Monday, 25 December 2017
BRAZIL: Favelas Or Slums Of Brazil
The first favela, now known as Providencia in the center of Rio de Janeiro, appeared in the late 19th century, built by soldiers who had nowhere to live following the Canudos War. Some of the first settlements were called bairros africanos or 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. 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 places to live, many people found themselves in favelas. 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 slums.
In areas of irregular occupation definable by lack of public services or urbanization, referred to by the IBGE as subnormal agglomerations.
The term favela dates back to the late 1800s. At the time, 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 Providencia or 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 or Codigo 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 or residents of Rio.
The explosive era of favela growth dates from the 1940s, when Getulio 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.
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 Brasilia 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 or 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 or 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 then, 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.
Those favelas which are situated on hillsides are often at risk from flooding and landslides.
In the late 19th century, the state gave regulatory impetus for the creation of Rio de Janeiro's first squatter settlement. The soldiers from the War of Canudos (1896-7) were granted permission by Ministry of War to settle on the Providencia hill, located between the seaside and centre of the city (Pino 1997).
The arrival of former black slaves expanded this settlement and the hill became known as Morro de Providencia (Pino 1997).
The first wave of formal government intervention was in direct response to the overcrowding and outbreak of disease in Providencia and the surrounding slums that had begun to appear through internal migration (Oliveira 1996).
The simultaneous immigration of White Europeans to the city in this period generated strong demand for housing near the water and the government responded by razing the slums and relocating the slum dwellers to Rio's north and south zones,Oliveira 1996.
This was the beginning of almost a century of aggressive eradication policies that characterised state-sanctioned interventions.
Favelas in the early twentieth century were considered breeding grounds for anti-social behavior and spreading of disease. The issue of honor pertaining to legal issues was not even considered for residents of the favelas.
However 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.
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 industrialisation and poverty alleviation, pushed for high density public housing as an alternative to the favelas (Skidmore 2010).
The Parque Proletario 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 Proletario 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, 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 ostracised 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 legalised 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 and police intervention called Operaçao Rio (Human Rights Watch 1996).
Operaçao 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).
Beginning in 2008, Pacifying Police Units or Unidade de Policia 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 Jose Mariano Beltrame with the backing of Rio Governor Sergio Cabral.
Rio de Janeiro's state governor, Sergio Cabral, traveled to Colombia in 2007 in order to observe public security improvements enacted in the country under Colombian President Alvaro 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, Jose 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 milicias.
Community policing was at the cornerstone of public policy during the early 2000s and its combination with participatory planning characterised the most recent rounds of state policy.
Seeking to build on Favela-Bairro, the informally coined Favela Chic program was aimed at bringing favelas into the formal social fabric of the city while simultaneously empowering favelados to act as key agents in their communities (Navarro-Sertich 2011).
However, media outlets have been critical of this change in policy and believe its only reflective of the government's concerns of the large media attention Rio attracted during the 2014 FIFA World Cup (McLoughlin 2011) and the 2016 Olympic Games (Griffin 2016).
Anthony (2013) was equally as critical of the policy and said that while rhetoric asserted the government's best intention, the reality was more in line with aggressive policies of the past.
He points to the announcement in 2010 from Rio's Mayor Eduardo Paes concerning the removal of two inner-city favelas, Morro de Prazeres and Laboriaux, and the forced relocation of its residents.
There have been significant shifts in favela policy in the last century. In 2013, there were an estimated 600 favelas in Rio de Janeiro, all of variable sizes (Anthony 2013). Due to the large scale and complexities of these informal communities, academic interest into this field remains high.
The people who live in favelas are known as moradores da favela or inhabitants of favela. Favelas are associated with extreme poverty. Brazil's favelas are thought by some as being 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.
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 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 Sao 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 favelizaçao or 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; in the present day this number has grown to 19 percent or about one in five people living in a favela.
According to national census data, from 1980 to 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 off at 7 percent, but the favela population increased by 24 percent.
