By Oscar Maldonado, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO – Very little store signage, light traffic and clean streets framed by tall trees – if it were the description of a Carioca neighborhood in the heart of Zona Sul, it would be hard to believe.
Nonetheless, buffered between some of Copacabana’s hills, the Bairro Peixoto is a small community that distinguishes itself from the noisy and hectic nature of Copacabana.
The residents of Bairro Peixoto are well aware of this. That is why they have taken the responsibility of looking after it and naming it one of the last remaining oases of Rio’s Zona Sul. In fact, the Associação de Moradores e Amigos do Bairro Peixoto (Association of Residents and Friends of Bairro Peixoto), a group dedicated to the promotion and care of the neighborhood, has created a website to function as an information channel and a community forum. The name of the website is ‘Oasis’.
Bairro Peixoto is nestled in Copacabana but has clear boundaries. The neighborhood forms a rectangle enclosed by Henrique Oswald Street to the north, Santa Clara to the west, Tabajaras Hillside to the east and Tonelero street to the south. According to the Community Association, Bairo Peixoto has 440 residential buildings and a population of 9,000. The layout of Bairro Peixoto contains two public squares, one small passage and thirteen streets. Within its boundaries, the neighborhood has a health care facility, a Baptist church, a small shopping mall, a hotel, a police station and a daycare center, among the most notable landmarks.
In the heart of the neighborhood lies Praça Edmundo Bittencourt (Edmundo Bittencourt Square), a place that sponsors several outdoor activities. It is frequently visited by retired Cariocas living in the neighborhood and serves as a children’s playground.
Spreading in all directions from the square, Bairro Peixoto was conceived in a drastically different architectural style than the rest of Copacabana. This is evident in the presence of a large number of two-story houses built in the neo-colonial style, mainly in the 40s and 50s. Coexisting with these houses, there are also some high-rises with glass details, built mainly after the 60s.
In many ways, the community that this neighborhood has created works as a little NGO in favor of the construction of strong community bonds. A good example of this is ‘A Voz do Bairro’ (the Neighborhood’s Voice), a small newspaper with a circulation of 5,000. It mainly serves as a community voice and billboard, in order to keep residents informed of topics of interest. The community is strong, as they have formed an effective lobby group and have elected representatives to see to their interests regarding city hall legislature and project discussion.
Bairro Peixoto still remains as a hidden space within Copacabana. Few tourists walk its parks and informal street commerce is a rare sight around its corners. Life seems to move more slowly. And amidst the hectic pace of Rio’s Zona Sul, “O Peixoto” clearly stands out as the place for nostalgic Cariocas, who long for a time when the whole of Rio was just like this little corner of the world.