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A favela (Portuguese pronunciation: [faˈvɛlɐ]) is the term for a slum 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. 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. 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 term favela was coined in the late 1800s. 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. 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. 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.
The favelas were formed prior to the dense occupation of cities and the domination of real estate interests. Following the end of slavery and increased urbanization into Latin America cities, a lot of people from the Brazilian country-side moved to the big city of Rio. These poor and new migrants sought work in the city but with little to no money, they could not afford urban housing. 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. 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.
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.
While there are Rio favelas which are still essentially ruled by drug traffickers or by organized crime groups called milicias (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.
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 favelas have been created under different terms but with similar end results,
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|
|People in Favela||Population|
|Favela residents of Brazil's population||11,400,000 (6%)|
|Demographics in Favela||Proportion|
|Pardo or black||68,4%|
Those favelas which are situated on hillsides are often at risk from flooding and landslides.
From the time they were first built, favelas have been faced with opposition. Hundreds of favelas exist in Brazil with over 600 located in Rio de Janeiro alone. Favelas are growing at a quicker rate than the cities as a whole. 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.
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.
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. 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.
In 1995, the Comitê para Democratização da Informática (now part of the Center for Digital Inclusion) started computer schools to reduce the digital divide. 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. In 2009, the government in Rio de Janeiro began to build walls around favelas in order to limit their growth. Some suspect that these walls may also serve to hide the favelas for the upcoming events. More recently, construction on the TransCarioca Expressway has led to destruction of favela homes. This new highway will be used as a way to get people to and from these events quickly.
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.
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.
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. As a result, residents of favelas are often discriminated against for living in these communities and often experience inequality and exploitation. This stigma that is associated with people living in favelas can lead to difficulty finding jobs.
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. 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.
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. 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.
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.
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.
A number of religious traditions exist in the favelas. Historically, Catholicism was the most prominent religion of the area, but over the past few decades there has been a shift toward Evangelicalism, including Pentecostalism. While there has been an increase in the number of converts to Evangelicalism, there are also an increasing number of people who claim to be non-religious.
Popular types of music in favelas include funk, hip-hop, and Samba. Recently, funk carioca, a type of music popularized in the favelas has also become popular in other parts of the world. This type of music often features samples from other songs. Popular funk artists include Mc Naldo and Buchecha Bailes funk are forms of dance parties that play this type of funk music and were popularized in favelas. Popular hip hop artist MV Bill is from Cidade de Deus in Rio de Janeiro.
Media representations of favelas also serve to spread knowledge of favelas, contributing to the growing interest in favelas as tourist locations. In recent years, favela culture has gained popularity as inspiration for art in other parts of the world. Fascination with favela life can be seen in many paintings, photography, and reproductions of favela dwellings. There have also been instances of European nightclubs inspired by favelas.
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.
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. There are conflicting views on whether or not favela tourism is an ethical practice. 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. For instance there are tours of the large favela of Rocinha. Directed by trained guides, tourists are driven up the favela 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. The tour guides emphasised the following:
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. Recently, favelas have been featured in multiple forms of media including movies and video games. The media representation of favelas has increased peoples' interest in favelas as tourist locations.
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