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Subject: Pedro Lobo
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A favela (Portuguese pronunciation: [faˈvɛlɐ]) is the term for a shanty town in Brazil, most often within urban areas. The first favelas appeared in the late 19th century and were built by soldiers who had nowhere to live. Some of the first settlements were called bairros africanos (African neighbourhoods). This was the place where former slaves with no land ownership and no options for work lived. Over the years, many former black slaves moved in.

Even before the first favela came into being, poor citizens were pushed away from the city and forced to live in the far suburbs. However, most modern favelas appeared in the 1970s due to rural exodus, when many people left rural areas of Brazil and moved to cities. Unable to find a place to live, many people ended up in a favela.[1] Census data released in December 2011 by the IBGE (Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics) shows that in 2010, about 6 percent of the population lived in slums in Brazil.[2] This means that 11.4 million of the 190 million people that lived in the country resided in areas of irregular occupation definable by lack of public services or urbanization, referred to by the IBGE as "subnormal agglomerations".


The original favela was built on the Morro de Castelo in Rio de Janeiro by the families of soldiers returning from the Canudos Campaign[3]

The term favela was coined in the late 1800s.[4] At the time, 20,000 veteran soldiers were brought from the conflict against the settlers of Canudos, in the Eastern province of Bahia, to Rio de Janeiro and left with no place to live.[5] When they served the army in Bahia, those soldiers had been familiar with Canudos's Favela Hill – a name referring to favela, a skin-irritating tree in the spurge family (Cnidoscolus quercifolius) indigenous to Bahia.[6] When they settled in the Providência [Providence] hill in Rio de Janeiro, they nicknamed the place Favela hill from their common reference, thereby calling a slum a favela for the first time[7]

The favelas were formed prior to the dense occupation of cities and the domination of real estate interests.[8] In the 1920s the favelas grew to such an extent that they were perceived as a problem for the whole society. At the same time the term favela underwent a first institutionalization by becoming a local category for the settlements of the urban poor on hills. However, it was not until 1937 that the favela actually became central to public attention, when the Building Code (Código de Obras) first recognized their very existence in an official document and thus marked the beginning of explicit favela policies.[9] The housing crisis of the 1940s forced the urban poor to erect hundreds of shantytowns in the suburbs, when favelas replaced tenements as the main type of residence for destitute Cariocas (residents of Rio). The explosive era of favela growth dates from the 1940s, when Getúlio Vargas's industrialization drive pulled hundreds of thousands of migrants into the Federal District, until 1970, when shantytowns expanded beyond urban Rio and into the metropolitan periphery.[10]

Urbanization in the 1950s provoked mass migration from the countryside to the cities throughout Brazil by those hoping to take advantage of the economic opportunities urban life provided. Those who moved to Rio de Janeiro, however, chose an inopportune time. The change of Brazil's capital from Rio to Brasília in 1960 marked a slow but steady decline for the former, as industry and employment options began to dry up. Unable to find work, and therefore unable to afford housing within the city limits, these new migrants remained in the favelas. Despite their proximity to urban Rio de Janeiro, the city did not extend sanitation, electricity, or other services to the favelas. They soon became associated with extreme poverty and were considered a headache to many citizens and politicians within Rio. In the 1970s, Brazil's military dictatorship pioneered a favela eradication policy, which forced the displacement of hundreds of thousands of residents. During Carlos Lacerda's administration, many were moved to public housing projects such as Cidade de Deus ("City of God"), later popularized in a wildly popular feature film of the same name. Poor public planning and insufficient investment by the government led to the disintegration of these projects into new favelas. By the 1980s, worries about eviction and eradication were beginning to give way to violence associated with the burgeoning drug trade. Changing routes of production and consumption meant that Rio de Janeiro found itself as a transit point for cocaine destined for Europe. Although drugs brought in money, they also accompanied the rise of the small arms trade and of gangs competing for dominance. Today, many of Rio's favelas are still essentially ruled by drug traffickers or by militias.[11]

Most of the current favelas began in the 1970s, as a construction boom in the more affluent districts of Rio de Janeiro initiated a rural exodus of workers from poorer states in Brazil. Since favelas have been created under different terms but with similar end results,[12] the term favela has become generally interchangeable with any impoverished area.

Favelas are built around the edge of the main city; so in a way, they are actually expanding the city. Communities form in favelas over time and often develop an array of social and religious organizations and forming associations to obtain such services as running water and electricity. Sometimes the residents manage to gain title to the land and then are able to improve their homes. Because of crowding, unsanitary conditions, poor nutrition and pollution, disease is rampant in the poorer favelas and infant mortality rates are high.

