The Favelas (Slums) of Rio de Janeiro – Part II – Building Walls

Posted in Excerpts at 04:30 pm by admin


Rocinha Favela

 I have received many comments about my blog of January 26, 2010, entitled “The Favelas (Slums) of Rio de Janeiro. Therefore, many of you may be interested in the latest development in the favelas.

            First, Rio has a hundred slums which is estimated to be one fifth of Rio’s population.  In 2004 it was proposed to build walls around 40 of the largest slums. These walls would be 3 meters (9.8 feet) tall. This project today is fully underway.  In my blog I particularly spoke of the favela I visited, Rocinha, which is one of the largest slums and is one of the first favelas to be walled off.

            The government says that the wall will act as an “ecobarrier” preventing the expansion of the favela to the surrounding lush tropical forests.  The residents of Rocinha do not see it this way. The residents see it as a wall around a “ghetto,” and an effort to control violence, and separating the slums from the wealthy areas of Rio. It is interesting to note that of the 13 favelas at the top of the list, 12 of them are near the richest areas of Rio, the fancy hotels, restaurant, and beaches, and away from the western areas where the rapidly expanding slums really do effect the forests.  The residents of Rocinha see this wall as a preparation for the World Cup in 2014 and the Olympics in 2016.  They are comparing it to the Berlin Wall, and the Walls built to separate Israel and Palestine.

Building Favela Wall

Spokesmen for the Rocinha have proposed better ways of defining this area, and preventing growth.  If this is their true objective, why not build walking paths, ecological parks and low walls to help define this neighborhood.  Or maybe provide affordable housing for those who wish to relocate.  The Brazilian government has allocated funds to build one million low-income homes by 2011.  But this is just a drop in the bucket, when there is a need for at least 7.2 million homes, and the population has increased from 169.9 million in 2000 to 190 million in the last 10 years.  I appreciate how difficult it is to find a solution to this very real problem, but I absolutely hate the idea of building walls.

             Psychologically there are even taller walls than 3 meters which separate the slum dwellers from the local middle and upper classes in Brazil.  These walls are ignorance, poverty, lack of medical care, and the fact the workers, maids, gardeners, for all of Rio  comes from the favelas. 

            The government has had a very successful experience in improving the favela called Dona Marta (also called Santa Marta) in the suburb of Botafogo in Rio.  It was one of the most violent slums in Rio, equal to the Rocinha.  The “urbanization” project started 10 years ago, the government added (legal) electricity, safe water and new sewer system. And in 2008 built the nursery for the working mothers and a new football (soccer)  field with astro turf.  Many homes were improved and new ones built.  Today Dona Marta is drug free and an example of a “safe” favela.  This should  be an example of what can be done, in a relatively short time, instead of building 10 foot walls which further separate the slums and in my opinion adds to the violence.

Unfortunately, Rio is going ahead and building the walls.  As I have said, the government is trying to do everything possible to make Rio safe, and a beautiful show- place for the upcoming world events.

14 Responses to “The Favelas (Slums) of Rio de Janeiro – Part II – Building Walls”

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