“It is hard for a man to make any city worthy of such surroundings as nature has given to Rio.”—James Bryce.
Rio is a city where people live within their own limits, afraid of street violence, but not afraid of singing in the streets. Where the smooth sea pats the rugged mountain to show that life, like nature, is full of contrasts. A city where the sidewalks on its main beach are made of black and white stones, of darkness and light. A city where men and women come in all colors and in all creeds, and never argue because of that—but are constantly killing each other for worthless things, like the best samba song or the best soccer team. A city where 11.5 million people can dwell on top of each other, and the extreme poverty exists side by side with the most ostentatious wealth, and it is all part of daily life. A city able to teach each of its citizens the importance of one of William Blake’s Proverbs of Hell: "The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom." A city where midway points do not exist, where forests are found downtown, and high rises are in the suburbs. A city with love and hatred. Where mayors come and go and are not able to destroy the city, no matter how hard they try. A city where the glory of the past is today’s madness and also the hope for the future.
A city where the real quality of life lies in the fact that it is difficult, tense, harsh, funny, crazy, unbearable, unforgettable. A city that can be called a city, politically incorrect and deliciously treacherous. A city where sea waves create one of its limits, and the mountains take charge of spreading its structures along the coast as a line, because it simply refuses to grow in the boring circular way of all other cities.
If you find another city with all of this, please let me know. But I know only the city of Rio de Janeiro, and that’s the reason why, for the moment, I will stay here.
Rio. The real thing.
Brazilian author and journalist PAULO COELHO wrote The Alchemist, an international best seller.
Travel Photos From Your Shot
Browse Stunning Images of These Natural Marvels
Shop National Geographic
Special Ad Section
Watch as Nat Geo photographers reveal what drives them to create iconic images.