However, a report released in 2010 by the United Nations shows that Brazil has reduced its slum population by 16%, now corresponding to about 6% of the overall population of the nation.
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 Sao 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.
Tour guides emphasise the following:
- 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, cafes
- 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
The Brazilian federal government views favela tourism with high regard. The administration of Luiz Inacio 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 or 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.
Rocinha, in Rio de Janeiro, is widely considered to be one of Rio de Janeiro’s largest, most densely populated and urbanized slums. The community has a population estimated at anywhere between 100 and 200 thousand inhabitants, who live crammed into a steep and rugged landscape of only (0.80) square miles.
Within this highly dense community the majority of residents subsist in conditions of abject or near abject poverty, residing in small shanties stacked one on top of another, sometimes as many as tall as 7, 8, 9, and even 11 stories tall.
Most houses in Rocinha have basic sanitation, plumbing, and electricity. There are roughly 21 neighborhoods within Rocinha yet the community only occupies an area of approximately 0.86 km².
Out of 126 official administrative regions within the municipality of Rio de Janeiro, Rocinha ranked 120th or, 6th worst on the city’s Human Development Index (HDI) in 2000.
That same year an official government census (IBGE 2000) estimated that there are a minimum of 6,000 residents of Rocinha who suffer from at least one health related disability.
More recently, in 2008 a government census measuring the HDI of 510 of Rio de Janeiro´s approximately 800 slums found that Rocinha ranked 316th from the top, significantly below the average HDI of the 510 slums considered in the census.
This is despite the fact that Rocinha is located between two of Brazil’s wealthiest neighborhoods, Sao Conrado and Gavea. The disparities in public health conditions and education for these adjacent communities are startling.
With this data in mind community leaders, scholars, and activists argue that when considering the size of the community and its low HDI that the real number of Rocinha’s residents who suffer from at least one health related disability is probably significantly higher than what the government estimated in 2000.
Not surprisingly the educational status of Rocinha’s residents is very low. Residents have an average of only 4.1 years of formal education, with less than 1% of Rocinha’s adult population having earned a degree above a high school diploma.
Jobs that pay a livable wage in Brazil are all but strictly reserved for citizens with higher levels of formal education.
Current population estimates range from an official government figure of 56,000 to the inflated estimate of 1 million.11 While accurate data do not exist we estimate that there are approximately 150,000 to 200,000 inhabitants.
Consider the government’s official population estimate to be an under-representation of reality, a misrepresentation many locals, as well as scholars, consider deliberate.
No one knows where and when the name Rocinha emerged, but the most likely theory is that in the 1920s there was a famous open air market in what is today the Santos Dumont Plaza in Gavea.
The middle class and elite who bought their fresh produce there would ask the vendors where the produce came from and they would answer that they came from their little farm or Rocinha.
In Sao Conrado, where most of Rocinha is located, the majority of slaves and former slaves, worked in the sugar cane fields and on coffee plantations in the areas around where Rocinha is located today.
The largest plantation at the time was the Fazenda Quebra-Cangalha which produced sugar cane and coffee. The fazenda Quebra-Cangalhas bordered several other plantations, like those owned by the Portuguese migrant Jose Magalhaes Seixas and another estate called the Fazendinha de Sao Jose da Alagoinha da Gavea.
Both of the landholders were actually part of the abolitionist movement and were located at the foot of the Morro Dois Irmaos where there was also a Quilombo called the Quilombo de Leblon.
Archeological findings have been found to prove the existence of these Quilombos in the areas of Dioneia and Laboriaux.
In the middle of the 1800s railroad street cars were introduced in Gavea, Sao Marques de Vincente. These bondes, as they are called in Brazil, connected the area around Rocinha to the rest of the City.
This form of transportation contributed to poor people, who with nowhere else to live, began making their way up the Estrada da Gavea to build small homes in the thick jungle where Rocinha is located today.
Already in the middle and late 1800s the importance of living close to where one works was noticeable, and this trend would only increase and cause Rocinha to grow and grow over the decades.
