Chafariz do Saracuras or the Wood Rail Fountain stands today in the middle of General Osório plaza in the neighborhood of Ipanema, where Rio's famed Hippie Fair takes place every Sunday from 9:00am to 5:00pm.
The fountain, built in 1795, was originally located in the Convento da Ajuda, which is now the area called Cinelândia in downtown Rio de Janeiro. The fountain was moved to the neighborhood of Copacabana and then to Ipanema after the convent was demolished in 1911.
The fountain has been restored several times since then, for various reasons, including the construction of the subway station. The repeated theft of the cast metal birds (and turtles) has been an on-going problem. Thankfully, the molds are in the archive and so the original cast iron sculptures can be faithfully recreated in bronze. However, this remains just one example of the issue of security when it comes to the preservation of public landmarks.
According to the History of the Monuments of Rio de Janeiro blog, the birds and turtles were stolen from the fountain in 1998, 2006, 2009, 2010, and 2013. As of this writing, the creatures are missing and the fountain is in ruins.
All of Our Stories Are Simultaneous: History Is Complicated (pt. 2 of 4)
While Valentim was among the greatest of his times, there remains an unknown number of anonymous artisans, craftsmen and artists whose work shaped, molded and created this city, who were Black, African, mixed race, born free, freedmen*, or enslaved. This high level of skilled labor was not only done by the free and the freedmen*. In this sense, Valentim represents a class of people, not just the exceptional individual who rose above all odds. Africans, Blacks, People of Color— melanated people were at the forefront of the arts, architecture, urban planning, painting, sculpting, music, and literature throughout the colonial period.
An enslaved person could be of any level of skill. We're taught to believe that “slave labor” is the same as “unskilled labor”, that is, toiling away in the cane fields or on the cotton plantations in the direst of conditions. While in fact, there was a hierarchy withing the slave system, where higher skilled enslaved people had a higher status, both inside the marginalized Black social world and in the larger society as well. Scribes, for example, were very high-status, as many of the Portuguese (and other colonizing Europeans) came from the lower classes in Europe and could not read or do math calculations. These colonizers were dependent upon educated Africans to read and write their contracts and correspondences, as well as to keep their business accounts! And due to the system of renting and loaning slaves, a higher skilled enslaved person could be extremely valuable, economically speaking, to a captor/owner. That is to say, that while a higher status enslaved African might have some “better” conditions (food, clothing, a bed to sleep in, etc.), this person might have almost no chance of gaining his/her freedom. As we learn about and understand different kinds of situations in the “slavocracies” of the New World, we cannot organize them on a neat linear scale, where this one was “better” or “worse” than that one.
*Because of the guild structure at the time, we are talking about “men” and not “people”.