The north zone is the most populated district of Rio de Janeiro. Almost 50% of Cariocas live in this region that only comprises 25% of the city. It’s divided into 17 administrative areas that are subdivided into approximately a hundred neighborhoods and sub-neighborhoods.
The region is very diverse and marked by inequalities, including more high-end neighborhoods, such as Tijuca, Alto da Boa Vista, Méier and Vila Isabel, as well as poor and underprivileged areas, such as the Complexo do Alemão, Maré, Jacarezinho and Pavuna.
This area also includes the legendary Maracanã stadium and the brand new Estádio João Havelange soccer stadium, where fans gather to cheer on their teams and celebrate their love for soccer. The north zone also features the Ilha do Governador and Rio’s international airport Antonio Carlos Jobim, also known as Galeão, which may not be in the best state, but is the gateway to Rio for thousands of tourists every year.
The region also features the famous Mercadão de Madureira, the largest market in Brazil, and the CEASA, an important food wholesale center.
Another attraction of the north zone are the many markets and popular celebrations. A great example is the Feira de São Cristóvão, a large bustling fair with products from the northeast of Brazil. Another important event of the north zone is the celebration at the Igreja Matriz de São Jorge, a week long event in honor of Saint George. Agua Santa hosts a major celebration in honor of Santo Antonio, Saint Anthony, with traditional Portuguese food and a procession through the neighborhood.
Other important monuments in this zone include the Igreja da Penha, the famous church on top of a cliff with 365 steps, and the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation, a lovely Moorish building that houses one of Brazil’s premier health and tropical disease research facilities in Manguinhos. Of course we can’t forget the Palacio do Samba and the many outstanding samba schools that are the heart of several neighborhoods and bring joy to the population.
However, the north zone is also surrounded by challenges and problems, the growing favelas castigate the region. Poverty, violence, drug trafficking, armed confrontations between police and drug dealers, and the power struggle between criminal gangs and militias formed by former police officers turn daily life into a struggle for survival and peace.
Furthermore, the lack of public funding and the lack of infrastructure add to the challenges of the residents who suffer from regular flooding and basic sanitation problems. Several neighborhoods are experiencing an economic recession which forces the population to move to growing neighborhoods such as Meier and surroundings.