One of the first Armenians to set foot on Brazilian land was Mihran Latif (Latifyan, 1856 – 1929), a native of Istanbul.
A graduate of the engineering department of the University of Kant in Belgium, Latifyan arrived in Rio de Janeiro in 1879 when Brazil was still a monarchy. In Brazil, he would engage in the construction of railways in the states of Minas Gerais, Pernambuco, and Ceará.
In Rio de Janeiro, Latifyan built the famous Empress Leopoldina Railway and the equally famous Avenida Beira Mar Avenue. For his merits, he was awarded the honorary Order of the Rose. He also had close ties with the ruling circles in Brazil and abroad.
In October 1897, the municipal authorities of Rio de Janeiro issued a decree integrating Rio into a single complex. A competition was announced for the best project of a holistic, indivisible, and modular city. The project of Mihran Latifyan won. He was assigned to implement the plan.
Latifyan’s future plan for Rio was a territory encircled by a ring of bypass and unloading freeways. The areas located on the hills were to be connected by openwork bridges and multi-tier overpasses boldly joined by branches of tunnels and underground passages.
Taking up the construction of the area, Latifyan in just sixteen months built the 70 meters wide Peyra Marr Avenue. This was the beginning of what is now considered classic urban planning, planning that takes into account all local features, including national ones. The horseshoe laid out in coastal Rio has since been a place of mass rest and relaxation.
Mihran Latifyan died at the age of 73, in 1929, on his birthday, May 20.