Inside Rio’s favelas, the city’s neglected neighborhoods


If you go to a Google map of Rio de Janeiro and put it into 3D mode, you can see what the city looks like as it was designed by urban planners. But you will also notice parts of the city
that don’t look like the rest. See the difference? The people who live in these parts of the city, with the clean lines and the well thought-out design, are called
“people of the asphalt.” The people who live in these parts of the city are called
“people of the hill.” Even though the people of the asphalt and
the people of the hill live closely intertwined throughout the city, they live vastly different
lives. These informal communities that look like houses stacked on top of each other, sprouting out of the jungle, are called Favelas,
home to both vicious drug gangs as well as some of the most peaceful, creative, and resourceful
people in Rio. I want to show you want they looks like on
the inside. A favela is a community that was built without
any oversight from a public authority–no zoning, no building codes, no public services. These places just grew out of the hills over
time thanks to two main factors: First was slavery. Brazil imported 11 times more slaves than
the United States and Rio alone was home to more slaves than the entire American south. Slavery ended in 1888, and free slaves, still denied
many rights in society, built informal communities on their own. In more recent times, favelas have been fueled
by massive migrations, from rural Brazilians coming into the city looking for work. Not able to find affordable housing, these
workers built their own communities. Today, 25% of Rio’s residents live in these
favelas. I spent time in 6 of Rio’s favelas to figure
out what happens when parts of a city develop without the presence of a government. This is Rocinha. It’s Brazil’s largest favela and has been
dubbed a city within a city. It’s a completely self sufficient economy,
the result of decades of makeshift solutions to basic needs like electricity and running
water. Without a formal government presence, the
residents of Rocinha created their own association which helps coordinate public
projects and resources. Since these associations grew up totally informally
by people who had no training in public administration, the resulting community design brings with it a little
more zest and creativity than your traditional city. But make no mistake, Rocinha is a full-on
functioning mini city with the city of Rio de Janeiro. This impromptu resourcefulness is common within
favelas. Here I am in Vidigal, a favela not far from
Rocinha. This man Paulo is showing me his garden. But it wasn’t always a garden. 15 years ago, this hill that we stand on, was teeming with garbage. Paulo decided to cleaned it up, planted trees and cultivated
a garden space that now produces fruit. He did this without asking permission, because, after all, there was no one to ask permission from. If you look around the graden, you’ll realize that everything is made from trash. On the other side of the city is a Favela
called Maré. The people of this community have created
art centers for young people to come learn new skills. They also support established artists to create
projects around the city that explore and communicate life in the favela. Here they are building a model of their favela
out of recycled wood. In Providencia, a favela near the port zone,
I met up with this guy. Mauricio, a photographer who lives in this
amazing house. Mauricio photographs life in the favela, providing
transparency to the good and the bad of these places He thinks of photography as a weapon to fight
against everything from drug cartels to the government when they show up trying to remove
parts of his community Whenever he sees corruption or foul play in his community, he photographs it and distributes it to a network of local and international media contacts. Over the years, people have learned not to mess with him. Why are these people who live in poverty and
neglect, so driven to create beauty in order to survive? This reality of neglect from public investment, has created a culture of creative survival. But there’s a dark to this too. Right now we are traveling over Complexo Do Alemão, which is a huge complex or block of favelas We’re not going into the streets today, because this place is still very much run by drug trafficking gangs I would be sugar coating the situation if I didn’t talk about the fact that drug gangs stil have major influence in a lot of the favelas and Alemão is one of those places. Perhaps the most powerful gang in Rio is called the Red Command, a group that began as a left-wing political rebellion and whose headquarters are in Alemão. Cocaine arrived in Rio in the 1980s, enriching
the gangs and allowing them to grow in power and territory. The Red Command became more violent and lost
its political ideology, focusing entirely on drug and arms trafficking. The fact that favelas aren’t formal and aren’t regulated, means that both that they can become incredibly vibrant because people can take this attitude and build on qualities and be creative and change your environment, but it also means that you can get incredibly dysfunctional places when the energy and the approach is the opposite. So you have these two extremes and they come out of the same force: informality, lack of regulation, and flexibility. In 2008, the city of Rio was ready to take
over this lawless territories of Rio. They assembled a special force of police officers
to enter the favelas and drive out the gang influence. They call this process “pacification of
the favelas” But this gets tricky really fast. There’s been a big discussion in the United States
about police brutality. But Brazil is on a whole different level when
it comes to police violence and corruption. Human right watch estimates US police officers
kill one person in every 37,000 arrests. In Rio that number is 1 in every 23 arrests. So you can see why some felt skeptical of letting the police come into the favelas to try to restore order. This is Santa Marta. It’s the first favela that received pacification
forces back in 2008. It also happens to be the place where Michael Jackson decided to shoot a music video. Pacification worked for Santa Marta and a few other favelas, for the first few years after 2008, but this favela is small, and the city dedicated
its best police forces to the job. It’s been a whole different experience in a place
like Alemão and other bigger favelas. Many of the favelas that I visited that had apparently been pacified, were still very clearly under the influence of the Red Command. So while there have been some successes in pacification, the city still has a huge challenge ahead of it in taking control of these places. International attention paid to favelas is
usually directed towards the conflict between the gangs and police. There’s movies and video games about this. This problem has been perhaps disproportionately amplified across the world. But while gang violence is certainly a problem,
it represents one small slice of the favela experience. What seems to me as the more striking and interesting aspect of favelas, are the thousands of men and women who are thriving in creative way in spite of being neglected
by their government.

