Santa Teresa Suffers Without Bonde

By Donitra Clemons, Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Santa Teresa has long been a popular tourist destination, with steep rolling cobblestone streets and a distinctly bohemian style of shops and restaurants. However, business in Santa Teresa has suffered since the closing of the trolley, locally known as the bonde, following a tragic accident last year (2011) on August 27th.

Cine Santa closed for renovation but has yet to reopen in Santa Teresa, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil News

Cine Santa closed for renovation but has yet to reopen in Santa Teresa, photo by Rodrigo Soldon/Flickr Creative Commons License.

The accident left six people dead and 54 people injured only two months after a French tourist fell to his death from a bonde crossing the Arcos da Lapa.

Yet the popular streetcar was an important tourist attraction for the city of Rio, as well as a viable means of transport for the community in Santa Teresa.

Now close to a year after the bonde closed, in addition to mourning the absence of a historic neighborhood icon, community business owners are experiencing a significant loss to their pocketbooks.

While there are no concrete numbers for the loss of business yet, many are reporting a short-fall of at least thirty to fifty percent in sales. Other businesses, like the contemporary Brazilian-food restaurant Jasmim Manga has closed. The independent movie theater Cine Santa has yet to reopen from renovations.

Manager of the trolley’s namesake bar, Bar do Bonde, Marcos Olivera, estimates that his business has suffered a twenty to thirty percent loss. “It’s not just a loss of patronage from tourists, but locals as well because many people would ride the bonde up the hill and the bonde passed right in front of our bar.”

Before being closed down, the Santa Teresa bonde was a draw for tourists and locals alike, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil News

Before being closed down, the Santa Teresa bonde was a draw for tourists and locals alike, photo by Andre Oliveira/Flickr Creative Commons License.

Domingos Cardoso, plastics artist and manager of Galeria Camayoc-Huasi agrees, “There is significantly less traffic, but I’m optimistic because events like Rio+20 and Portos Abertos are coming up.”

Much of the community has mobilized to ensure the proper return of the bonde – there is graffiti, homemade signs, and omnipresent yellow and black stickers with images of the bonde crying posted throughout the neighborhood.

The Association of Residents of Santa Teresa (AMAST) holds regular meetings and rallies to speed up the current plan of restoring the bonde system.

By the year 2013, the government aims to reinstate the trolley service. “We will spend the entire year of 2012 in the task of renewal of track, equipment and purchasing new trams. We have appropriated, for starters, R$40 million for it. In 2013, for sure, we will deliver this gift to the city,” promises Governor Sérgio Cabral.

Although the city has added two bus lines to operate along the same routes of the bondes, the substitute seems to not have been able to recoup the charm of the bonde nor the amount of visitors to Santa Teresa.

Artist Getulio Damado, says he hasn’t seen this level of decline in the thirty years he has operated his business. Damado’s business, which sells popular replicas of the bonde using recycled materials, is an attraction in its own right.

“My sales have fallen at least fifty percent, but my costs have not decreased. I depend heavily on tourists, and I am suffering without the bonde,” stresses Damando.

7 Responses to "Santa Teresa Suffers Without Bonde"

  1. Tj  June 7, 2012 at 12:26 PM

    “we will deliver this gift to the city”
    Its your Job Governor Sérgio Cabral, you should not be thinking as if its a gift and your doing the city a favor, if it had been maintained well in the first place these tragic accidents would have been avoided, and the bonde would still be running.

  2. Janis  June 8, 2012 at 3:30 PM

    Bonde should cost much more than it did. Lack of money was main reason why there was no maintenance of these streetcars. The cities taxpayers have no obligation to pay for tourist entertainment that was Bonde. Hopefully it will soon be back, but hopefully all the users will need to pay adequate amount of money for the tickets.

  3. Tj  June 9, 2012 at 9:49 PM

    “The cities taxpayers have no obligation to pay for tourist entertainment”

    Firstly just as many locals used the Bonde as Tourists did, and secondly Spending tax money on tourist entertainment brings more tourists which is good for the city/neighborhood that’s what the article is about if you didn’t realize, the fact Santa Teresa is suffering with our the Bonde.

    Locals already are struggling to pay for the expensive replacement bus serves, so I do hope your not implying they put the price of the Bonde up when it finally does come back in to action? your obviously very detached to what the Bonde was actually all about Janis.

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  7. Roberto  July 10, 2013 at 11:02 AM

    We were at Santa Teresa in June 2013. Still no bonde and no signs of improvement of the infrastructure. It is the same every where:politicians make promises which they don’t keep.

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