Service in Favela (Census 2010) Percent[13][14]
Sanitation 67.3%
Water 88.3%
Electricity 99.7%
Garbage collection 95.4%
People in Favela Population
Favela residents of Brazil's population 11,400,000 (6%)
Demographics in Favela Proportion[15]
Non-White 70%
Illiteracy 8.4%

Public policy towards favelas

The explosive growth of favelas triggered government removal campaigns. Police have little or no control in many favelas. A program in the 1940s called Parque Proletário destroyed the original homes of those dwelling in favelas in Rio and relocated them to temporary housing as they waited for the building of public housing.[16]

Eventually little public housing was built and the land that was cleared for it just became reoccupied with new settlements of favela dwellers. In 1955, Dom Hélder Câmara, Archbishop of Recife and Auxiliary Bishop of Rio de Janeiro, launched the Cruzada São Sebastião (St. Sebastian's Crusade), a federally financed project to build an apartment complex in the biggest favela at the time, Praia do Pinto. The goal of the Cruzada was to transform favela dwellers into more acceptable citizens by only housing those willing to give up the vices associated with favela life. One was in Praia do Pinto and the other in the favela of Rádio Nacional in Parada de Lucas.[17]

Removal programs of the favelas flourished once again in the 1970s under the military dictatorship, disguised as a government housing program for the poor. What really happened was that more favelas were eliminated and their residents were displaced to urban territory lacking basic infrastructure.[8] The idea was to eliminate the physical existence of favelas by taking advantage of the cheaper prices of suburban land. The favela eradication programme became paralyzed eventually because of the resistance of those who were supposed to benefit from the programme and a distribution of income did not permit the poor to assume the economic burden of public housing that was placed on them.[18]

Recent developments

In 1995, the Comitê para Democratização da Informática (now part of the Center for Digital Inclusion) started computer schools to reduce the digital divide.[19][20] In 2007, President Lula announced the Programa de Aceleração do Crescimento, a four-year investment plan, which includes the promotion of urban development for the favelas. There have been public policies aimed at the favelas from local governments. In Rio de Janeiro, programs such as the favela-barrio and Rio cidade have attempted to mitigate the problem.

The issues surrounding security and urbanization in favelas has grown tremendously with the announcement of the two worldwide events that Brazil will be hosting, the 2014 Fifa World Cup and 2016 Summer Olympics. Brazil is now under more pressure to implement policies to secure and restructure favelas, especially in Rio and São Paulo.There have been multiple interventions by the government, mostly unsuccessful, to remove or rehabilitate favelas. However, the 2014 and 2016 competitions to be held in Brazil have lent a renewed urgency to these attempts. They are a test for the country as to whether it can ensure security for the thousands that will be pouring in, especially in a city where 6,000 people are killed each year. Along with internal reforms, Rio de Janeiro's government has begun to attempt a different type of favela intervention, going beyond periodic police raids to promote sustained rehabilitation from within as well. New plans to clear some favelas and rebuild others in a gentrification initiative would affect over 260,000 households and relocate about 13,000 families. To residents, this is all too reminiscent of the forced evacuations of the 1970s. In addition, the UPP program has only secured funding up until 2016, provoking suspicions that its only purpose is to temporarily stem violence until the Olympics and World Cup are over and the tourists return home.[11]

Pacifying Police Units

Main article: Pacifying Police Unit

Beginning in 2008, Pacifying Police Units (Portuguese: Unidade de Polícia Pacificadora, also translated as Police Pacification Unit), abbreviated UPP, began to be implemented within various favelas in the city of Rio de Janeiro. The UPP is a law enforcement and social services program aimed at reclaiming territories controlled by drug traffickers. The program was spearheaded by State Public Security Secretary José Mariano Beltrame with the backing of Rio Governor Sérgio Cabral.

Rio de Janeiro's state governor, Sérgio Cabral, traveled to Colombia in 2007 in order to observe public security improvements enacted in the country under Colombian President Álvaro Uribe since 2000. Following his return, he secured US$1.7 billion for the express purpose of security improvement in Rio, particularly in the favelas. In 2008, the state government unveiled a new police force whose rough translation is Pacifying Police Unit (UPP). Recruits receive special training as well as a US$300 monthly bonus. By October 2012, UPPs have been established in 28 favelas, with the stated goal of Rio's government to install 40 UPPs by 2014.

The establishment of a UPP within a favela is initially spearheaded by Rio de Janeiro's elite police battalion, BOPE, in order to arrest or drive out gang leaders. After generally securing an area of heavy weapons and large drug caches, and establishing a presence over several weeks to several months, the BOPE are then replaced by a new Pacifying Police Unit composed of hundreds of newly trained policemen, who work within a given favela as a permanent presence aimed at community policing.

