Our English immersion students got their tour of Brasilia. Fewer than half of them had visited their nation’s capital before, so we had an opportunity to introduce young Brazilians to Brasilia, which was fun. The weather, as usual, was brilliant as you can see from the photos.
The central government area, the “Plano Piloto” has remained much as it was designed. It is supposed to be modern with clean lines. Because the high plains (planalto) were flat and empty, this place provided a blank slate for the architects and planners. You can see the model in the picture above.
Building a new capital in the interior of the country was a dream of Brazilian leaders for centuries. They understood that moving the capital would draw development into the country. They identified places, like Brasilia, with near perfect climates, but they were just too far away from existing infrastructure. Beyond that, many officials and politicians were unenthusiastic about leaving their pleasant coastal cities and there was significant bureaucratic foot dragging.
President Juscelino Kubitschek decided to just do it – finally. You can see the man at his memorial above. He was the son of Czech immigrants and he always reminds me of Victor Laszlo. Building Brasilia was a truly audacious move. Juscelino or JK* pushed it through by force of will. He was criticized because of the expense and the inefficiency related to the urgency of the endeavor. There were no good roads to Brasilia and no infrastructure to build a city. They had to bring in everything: materials, workers, even water. They had to make a lake. Bulky and heavy materials, such as concrete, were sometimes flow in by airplane at great expense. JK understood that if it were not done fast and the construction pushed beyond the point of no return, it would never be done at all, so he accepted the cost and absorbed the criticism (Critics called him Pharaoh Juscelino).
President Eisenhower made an official visit to the city in 1960 and he and JK inaugurated the city, showing American support for the project. Eisenhower’s visit was a high point of U.S.-Brazil relations. Read a contemporary account of the event and the building of Brasilia here & the joint statement by Eisenhower and Kubitschek from Brasilia here.
It has now been more than fifty years since this spot of the high plains was turned into a city and we can see that it was an idea that worked. Much of Brazil’s growth in recent years has been in the central region. Having the capital in Brasilia helped pull interest, people, resources and development into the region, just as JK thought it would. JK’s slogan was “fifty years of development in five years.” It didn’t work out like that. But in the fifty plus years since his time, the region has achieved his dream. I think he would be content.
The picture above shows a couple of the English immersion kids becoming part of the celebration of Brasilia long before they were born, standing in front of a picture of a crowd of the time. You can read more about this here and here.
Let me just add a few more pictures. Brasilia was very beautiful. Below is a bust of Tiradentes, a national hero who fought and died for Brazilian independence.
Both pictures below are of the National Assembly. In behind you can see the building that house the various ministries.