In 1916 construction of the Avenida Niemeyer was completed and the road reached what is now the neighborhood of Sao Conrado, the same year it was given its name.
The infrastructure projects that Conrado Niemeyer began in the late 1800s and early 1900s gave rise to the neighborhood of Sao Conrado which in turn was pivotal to Rocinha’s development.
As these surrounding neighborhoods of Sao Conrado and Gavea began to grow there was a demand for cheap labor to build houses, apartments, buildings, schools, hospitals, roads, bridges, etc.
The lack of affordable housing options or adequate housing policies for the laborers eventually let to the rapid growth of the favelas in Rio. Rocinha’s rapid growth is directly attributable to these factors. The building of Niemeyer Avenue led to the growth of Sao Conrado and eventually Barra da Tijuca.
Conrado Jacob Niemeyer also improved Estrada da Gavea which was given its name in 1917, after it was linked to part of St. Vincent of Marques street in Gávea. Estrada da Gávea was always an important transportation route.
Even during the colonial period it was a dirt road or barro batido and in 1878 it was named the Caminho que ia para Praia da Gavea. In 1919 Niemeyer Avenue was widened by Mayor Paulo de Frontin.
Estrada da Gavea with its beautiful and winding curves was known as the Devil’s Trampoline or Trampolin do Diabo and between 1933 and 1952 it served as the track for car races that were part of the circuito da Gavea in races called Corridas da Baratinha.
Between 1925 and 1926 the real-estate company Companhia Imobiliaria Castro Guidon began parceling off land in 270 square meter plots on the Quebra-Cangalha plantation.
In the 1920s, while the estate was being partitioned, the area had demarcations that still exist today, but as the community grew this form changed significantly. In 1927 the land was already being parceled off in 270 square meters plots.
According to a Jornal do Brasil article from 3/23/1973 The Castro Guidon company sold its land in the area where Rocinha is located today to a construction company who passed it on to a Mr. Renato Caruso.
During Carusos campaign for a city council position he gave away dozens of plots to people who promised to vote for him, he lost the election but the favela continued to grow from the plots he gave away.
In 1933 a census of buildings and edifices in Rocinha counted 354 shanties on Estrada da Gávea and 13 shacks the trail winding up Laboriaux which is the very top of Rocinha – at the time known as the Caminho do Laboriaux.
In 1935 the city ordered electricity to be installed on the Estrada da Gavea and by 1937 more than 80 plots of land had been sold by the Castro Guidon Real-Estate Company.
Previously there were no laws requiring the installation of infrastructure on the parceled land such as roads, lighting, running water. By 1937 the company stopped selling land because of new laws and requirements by city were becoming too demanding.
Unable to follow through all the bureaucracies the company began facing serious financial problems which led to the owner committing suicide and the company soon after entering into bankruptcy.
The descendents of the Castro Guidon Real-Estate Company were not interested in trying to revive the bankrupt company so they let the company dissolved.
This, along with the paving of the Estrada da Gavea and the small energy network installed along it, and especially the growing rumors that the land where Rocinha is today was owned by no one really intensified its haphazard inhabitation.
By the late 1930s Rocinha was no longer being inhabited in the fairly structured pattern that the Castro Guidon Company had initiated and it increasingly began to take on the characteristics of an unplanned land invasion.
In 1938 the chapel and school Nossa Senhora de Boa Viagem was inaugurated. Since the late 1930s the church has played an important role in the community, and has acted together with community social movements and organizations for decades.
There is still a placard at the church that’s details how the Castro Guidon company donated the land for the church. The same chapel would become a parish church in 1985 and the first priest to preside over it was the much loved Father Manoel de Oliveira Manangao.
The mid-forties marked the end of the right wing authoritarian regime, the Estado Novo or New State regime, that controlled Brazil from the 1937 coup-d’état until democracy was reintroduced.