Suspicion toward the police force is widespread in the favelas, so working from within is a more effective and efficient means of enacting change. Rio's Security Chief, José Mariano Beltrame, has stated that the main purpose of the UPPs is more toward stopping armed men from ruling the streets than to put an end to drug trafficking. A 2010 report by the World Organization Against Torture (OMCT) did note the drop in the homicide rate within Rio de Janeiro's favelas. However, the report also pointed to the importance of initiatives that combine public security with intra-favela initiatives.[11]

Journalists within Rio studying ballot results from the 2012 municipal elections observed that those living within favelas administered by UPPs distributed their votes among a wider spectrum of candidates compared to areas controlled by drug lords or other organized crime groups such as milícias.[21]

Formation of favela society

The people who live in favelas are known as Moradores da favela, or pejoratively as favelados. Favelas are associated with extreme poverty. Brazil's favelas can be seen as the result of the unequal distribution of wealth in the country. Brazil is one of the most economically unequal countries in the world with the top 10 percent of its population earning 50 percent of the national income and about 8.5 percent of all people living below the poverty line.[22] The Brazilian government has made several attempts in the 20th century to improve the nation's problem of urban poverty. One way was by the eradication of the favelas and favela dwellers that occurred during the 1970s while Brazil was under military governance. These favela eradication programs forcibly removed over 100,000 residents and placed them in public housing projects or back to the rural areas that many emigrated from.[23] Another attempt to deal with urban poverty came by way of gentrification. The government sought to upgrade the favelas and integrate them into the inner city with the newly urbanized upper-middle class. As these "upgraded favelas" became more stable, they began to attract members of the lower-middle class pushing the former favela dwellers onto the streets or outside of the urban center and into the suburbs further away from opportunity and economic advancement. For example: in Rio de Janeiro, the vast majority of the homeless population is black, and part of that can be attributed to favela gentrification and displacement of those in extreme poverty.[24]

Drugs and the favela

The cocaine trade has affected Brazil and in turn its favelas, which tend to be ruled by drug lords. Regular shoot-outs between traffickers and police and other criminals, as well as assorted illegal activities, lead to murder rates in excess of 40 per 100,000 inhabitants in the city of Rio and much higher rates in some Rio favelas.[25] Traffickers ensure that individual residents can guarantee their own safety through their actions and political connections to them. They do this by maintaining order in the favela and giving and receiving reciprocity and respect, thus creating an environment in which critical segments of the local population feel safe despite continuing high levels of violence.

Drug use is highly concentrated in these areas run by local gangs in each highly populated favela. Drug sales and use run rampant at night when many favelas host their own baile, or dance party, where many different social classes can be found. These drug sales make up a business that in some of the occupied areas rakes in as much as US$150 million per month, according to official estimates released by the Rio media.[26]

Growth and removal of the favelas

Despite the attempts to cleanse Brazil's major cities like Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo of favelas, the poor population grew at a rapid pace as well as the modern favelas that house them in the end of last century. This is a phenomenon called "favelização" ("favela growth" or "favelisation"). In 1969, there were approximately 300 favelas in Rio de Janeiro; today there are twice as many.

In 1950, only 7 percent of Rio de Janeiro's population lived in favelas, nowadays this number has grown to 19 percent or about one in five people living in a favela. According to national census data, from 1980–1990, the overall growth rate of Rio de Janeiro dropped by 8 percent, but the favela population increased by 41 percent. After 1990, the city's growth rate leveled at 7 percent, but the favela population increased by 24 percent. However, a report of the United Nations, released in 2010 shows that Brazil has reduced its slum population by 16%, now corresponding to about 6% of the overall population of the nation.[27]

Current decreases in the population of favelas can, in some ways, be credited to the original reasons of rural to urban migration. In recent years, urban migration has become less attractive due to the investments in the rural whole in Brazil improving the living conditions of rural workers.

Other investments, such as the ones to industries, infrastructure, tourism and social assistance are helping to spread the wealth, developing historic underdeveloped regions (like Northeastern Brazil) and reducing the reasons to migrate to economic cores like São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. All of this has added to the fast economic growth Brazil has been experiencing. The poor classes are entering the middle classes and the rate of poverty is vertiginously falling.


