban landscapes, as well as a view of the favelas – they meet birds who are willing to help. Accompanied by their new friends, the two embark on a yellow streetcar to the neighborhood of Santa Teresa. Blu and Jewel are able to relax for a few minutes, and seep in the beauty of the afternoon, bathed in delicate sunlight. The romantic mood is set by Nico, Pedro and Rafael, the other birds: one whistles a soothing melody, the other plays an instrument, while the third makes flowers rain gently down on the two lovebirds from the trees beside the tracks. One cannot help but feel the charm of the situation, while the twisting alleys and beautiful old mansions are unveiled as the streetcar goes on waddling up the hill.

A scenery fit for cinema
Photo: Fran Mateus

In Santa Teresa, the birds get off the streetcar in front of the dog Luiz’s workshop, the bulldog-blacksmith who will help them get rid of their handcuffs. The best advice for your tour is to get off at the Largo dos Guimarães, the neighborhood’s central square. From then on, exploring on foot will reveal a picturesque scenery, filled with little stores, art galleries, coffee shops, bookstores and a movie theater, the Cine Santa Teresa.

During your walking tour, you’ll be able to see mansions from the late eighteen hundreds, and early nineteen hundreds, built in a variety of styles: from the colonial period to neoclassical, in gothic, romantic and art déco fashions. Deciding on which house is the most beautiful is quite a challenge. Another treasure of this tour is the incredible views of downtown Rio and the Guanabara Bay. From certain angles within the neighborhood you can see the Maracanã stadium and the Sambadrome.

Photo: Fran Mateus

The artistic mood of Santa Teresa is inspiring. It’s no coincidence that the neighborhood is known as the Montmartre of Rio de Janeiro! If, after walking around artist’s studios and stopping at cafés, you by any chance feel the urge to write a book, compose a song lyric, or paint a picture, or even direct a movie, don’t be surprised! The intellectual atmosphere of “Santa” – how the people of Rio refer to the neighborhood – is quite contagious!

To get there, you should take a taxi or a bus. The famous yellow streetcars, similar to the ones seen in the movie Rio, are, at this moment, no longer active, since they are undergoing changes to increase their safety.

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