The reintroduction of democracy in 1945 brought with it elections and the favelas turned into important electoral strongholds, which stimulated intense clientelistic practices in these communities.
This also marked a period in which the state and society began to look somewhat more humanely at this type of housing space. Among certain circles it became increasingly apparent that favelas were a result of the severe lack of public policies for working class and poor Brazilians, especially in regards to affordable housing.
This was when mediations increased between political networks in the favelas. This gave rise to two important organizations for Rocinha and indeed many of Rio’s favelas.
The Fundaçao Leao XIII in 1946, and the Sao Jose Center for Social Action (1949) (Baumann Burgos 1998; Rocinha: Plano de Desenvolvimento Sustentavel 2011). The Fundaçao Leao XIII was the first institution established to deal directly with the issue of Rio’s growing favelas.
The foundation was created by Rio’s municipal government and the Archdiocese of Rio de Janeiro’s Catholic Church with the intention of addressing some of the material needs of Rio’s favelados.
Between 1947 and 1954 the Fundaçao Leao XIII initiated social work in 34 favelas, Rocinha being one of the first. While the history of Fundaçao Leao XIII, which was later made into a state institution, is controversial it did leave a mark in Rocinha.
The foundation was closed years ago and the site of where it once was, adjacent to the church, is still called Fundaçao in Rocinha. It remains a major point of reference in the community.
The first residents association in Rio de Janeiro’s favelas was the União do Trabalhadores Favelados (UTF) or the Union for Favela Workers, founded in 1954 in the Borel community.
The UTF has a long and rich history and still exists today despite major setbacks in the 1980s due to the negative influence of the drug trade until Borel received its UPP in 2010.
Indeed, the UTF was founded mainly as a form of resistance against forced eviction and in Borel it work, the community resisted intense efforts of removal during the 50s and 60s.
During the 1950s the favelas increasingly became areas of intense political disputes. The Fundaçao Leao XIII was increasingly paternalistic and stimulated a proliferation of clientelistic practices.
It was during this period that opportunistic politicians looking for votes began turning to the favelas. In 1961 the Uniao Pro Melhoramentos dos Moradores da Rocinha (UPMMR) was founded as well as the Açao Social Padre Anchieta (ASPA) as another institution that represented residents
During the 1960s and 1970s there were efforts to remove several sections of Rocinha and relocate residents to distant neighborhoods, such as Paciencia, roughly 45 kilometers west of Rocinha. The community was increasingly divided into sub-sections or sub-bairros.
New Resident’s Associations were founded, most importantly the Associaçao de Moradores e Amigos do Bairro Barcelo (AMABB), which was founded by Jose Martins de Oliveira in the 1970s. Jose Martins and other residents living in the lower sections of Rocinha, around Bairro Barcelo, Largo de Boiadeiro and Valao united to fight against these forced evictions.
In 1977 Jose Martins in an interview with the newspaper Ultima Hora stated that the government would spend a lot less money urbanizing the favela than removing the 150,000 residents of Rocinha to a distant periphery.
That was 35 years ago, and Jose Martins, known as Seu Martins, is still highly active in fighting for the housing rights of Rocinha’s residents and against forced evictions.
He was also a pivotal figure in founding the sub-section of Laboriaux in the early 1980s and the Resident’s Association there, the Associaçao de Moradores e Amigos da Vila Laboriaux (AMAVL), which for several years also included the relatively new sub-section of Rocinha known as Vila Cruzada.
Ironically, Laboriaux, which will be described in more detail below, has been facing threats of forced eviction since April 2010, and Seu Martins has been an active member of the movement against eviction since then.
The 1980s were pivotal for Rocinha and for Rio de Janeiro in general. It was during the early 1980s that organized crime began its iron grip on most of Rio’s favela communities, including Rocinha.
This was a complicated decade in which violence significantly increased and many local organizations, including most favela residents associations became increasingly influenced by the local gangs. In Rocinha this was a palpable change.
