Leblon the year 1900

Leblon in 1900, before the area had been developed.

This is the second article in the series about names of neighbourhoods and places in Rio de Janeiro, from a historical and cultural perspective the origins of these are often of great value.

In the last article I explained the propable origins of the neighbourhoods Ipanema and Copacabana as well as Parque de Catacumbas and Largo de Machado. In this one I will continue with Arpoador, Leblon, Botafogo and Largo da Segunda Feira.

Arpoador – The Harpoonist

Just like in many other locations along the Brazilian coast the waters outside of Rio de Janeiro used to be frequented by large herds of migrating whales. With the establishment of Europeans in Brazil came a gradually escalating hunt for whales, which culminated in the 19th century when American whale processing ships made the local whale population almost extinct. From the rock on Arpoador you were supposedly able to catch whales during parts of the year. Today you can only at times see a few killer whales passing by.

Leblon – Named From a Frenchman

This neighbourhood, home of some of the richest people in Brazil, is supposedly named from a Frenchman. Charles Leblond (or Le Bron) that became rich and subsequently influential mostly from his whaling operations. The name he used in Brazil was Leblon. In the 19th century he built a whale oil processing plant on land had been using for cattle raising, this was what is now Leblon. His name was passed on to an Abolutionist quilombo (slave and maroon settlement) and later to the neighbourhood. Another place in Rio de Janeiro that has got a connection to the history of whaling.

Botafogo – Got Its Name From a Warship

The name means something like set-on-fire in portuguese, a name quite fitting since it was the nickname of the most powerful naval weapon of its time, a Portuguese super-galeon called São João Baptista. João Pereira de Sousa was an artillery officer on board this ship and he was nicknamed Botafogo. When he bought land and settled in Rio de Janeiro he had included it in his last name. His lands was in what is today’s neighbourhood.

Largo da Segunda Feira – With Roots In a Homocide

Many think that name comes from the farmer’s market that takes place every Monday since a long time, a more probably explanation is a bit more macabre. One Monday morning in the late 18th century a man was encountered murdered in what was then a sugarcane plantation, he was buried close to where he was found. Murder was something quite uncommon at the time so it became big news, the place was named from this incident.


Sources and for further reading:
Rio Curioso: Bairro do Leblon
RHBJ Historia: Rio de Janeiro Escepcial
Antigo Leblon: Histórico
Wikipedia: Galeão Botafogo
– Gerson, B. “História das ruas do Rio de Janeiro” (1954)
– Rose, L. and Aguiar, N. “Tijuca de rua em rua” (2004)



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