The Mallard Fountain (Chafariz das Marrecas) was built in 1785 as a public service water fountain. Located at what is now the corner of Rua Evaristo da Veiga and Rua das Marrecas, it was demolished in 1896 to make room for the expansion of the police headquarters.
Today, the statues of Echo and Narcissus live at the Botanical Gardens while the mallards live in this charming little museum inside of the lush nature preserve called City Park.
I was able to photograph the mallard that you can see in the gallery below when it was on loan to the National History Museum as part of a temporary exhibition.
All of Our Stories are Simultaneous: History is Complicated (pt. 3 of 4)
OK, fine, but Mestre Valentim wasn't enslaved. As the son of an enslaved mother, it's not clear how he got his freedom, but he was free by the time he arrived in Rio (unless he ran away, like my imagination does with his story...) and he moved freely among the elites of Rio de Janeiro, folks with the most money and the most power, the architects of the Christian white supremacist colonization project, the Viceroy himself, included. When he was contracted to design Passeio Público, he knew full well that his paycheck had its origins in the literal blood of the enslaved in Rio de Janeiro (see parts 6, 7, and 8 of the interview with Prof. Nireu Cavalcanti). In all of his projects, he was working with enslaved Africans and Black Brazilians—São Bento was financed with sugar and built with enslaved labor, and on and on. But yet, Valentim was never called “Master” in his lifetime, never allowed to hold that title that would have allowed him to open his own studio. And any breach of that protocol could have resulted in him losing the credentials that he did have and not being able to work again. So even his horizons were cut short by his racialized category, noted in the law as the “color defect” or “infectious blood” even with the firm belief that his father was a Portuguese nobleman.
We're told to see great Black historical figures as exemplary individuals, who conquered against all odds, and were finally able to join the white elite. Many mistake Brazil's ridiculous claim as the Great Racial Democracy to imply that racism doesn't exist in Brazil. Instead, Brazil's false promise is a democratized path to whiteness. Everyone is equally invited to internalize white supremacy, adhere to its rules, ascend according to its measures, to perform its values, to finally arrive and become “white”. We're told that those individuals who were able to move among the elite were “really white”... the “whitening” not just being in their portraiture, how they are depicted, but in the sense of having a “white soul” that overcame a “black body”. Remember that the colonizing project cannot be unwoven from the missionary project. “Saving souls” was a whitening project, democratically open to all of the natives it was imposed upon. So today, we're asked to believe that race is a malleable plastic social marker and that “Black” is low, and crude, and dirty, while “white” is educated, refined, and clean. But as we study history, we learn that no, none of the names of the Great Ones belongs to “special individuals” who achieved “whiteness” but rather to whole groups and classes of melanated people who built the city, its economy, its politics, its art, its architecture, and its culture, well beyond the acknowledged and embraced samba, capoeira and carnaval.