You’ve probably seen the wavy black and white-patterned sidewalks that are quintessentially Rio, more specifically from Copacabana Beach.
The 4-km-long promenade was designed by Roberto Burl Marx, a Brazilian landscape architect, and was completed in 1970. The Copacabana Beach promenade forms a giant abstract painting where no section along the promenade is the same. This “painting” is viewed from the balconies of hotels, and offers an ever changing view for those driving along the beach. The mosaics continue the entire two and a half mile distance of the beach.
But did you know that there is a story embedded in those sidewalks? Look closely, and you’ll see some red stone within the black and white Portuguese stone.
This is where the history is shown.
According to our tour guide, Neyla, the black and white waves represent the White Europeans and the Black African slaves, whose history is intertwined in Brazil. While not necessarily interwoven, they are intermingled, each influencing the other.
But within the black and white lines, you will find pockets of red. This represents the indigenous peoples of Brazil (povos indígenas no Brasil), who were engulfed by the Europeans and slave populations around 1500, remaining isolated but still influenced by the presence of the others. There colors are smaller patches within the larger picture; their lands are smaller pockets within the larger country.
Next time you’re strolling along the beach in Copacabana, look down and around you. Find those pockets of color in the sidewalk mosaic, and think about the history embedded there.