Before my dad took us to see Sitio Roberto Burle Marx, we did a little exploration of the surrounding area there. The city it’s in is Barra de Guaratiba, which is in Rio de Janeiro state, but just out of Rio de Janeiro city. Just below a morro (hill) that we found on our way, luck struck. There was a local man at the bottom who talked about a lovely view from the top, and that he would love to guide us up there. On the way up that cloudy day, the man told me a little about himself. He used to work for a botanical garden and knew quite a bit about the plants of the area. He pointed out several plants used for different things along our walk up, such as plants used for shampoo and others used to eat. And he particularly pointed out some non-native species that are now very common in the area, such as the banana plant which is even a bit iconic there now. He pointed out many species that he described as good indicators of civilization, because they came with people. I thought the information was very useful, especially as I was expecting to see mainly native plants used in Marx’ sitio, and this would help make me a better judge. As it turns out, I saw many of these plants that ‘marked civilization’ within the sitio later. They were not advertised as native, so I did not exactly have hard feelings, but it was good to be able to not idolize the design for that reasons. I focused my learning.
I also noticed on my way up how much the community seemed to take charge of the care for this trail that attracted visitors, though I would have expected this to be a government job. There were many signs and writing on the walls about how the trail should be treated, sometimes comically, sometimes tugging on people’s values. None of the signs were formal. Everything was made cheaply and often disproportionately, so it was obvious that the community had made them. I found it a little more charming that way. And somehow, that made things work really well too. All the signs placed full responsibility on the visitors, sensing there was no one who really managed the area except them. The main request was to not leave behind any trash. And I never saw any trash on the way. Because of how well that worked, I’m not sure if this is the kind of place where I find funding very necessary anymore.
At the top, I found a view that I considered maybe the city of Rio de Janeiro might have looked more like had there not been as much investment by wealth. The beaches had an absence of buildings, and were not altered for aesthetic purposes. The locals profited from the local and open resources, selling crafts and freshwater dishes. And the community, though they lived on a hillside like the poorer population of Rio, made a decent living. It made me consider what a middle ground might look like in Rio if resources were more better distributed. If they ever tried that on, I think it would look good on the city.