Since the mid-1990s, a new form of tourism has emerged in globalizing cities of several so-called developing countries or emerging nations. Visits to the most disadvantaged parts of the city are essential features of this form of tourism. It is mainly composed of guided tours, marketed and operated by professional companies, through these disadvantaged areas. This new form of tourism has often been referred to as slum tourism which can also be seen in areas of South Africa and India.[28]

In Brazil, this new growing market of tourism has evolved in a few particular favelas mostly in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, with the largest and most visited favela being Rocinha. This new touristic phenomena has developed into a major segment of touristic exploration.[9] These tours draw awareness to the needs of the underprivileged population living in these favelas, while giving tourists access to a side of Rio that often lurks in the shadows. The tours are viewed as a spectacular alternative to mainstream Rio de Janeiro attractions, such as Sugarloaf Mountain and Christ the Redeemer. They offer a brief portrayal of Rio's hillside communities that are far more than the habitats often misrepresented by drug lords and criminals.[29] Every year, Favela Tour, one of the most popular touring companies in Rio, takes upwards of 4,500 tourists through the streets of Rocinha. Directed by trained guides, tourists are driven up to the favelas in vans, and then explore the community's hillside by foot. Guides walk their groups down main streets and point out local hot spots. Most tours stop by a community center or school, which are often funded in part by the tour's profits. Tourists are given the opportunity to interact with local members of the community, leaders, and area officials, adding to their impressions of favela life. Depending on the tour, some companies will allow pictures to be taken in predetermined areas, while others prohibit picture-taking completely.[29] The tour guides emphasised the following:[28]

  • Explanations regarding the mechanisms of socio-geographic differentiation and spatial disparities within a favela (especially rent and property market, unemployment)
  • Information regarding modern infrastructural equipment (such as wireless LAN, health services) and up-to-date shopping and services infrastructures (e.g. fashion stores, banks, cafés)
  • Meetings with voluntary workers on social or cultural projects and/or visits to such projects
  • Visit to or tours of schools, kindergartens or other institutions serving children and adolescents
  • Impressions of private residences, communication with their inhabitants
  • Visit to a restaurant or café

The Brazilian federal government views favela tourism with high regard. The administration of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva initiated a program to further implement tourism into the structure of favela economies. The Rio Top Tour Project, inaugurated in August 2010, promotes tourism throughout the favelas of Rio de Janeiro. Beginning in Santa Marta, a favela of approximately 5,000 Cariocas, federal aid was administered in order to invigorate the tourism industry. The federal government has dedicated 230 thousand Reais (USD 145 thousand) to the project efforts in Santa Marta. English signs indicating the location of attractions are posted throughout the community, samba schools are open, and viewing stations have been constructed so tourists can take advantage of Rio de Janeiro's vista. Federal and state officials are carrying out marketing strategies and constructing information booths for visitors. Residents have also been trained to serve as tour guides, following the lead of pre-existing favela tour programs.[29]

In popular culture

  • The 2002 film City of God (Portuguese: Cidade de Deus) takes place in the favela Cidade de Deus in Rio de Janeiro from the late 1960s to the early 1980s.
  • Living in and escaping favela life is a theme of Antônia (2006).
  • The 2007 movie, Elite Squad, (Portuguese: Tropa de Elite), is a semi-fictional account of the BOPE (Portuguese: Batalhão de Operações Policiais Especiais), the Special Police Operations Battalion of the Rio de Janeiro Military Police, with main action taking place in Rio's favelas.
  • The 2008 movie The Incredible Hulk features footage shot in Rocinha.
  • The 2010 movie, Elite Squad: The Enemy Within, (Portuguese: Tropa de Elite 2), is a sequel of the semi-fictional account of the BOPE (Portuguese: Batalhão de Operações Policiais Especiais), the Special Police Operations Battalion of the Rio de Janeiro Military Police, with main action taking place in Rio's favelas.
  • The 2011 movie Fast Five features the characters living in Rio's favelas after escaping custody by American forces. Paradoxically, most of Fast Five was filmed in Puerto Rico, only a few scenes were filmed in Rio
  • The second level in the 2011 video game F.3.A.R. takes place in a favela as the main character must make his escape from pursuing enemy forces.
  • In the 2011 movie Rio some of the scenes take place in the favela. It features the main characters (Blu and Jewel) being kidnapped for illegal wildlife trade and kept deep in one of the many houses in Rio's favelas.
  • In the 2012 video game Max Payne 3 some of the levels take place in the favelas of São Paulo, with large portions of the game taking place in Brazil.
  • The 2012 song "Let's Go" by Calvin Harris, featuring Ne-Yo. The beginning of the video shows a boy waking up in a favela in Rio.
  • A favela is featured in the Call of Duty franchise as a mock battleground, in the game Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. It appears in the missions "Takedown" and "The Hornet's Nest".
  • A favela is featured as a hostage-rescue map in the game Counter-Strike
  • In the manga Rin, the main character writes a story called "Transfer Student From the Favela".

See also

Brazil portal



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