The Tijuca Forest (Floresta da Tijuca in Portuguese) is a mountainous hand-planted rainforest in the city of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It is the world’s largest urban forest, covering some 32 km². The name Tijuca originates from an obscure term from Tupi language which means marsh, and is a reference to the Tijuca lagoon in the contemporary Barra da Tijuca. So the mountains were named Tijuca after the marsh? Try to work that one out!
The Tijuca Forest is home to hundreds of species of plants and wildlife, many threatened by extinction, found only in the Mata Atlântica. After all the original forest had been destroyed to make way for coffee farms, Tijuca was replanted by Major Manuel Gomes Archer in the second half of the 19th century in a successful effort to protect Rio’s water supply.
One favela named Mata Machado exists in the Tijuca Forest. It’s inhabitants are mainly the descendants of those who migrated to the region in the 1930s to take part in the replanting effort. Though conditions have improved recently under the Favela-Bairro Project, Mata Machado still contributes to environmental degradation in the forest.
In 1961, Tijuca Forest was declared a National Park. The Forest contains a number of attractions, the most famous being the colossal sculpture of Christ the Redeemer atop Corcovado mountain, Corcovado, meaning “hunchback” in Portuguese. From the peak of Corcovado the panoramic view includes downtown Rio, Sugarloaf Mountain, Copacabana and Ipanema beaches, Estádio do Maracanã (Maracanã Stadium) and several of Rio’s favela’s.
Christ the Redeemer (Portuguese: Cristo Redentor) considered the largest Art Deco statue in the world and the 3rd largest statue of Jesus in the world is 30 metres tall, excluding its 8 metres pedestal, and its arms stretch 28 metres wide, and weighing 635 tonnes. The symbol of Brazilian Christianity, the statue has become an icon for Rio de Janeiro and Brazil around the world, and I am sure we will see this magnificent statue as a backdrop many times during the FIFA 2014 Word Cup next year.