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Makeover for Rio's favelas: What is at stake?

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Then, Mayor Eduardo Paes presented a new Strategic Goals Plan that extends to the same year. The plan will affect favela residents on many fronts:

  • it reduces waiting time for public medical services and infant mortality
  • it will increase availability of public infant care, the hours students spend in school and literacy
  • it will cut territory occupied by favelas by 5 percent, using 2008 as a base year
  • it improves public transportation; and will build 100,000 new low income housing units
  • it will bring water, sewage disposal, and drainage, among other services, to 156,000 homes and will remove about 25,000 from at-risk areas
  • it improves sanitation in the West Zone and increases trash recycling in the city as a whole
  • it increases services to child crack users
  • it will reduce poverty by way of income transfer programs that complement the federal Bolsa Família


Many will say that all this attention is because of the Olympics. So what, if it actually happens?

Behind this affirmation is distrust dating back over more than a century of exclusion: if it’s the foreigner’s eye that is pushing non-favela cariocas to meet the needs of favela cariocas, how much can one rely on the quality of the attention?


People who live in favelas tend to gather in doorways, on stoops, and stairs. They know their neighbors and depend on their help. They attend community events and party in the street.

“The use of public space builds a certain subjectivity that in a way also builds a specific culture,” says the architect and urban planner of long experience, Sérgio Magalhães, who last year ran the Morar Carioca favela upgrade contest. ”The connection between people is different.”

He makes a useful comparison. “When you are the author of your own house, that you built over the years with your personal effort, when this personal effort is superimposed on the personal effort of the generation that  came before and is superimposed by the one after you, that house is steeped in shared values, which is necessarily different from the house you buy with a mortgage, and sell with a mortgage when you want, when you need to change jobs, when your family gets bigger or smaller, when your income grows or shrinks.”

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