The Origins of Rio’s Favelas and Early Activism
The history of the favelas of Rio de Janeiro begins in the final years of the nineteenth century as Brazil transitioned from an empire to a republic. As the nation continued to undergo dramatic political changes throughout the course of the twentieth century, the slums of its second largest city grew in size and number, in turn experiencing significant changes of their own. Initially, these communities were loosely incorporated squatter settlements that sprang up organically in order to house internal migrants and itinerant laborers. As they became more numerous and increasingly populated by a burgeoning urban underclass, favela residents began to organize internally, forming associações de moradores, or residents’ associations. These organizations served as forums for deliberating matters of community governance, in addition to acting as liaisons between favelados (favela residents) and the prefeitura (city hall). Since the city and state governments failed to extend many public services to the favelas, community members, led by their local associations, banded together to provide sanitation, medical care, and transportation to their friends and neighbours.
What I have found interesting while researching the Favelas in Rio, is that the slums are not exactly what they seem from the outside. Looking at the statistics, the living conditions surprised me!
There are over 1000 favelas in Rio. They range from newer or more challenged communities with slum-like conditions and a desire to resettle, to highly-functioning, vibrant neighborhoods determined to maintain their qualities and continue developing in their own extraordinary ways.
In terms of visual development, I think we’re going to have to incorporate a lot of slum housing to reflect this statistic. Also, it would be good to do a mixture of old and newer looking slums!
In the city of Rio, close to 1.5 million people – around 23-24% of the population – live in favelas. That’s comparable to the percentage living in affordable housing (public, rent controlled, cooperatives, community land trusts and other models) in major cities worldwide. Rio’s favelas are our affordable housing market. Rio has more favela residents than any other Brazilian city and, all together, Rio’s favelas would comprise the ninth largest city in the country.
As Yazz had thought, the idea of including one expensive looking holiday home beside or near the poorer slums would visually reflect well this shocking fact.
According to a recent survey of six communities, 95% of favela homes are built of brick, concrete, and reinforced steel. 75% have tile floors. Residents put decades-worth of income and physical labor into the construction and consolidation of their homes. Peek inside and you’ll not only see the basics of electricity, running water and indoor plumbing, but a large-screen television and, in over 44% of cases, a computer. The increased presence of computers and other technologies allow for the fact that, as of 2012, nine out of ten favela residents under 30 could access the internet. 2015 data showed that favela residents are more technologically connected than those living on the “asphalt,” or formal city.
I think we’ve decided as a group to stick to more wooden style textures in our Maya floating city, however, we may include some metals to keep our visuals as close as possible to the real deal in Rio.
That stat about internet access and computers still blows me away!
The 12 million people living in favelas across Brazil are responsible for generating R$38.6 billion per year in commercial activity, which is equivalent, for example, to the GDP of Bolivia. In 2001, 60% of favela residents belonged to the lower class and 37% to the middle class. By 2013, 32% were in the lower class and 65% in the middle class. This shift corresponded with a 54.7% increase in the average wage in favelas from 2003 (US$269) to 2013 (US$460). This is significantly greater than the national average wage increase of 37.9% over the same period.
According to a study released in 2013 by the Data Popular Institute, 85% of favela residents like the place where they live, 80% are proud of where they live and 70% would continue to live in their communities, even if their income doubled. A 2014 study by the Data Popular Institute, 94% of favela residents state that they are happy.
I think it would be awesome to include the Brazilian flags hanging around the Favelas to reflect the pride that the “favelados” have of their “mini city”.
I feel that having found out these facts and statistics, our visual interpretation of the slums will differ greatly to what we had originally pictured as a team. The stereotype of dark, dreary slums has been eradicated and now we’re thinking of something much brighter…happier even!