Foz do Iguaçu was 23 years old when the Federal Government inaugurated the Iguaçu National Park Airport in 1941. The town was then, as it is now, euphoric. The future looked bright. The city finally has a glimpse of the future and it was on the right track. With an airport where Pan American aircrafts were already landing on a scale to Asuncion, everything had been designed to work. The state government had already invested in a casino hotel. There was a hotel, there was an airport, and there were passengers. When Pan American stopped flying to Asuncion via Foz do Iguaçu, Panair came in, its Brazilian-American branch.
There was also a nascent group of entrepreneurs. Passengers arriving at the Iguaçu National Park Airport found a fleet of modern "tintureiras" - the forerunners of today's vans. Passengers were already visiting the Iguazu Falls that two years prior were inside the recently federated Iguassu National Park.
When it was built, the Casino Hotel seemed to be in the center of nowhere. However, it was the fanciest place in Foz do Iguaçu. Artists, politicians, leaders, and presidents stayed at the state-built hotel. Only in the late 1950s, distinguished visitors were welcomed at the Hotel das Cataratas within the Iguassu National Park.
With the modern Casino Hotel, Foz do Iguaçu was included in the route of Brazil's Casino Hotels which had been cleared to operate in 1934 and buzzed the cultural life in Rio de Janeiro and other Brazilian cities.
After the hotel started functioning, the couple Acylino and Rosa Cirilo de Castro — both street names in Foz do Iguaçu — were responsible for managing the establishment, the first to offer decent accommodation to visitors.
Change of route
In 1943, President Getulio Vargas’ Decree no. 5,812 created five federal territories for the dismemberment of lands from five states: Amapá, Rio Branco, Guaporé, Ponta Porã and Iguassú.
The Iguaçu Federal Territory (TFI) was created. Foz do Iguaçu was no longer part of Paraná and the government had dictated that the capital of the Federal Territory would be “the city of the same name”. The residents of Foz do Iguaçu went out to the city’s few streets to celebrate. Foz would finally be the capital of something. But the euphoria turned into disappointment and Foz do Iguaçu never assumed the status of Capital of the Territory. History has recorded an interesting maneuver. Article 5 of Decree no. 6,550, which dealt with the administration of the Territory, declared the city of Laranjeiras as the capital of the Iguaçu Territory. This time the revolt was total.
The maneuver did not take into account the fact that Laranjeiras was not within the Territory. The solution found was to include Laranjeiras in the territory. The former city of Laranjeiras became Vila Xagu and then Iguaçu. A Government Palace was built in Iguaçu (now Nova Laranjeiras) but the Territory's life was short. It was extinguished in 1946. The turnaround of the Territory's creation diverted attention from the efforts to build local tourism with the casino and waterfalls as its cornerstones.
The year 1946 brought another blow to the little city of Foz do Iguaçu. On April 30, 1946, the Decree no. 9,215 of President and Marshal Eurico Gaspar Dutra ordered the closing of all casinos in Brazil. It was the end of the Foz do Iguaçu Casino Hotel and 70 others in Brazil. The hotel had to dedicate itself exclusively to the hotel activity and the excursions. There was a national outcry and Foz participated in that outcry.
53,200 people are said to have become unemployed due to the closure of the 71 Brazilian casinos. There are no data on the consequences of the casino ban for Foz do Iguaçu. What is known is that the city has adapted and focused on the effort of attracting tourists to see and live the Iguazu Falls, promoting the hotel as a safe and comfortable port to visit the Iguazu Falls using the services of a travel agency in São Paulo.
Between the ban on casinos in Brazil and the inauguration of the Hotel das Cataratas, tourism survived exclusively from those who traveled to see the falls. When the Hotel das Cataratas was finally inaugurated, the company that won the bid to manage it, the Bianchi Hotels, owned by São Paulo businessman Alberto Quatrini Bianchi, was the last link of Iguazu tourism with the tradition of casinos.
Bianchi ran an extensive network of casino hotels in Brazil throughout the golden age of gaming in the country, with major capital investments, including tycoon Percival Farquhar, the king of railroads. The chain included the Atlantic Casino in Rio de Janeiro, the La Plage Hotel in Guarujá (where Santos Dumont committed suicide in 1932), the Poços de Caldas Grand Hotel, the Recife Grand Hotel, the Tabaris Casino, in Salvador, and the Icarahy Casino, in Niteroi.
Months after taking over the management of the Hotel, Bianchi passed it on, after negotiation with the Patrimony of the Union, to the nascent company Real Linhas Aéreas, later incorporated into Varig. From the 1960s on, the star of the Rede Tropical Hotel began to shine on the horizon, which included in its portfolio Brazilian hotels such as the Hotel das Cataratas (until 2007), the Tropical Manaus, the Tropical Tambaú and the Tropical Santarém, among others in big cities.
The inbound tourism is born
Inbound tourism in Foz do Iguaçu and Puerto Iguazú has been around since the beginning of the 20th century, when hotel pioneers such as Frederico Engel of Foz do Iguaçu and Leandro Arrechea of Puerto Iguazu ran hotels at both cities, at their respective sides of the Falls. Both Engel and Arrechea organized donkey loin visits to the Falls.
But it was in the 1960s, more specifically in 1965, that the “organized international inbound” was born. That was when Fernando Rodrigues Valente opened the company Cataratas Transport and Tourism Service (STTC). Sooner than later, Fernando Valente's STTC was joined by companies such as Inter Express based in Asunción (Paraguay). According to memories recorded by the tourism agent and “pupil”, Julio Cesar Rodrigues (in memoriam), “Valente was a great teacher” and created his school of thought in Foz do Iguaçu. The 1970s saw the consolidation of inbound tourism agencies, some that came out of Fernando Valente's school, others associated to hotels such as the Tropical Tourism Agency (ATT) of Rede Tropical/Varig, Gatti Turismo, from the Carimã Hotel, and several other agencies to serve national tourism, with Ortega Turismo leading the way.
Future Historic Center of Foz
The former Hotel Casino of Foz do Iguaçu is today the headquarters of Senac, where vocational courses are held in various areas of importance to the city. Opposite the historic building is the Almirante Tamandaré Square, known as the Navy Square. The headquarters of the Port Authority of Paraná River has been there since 1933.
This square is also the address for the School of Fluviais, where crews are prepared for the merchant fluvial navy. Every year hundreds of Brazilians from all over Paraná and Santa Catarina come to the school. Next to the school is the Navy Transit Hotel.
From Senac, turning right, we find the block of the City Hall. It is not difficult to identify, to the right of the building, the city’s Cultural Foundation and Municipal Library. Before the Foundation, the building was Foz Iguaçu’s District Court.
The Parish Church, headquarters of the St. John the Baptist Parish, is also near the City Hall. In front of the Parish Headquarters, in Getulio Vargas Square, is the former City Council. Less than a block away is the building now occupied by a dependency of the Ministry of Labor, which has formerly been the location of the Federal Police and the Bank of Brazil.
This region is soon to become Foz do Iguaçu’s Historic Center. A new Civic Center is being formed along Avenida Paraná and nearby streets. The new Civic Center follows a Master Plan created in the 1980s. There are projects for City Hall to move to the future Civic Center as well. When this happens, the Historic Center of Foz do Iguaçu will be officially created. However, while the Civic Center is not officially launched, the Historic Center is already part of Foz do Iguaçu’s city tour.