100 Replies to “Inside Rio’s favelas, the city’s neglected neighborhoods”

  1. Brazil is a beautiful place…I lived in São Paulo for over a year and will never forget it but I used to see from a far the favelas and wonder how can government let a major population live in such conditions…I hope I can go back to Brazil someday.

  2. Okay this is actually scary, i talked to my brother about the Favelas today and when i get onto youtube i get a video about the Favelas in my recommended!?… naaaaah

  3. want to see how favelas really are? watch some videos of a YouTube channel called Factual RJ

    try to find "art and beauty" in their videos, and come back here to tell your thoughts

    I'll wait.

  4. When you realize you’re forgotten. You start to forget. No longer waiting. Without much fear, We do. Black love. Black children

  5. I was born and raised in rio, I’m Brazilian and I think it’s good to spread awareness. These happen due to the local state failing, not the people. Brazil’s federal government is corrupt, trying not to solve the problem push it away. Trying to remove the people in favelas isn’t going to work. The police are brutal and harsh and aren’t making it significantly better. Favelas aren’t bad they are resourceful. They need to remove the influence of the gangs, thats what causes the problems.
    If they can’t to that then the government needs to understand that they are neglecting people and need to give them better *public housing*.

  6. Os politicos adoram as favelas, porque podem manipular as pessoas menos educados e consguir seus votos nas eleicoes…

  7. what is the second factor for favelas forming? is it migration? please help, i need this for a competition

  8. This is also in puerto rico where I’m from naranjito it looks exactly like this that’s why they finished filming fast and the furious there after people in the favelas stole all the production equipment js

  9. Może nie będzie tu wielu polaków, ale dziwnym trafem ten film wyskoczył mi w polecanych właśnie teraz kiedy Pezet u Taco na płycie nawija "Wawa nie Favela" 🤔

  10. the only neglect from the govt i see is not allowing citizens to arm…organize…and cleanse the red command from their midst

  11. I grew up in Rocinha. It's a place where you need to get along with the right people. Make relationships and fast. That was survival. Yet myself personally I still maintained humility to all people. It wasn't always bad, partly because I had my ear to the movements happening in the favela. I love Rocinha it was home! I then met my now husband and am now living in rural Massachusetts. Such a marked contrast between two worlds.

  12. I AM AFRICAN NOW LIVING IN EUROPE.
    I DID NOT KNOW "BRAZIL STOLE" OR BROUGHT MORE "AFRICAN SLAVES" THAN AMERICA.
    WHO BROUGHT THEM TO BRAZIL?
    THE PORTUGUESE?
    PEACE 🗣☻IN BRAZIL.

  13. The favelas are what make Rio de Janeiro what it is. The view of them on the hills at night is amazing. It's a shame how the people there are treated. They should be well taken cared of.

  14. I was smiling hard when I saw what the man did for the garden. Reminds of when I use to have a backyard and would put fruit seeds and veggies into the ground instead of throwing it away.

  15. Not only are they neglected but the walls are too destructible and it feels like a paper house when you play as sledge.

    I hope they get a rework

  16. Rio is a dangerous place. I was nearly robbed in the middle of the day on a busy street. Too much corruption and poverty. As past president Enrique Fernando said, "Brasil is not a poor country; it is an unjust country." The poor survive by jeitinho.

  17. I've read that Rio is the only major city in the world where the poor live on the hills and the rich live below. The reason is that in Rio the most desireable areas are closest to the beaches.

  18. One thing to point out about the arrest numbers of America and Brazil is that America arrests people for minor infractions and nonviolent offences, while Brazil generally lets those slide, considering it a waste of resources. Brazil usually only makes arrests for violent crimes and drug-related activity

  19. Oh, Vox? Are they having Barbecues, frolicking around, and singing songs while they work the fields? The spin you put on this story is disgusting.

  20. 8.29 totally agree I'm not from brazil I'm from colombia and to be honest media is amplifying the violence situation in this countries. I'm not saying there's not violence, all I'm saying is that there's more to this countries than a picture full of gangsters and bullets flying around everywhere.

  21. Rio looks an amazing city, but like all around the world, due to corrupt politians, developers and other professionals pocketing, millions, instead of funding the infurstructure

  22. i always thought being higher than all is an advantage, So why are the poor looking down on the rich by their beaches.

  23. So the Favelas in Brazil are like the Slums (Dharavi) In India?
    People are full ot creativity and yet are don't have the basic sanitation & proper housing facilities

  24. The biggest error of Brazil was the import of all those africans. Africans and african descendants ruin everything and everywhere they go….

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