By Bruno De Nicola, Senior Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO – Though sometimes written off by the national press, businesses can undoubtedly flourish in Santa Teresa, the historical and truly bohemian neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro largely because it consistently captures visitors’ imaginations.
Certainly not all Cariocas share the same feelings about it, with many afraid to make the journey up into an area surrounded by favelas on all sides, but regardless, foreigners just seem to love it, and over the past five years Santa Teresa has witnessed a boom in tourism-related business and services.
It is sad, therefore, that as soon as something bad happens in the neighborhood, business slows down and customers begin to stay away. The recent coverage of the death of the charity Afroreggae’s Evandro Joao da Silva, for example, has brought some unwanted negative coverage to the community.
It certainly is not easy to decipher whether or not investing in Santa Teresa is a good idea. On the one hand you have the beautiful houses and incredible views, but on the other its popularity is susceptible to huge fluctuations and not least of all – because of the Carioca love of the beach.
For those who are not so familiar with the neighborhood, Santa Teresa isn’t on the beach, but it is a genuine historical beauty right in the heart of Rio de Janeiro and is the home of many artists and cultural events. Here, old colonial buildings blend with modern constructions while its iconic 108 year-old tram, the Brazilian version of ones you see in San Francisco, rattles along the streets, itself attracting a great number of tourists.
However, Santa Teresa is primarily a residential area and therefore it doesn’t count on too many businesses: only a few stores and around 15 restaurants and bars; the rest are hotels, which go from the relatively cheap youth-hostels to a few top class hotels such as the recently opened Santa Teresa Hotel.
The ‘Cafecito’ is the newest business in Santa Teresa having opened just two weeks ago, and is a delicatessen right in the midst of the historical area partly owned and managed by Santiago Harte, an Argentine who has lived in the neighborhood for twenty-four years.
Mr. Harte believes that; “because of its peculiar profile, Santa Teresa is becoming an important culinary district” in the Cidade Maravilhosa. In an interview with The Rio Times he stated that “the Cafecito’s menu is a mix of products that should please both the people who live in the area and those who come to have something uncommon in a very special environment”.
Mr. Harte also hopes that the cultural agenda of Santa Teresa improves in terms of organization; “If the government and the local societies work better on producing the area’s events” he says, “all businesses here will grow rapidly”.
Pizza maker and Actor, Paulo Rafael Pizarro decided to jump into the action. His successful pizzeria in the Largo das Letras cultural area is based on “an interesting blend between food and arts”.
Mr. Pizzarro is a histrionic cook who enjoys acting on the streets of Santa Teresa to attract those who love cultural happenings. “The Largo das Letras is for everybody” he stated, as he pointed out that “a good relationship with the locals is essential for successful businesses in the area”.
Mr. Pizzarro, in opposition to Mr. Harte, doesn’t seem to enjoy the idea of Santa Teresa becoming a culinary district. “Even though it could help the Pizzeria sell more, I’m afraid that neighborhood doesn’t have the right infrastructure for great numbers of visitors” he said.
That may be true, and the recent tram accident certainly slowed down trade for a period, but regardless of such occasional hiccups, there can be little doubt that to remain untouched by Santa Teresa’s unique magic is next to impossible, and that as a result there will never be a shortage of people trying their arm at the business venture that means they can make this hillside their home.