While corrupt politicians, local and non local had long complicated the resident associations, the drug trade really complicated the situation. In Rocinha the largest resident association became overwhelmingly subservient to the drug traffickers on one side and corrupt politicians and police on the other.
They faced the increasing challenge of having to please the local drug gangs for fear of their lives as well as appease the likes of corrupt police officers and politicians.
In addition, they are held accountable by the relatively few police and politicians who are not corrupt, all the while trying to complete their main objective, to fight for the welfare of the community.
It is a stressful and risky job, and since the 1980s several of Rocinha’s resident association leaders have been arrested, threatened and injured (CITE).
During the administration of Julio Coutinho, Rocinha was chosen to receive the pilot project Project Rocinha (Projeto Rocinha), the community’s first real slum upgrading program. It was initiated by the SMD, the municipal secretary for development.
Noted by Segala (1991) that then, like now; local leaders and politicians were considerably fragmented and significantly corrupt. According to the City, in 1980, Rocinha already occupied a space of 453,440 square meters.
By the late 1970s and early 1980s Rocinha was already a very dense urban slum, and had acquired the morphological features it has today, far different than what the community looked like in the 1960s.
The technicians responsible for Projeto Rocinha designed what was known as A Concepçao Basica para o Sistema de Drenagem e Coltea de Lixo da Rocinha. The Basic Conception for the Drainage and Trash Collection System
Indeed the 1980s marked an era of drastic changes in Rocinha and other favelas in Rio de Janeiro. Favelas in general proliferated, as dozens of new favelas sprouted up.
This was a time period in which, for the most part the discourse of forced evictions that had been so threatening during the 1960s and 1970s, began to diminish, if not almost disappear from political discourse. In terms of infrastructure this meant two major changes.
Without the constant threat of being forcefully evicted those that already existed expanded, and in the case of Rocinha, mainly upwards as horizontal expansion in zona sul was not an option.
Secondly, as residents of favelas, as in Rocinha, felt less threatened by forced eviction they increasingly invested in their property, and during the late 1970s, and especially the 1980s, houses and businesses in Rio’s favelas shifted from being constructed of wood to being built with bricks and mortar
This was also a period in which violence and organized crime increased dramatically in Rio de Janeiro, especially in and around the favelas.
Rocinha was no different. Already by the 1980s famous drug traffickers were part of Rocinha’s folklore and a new subculture associated with the drug trade was born. In the late 1980s and 1990s Rocinha became famous for its baile funks, some of the largest and rowdiest funk parties in the city that many middle class cariocas began to frequent as well.
There are several factors that lead to the rapid expansion of Rio’s favela drug trade and criminal factions. One is the latent effects of the US war on drugs during the 1980s.
The growing pressure on Colombian drug trafficking, in large part funded by the US, caused trafficker to search for new routes and markets, and more cocaine began being transported south of Colombia through Peru and Bolivia and into Brazil where most was eventually trafficked to Europe or the US.
A large amount also remained in Rio and other cities, like Sao Paulo and Vitoria. The neglected favelas proved the perfect locations for Rio’s new flourishing drug trade. Many also blame two term governor of Rio de Janeiro, Leonel Brizola, who was a pioneering figure in the leftist PDT political party.
Brizola implemented many policies and programs that were beneficial to Rio’s poor but he is often criticized for indirectly and unintentionally creating the conditions that allowed Rio’s drug traffickers to better organize and take total control of their communities.
This is because Brizola was opposed to the kind of violent police incursions into favelas that were so common during the dictatorship. He took great strides to discourage violent police operations in the favelas and in many ways the presence of police in many favelas, like Rocinha, virtually disappeared during the late 1980s and early 1990s.
While his intentions were certainly good, many claim that this allowed the gangs to flourish almost undisturbed. This is argument is debatable, but nonetheless a common discussion topic among residents and leaders in Rocinha who were active during this time period.
Of course, if proper public services and more equal opportunities had been present in Rio’s favelas, then these parallel powers would not likely have any significant space to fill.