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Jacob Cox
Jacob Cox


Favela (Portuguese: [fɐˈvɛlɐ]) is an umbrella name for several types of working-class neighborhoods in Brazil. The term, which means slum or ghetto, was first used in the Slum of Providência in the center of Rio de Janeiro in the late 19th century, which was built by soldiers who had lived under the favela trees in Bahia and had nowhere to live following the Canudos War. Some of the first settlements were called bairros africanos (African neighborhoods). Over the years, many former enslaved Africans 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.


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 places to live, many people found themselves in favelas.[1] Census data released in December 2011 by the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE) showed that in 2010, about 6 percent of the Brazilian population lived in favelas and other slums. Favelas are located in 323 of the 5,565 Brazilian municipalities.[2][3]

The favelas were formed prior to the dense occupation of cities and the domination of real estate interests.[10] Following the end of slavery and increased urbanization into Brazilian cities, a lot of people from the Brazilian countryside moved to Rio. These new migrants sought work in the city but with little to no money, they could not afford urban housing.[11]

During 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.[12]

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 former Federal District, to the 1970s, when shantytowns expanded beyond urban Rio and into the metropolitan periphery.[13]

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 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.[citation needed]

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 widely 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.[citation needed]

While there are Rio favelas which are still essentially ruled by organized crime groups like drug traffickers or by organized crime groups called milícias (Brazilian police militias), all of the favelas in Rio's South Zone and key favelas in the North Zone are now managed by Pacifying Police Units, known as UPPs. While drug dealing, sporadic gun fights, and residual control from drug lords remain in certain areas, Rio's political leaders point out that the UPP is a new paradigm after decades without a government presence in these areas.[14]

Most of the current favelas really expanded 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 then, favelas have been created under different terms but with similar results.[citation needed][15]

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. In addition, favelas situated on hillsides are often at risk from flooding and landslides.[16]

Favelas in the early twentieth century were considered breeding grounds for antisocial behavior and spread of disease. The issue of honor pertaining to legal issues was not even considered for residents of the favelas. After a series of comments and events in the neighborhood of Morro da Cyprianna, during which a local woman Elvira Rodrigues Marques was slandered, the Marques family took it to court. This is a significant change in what the public considered the norm for favela residents, who the upper classes considered devoid of honor all together.[19]

Following the initial forced relocation, favelas were left largely untouched by the government until the 1940s. During this period politicians, under the auspice of national industrialization and poverty alleviation, pushed for high density public housing as an alternative to the favelas (Skidmore 2010). The "Parque Proletário" program relocated favelados to nearby temporary housing while land was cleared for the construction of permanent housing units (Skidmore 2010). In spite of the political assertions of Rio's Mayor Henrique Dodsworth, the new public housing estates were never built and the once-temporary housing alternatives began to grow into new and larger favelas (Oliveira 1996). Skidmore (2010) argues that "Parque Proletário" was the basis for the intensified eradication policy of the 1960s and 1970s.

The mass urban migration to Rio de Janeiro in the 1950s resulted in the proliferation of favelas across the urban terrain. In order to deal with the "favela problem" (Portes 1979, pp. 5), the state implemented a full-scale favela removal program in the 1960s and 1970s that resettled favelados to the periphery of the city (Oliveira 1996). According to Anthony (2013), some of the most brutal favela removals in Rio de Janeiro's history occurred during this period. The military regime of the time provided limited resources to support the transition and favelados struggled to adapt to their new environments that were effectively ostracized communities of poorly built housing, inadequate infrastructure and lacking in public transport connections (Portes 1979). Perlman (2006) points to the state's failure in appropriately managing the favelas as the main reason for the rampant violence, drugs and gang problems that ensued in the communities in the following years. The creation of BOPE (Special Police Operations Battalion) in 1978 was the government's response to this violence (Pino 1997). BOPE, in their all black military ensemble and weaponry, was Rio's attempt to confront violence with an equally opposing entity.

In the 1980s and early 1990s, public policy shifted from eradication to preservation and upgrading of the favelas. The "Favela-Bairro" program, launched in 1993, sought to improve living standards for the favelados (Pamuk and Cavallieri 1998). The program provided basic sanitation services and social services, connected favelas to the formal urban community through a series of street connections and public spaces and legalized land tenure (Pamuk and Cavallieri 1998). Aggressive intervention, however, did not entirely disappear from the public agenda. Stray-bullet killings, drug gangs and general violence were escalating in the favelas and from 1995 to mid-1995, the state approved a joint army-police intervention called "Operação Rio" (Human Rights Watch 1996). "Operação Rio" was the state's attempt to regain control of the favelas from the drug factions that were consolidating the social and political vacuum left by previously unsuccessful state policies and interventions (Perlman 2006).

Since 2009, Rio de Janeiro has had walls separating the rich neighborhoods from the favelas, officially to protect the natural environment, but critics charge that the barriers are for economic segregation.[20]

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. 041b061a72


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