Background: The Favela “Pereira da Silva”
Rio is a city of contrasts, and though much of the city clearly ranks alongside the world’s most modern metropoles, a significant percentage of the city’s 13 million inhabitants do still live in areas of poorer quality housing. The worst of these poorer areas are the slums known as favelas, which stretch for miles, often crowded onto the hillsides where sturdy buildings are difficult to build, and accidents, mainly from heavy rainfall, are frequent. Favelas, as is the case for the ghettos of New York or Chicago, are often troubled by drug related crime and gang warfare. The Favela “Pereira da Silva” thankfully is a great exception to this rule.
Rio de Janeiro, like most third world cities, is experiencing a dramatic increase in population. This increase has come mostly in the form of the rural poor migrating to the cities. Because of the high land values and the enormous demand for space, these poor are forced into squatter settlements, which are the favelas. Named after the location of the first such settlement, the hill Morro da Favela, these settlements usually occur in two areas of Rio: one, along the steep hillsides or, two, along the outer fringes of urban expansion. The most famous favelas are those built along the hillsides (see pictures) The houses are usually made first from wattle-and-daub, a mixture of sand and clay, and eventually to the use of wood, brick and sheet metal.
Rio de Janeiro is not the only South American city with this type of squatter settlements. But what makes Rio’s favelas unique is their locations. Most of them are situated on hillsides offering panoramic views over the city and the ocean, while the affluent areas are located at the bottom of the hills. In most other cities in the world, it is the rich who occupy hillside locations while the poor live in less favorable low-lying areas. Not only is this the direct opposite of city development around the world, but it creates a dramatic contrast between the rich and the poor by putting the two directly next to one another. This is one of the advantages to living in this type of favela. The rich provide many of the jobs, in way of services that help sustain the livelihood of the faveladors. Many of the rich rely on the cheap labor and service jobs that the faveladors supply, but this does not quell the criticism and negative image that they evoke.
Picture to the right: The lower entrance of the Favela Pereira da Silva, an oasis of tranquility in Rio de Janeiro >>
The first recorded favela was in the early 1920′s, made up of about 839 of these houses, even though squatter settlements have existed in Rio since the late 1800′s. The first of these favelas were located on the hillside because of no rent and their central location to the city, utilities and work. Today, there are over 700 favela communities existing within the city of Rio and comprise about a third of the total population. Over 1 million people are estimated to live on the hillsides directly surrounding the city. While the city of Rio is growing at 2.7% a year, the favelas are growing at a rate of 7.5% a year.
How the People of Rio View the Favelas
Many consider the favelas the source of Rio’s urban problems, citing them for crime, violence, promiscuity, family breakdown and the creation of a culture of poverty. The prevailing view is that the favelas are just a transfer of poverty form the country to the city and are responsible for the negative effects of over-urbanization. (See section on Gang Violence) Others view the favela as just another part of the framework of Rio. It is a natural occurrence of the city and is compared to a weed growing in a garden; there will always be weeds. Despite these views, little is being done to modernize the favelas or even deal with the shortage public services
The Favela as a Community
Each favela has its own community complete with grocery markets, clothing stores, pharmacies, repair shops, and other types of small businesses. This varies depending on the location of the favela and by the size of its population. These shops are created to serve the needs of the faveladors. There are also community-based organizations such as: Non Governmental Organizations, which people can join to help put pressure on the city government to extend social services and utilities. The government does not feel it is a worthwhile investment to put money into these poor communities. It would rather avoid the whole situation and force these people to figure out other ways to solve their problems. NGO’s in this specific case fill this gap.
The Favelas Compared to the City
The residents who live in the favelas are looked down upon. Part of this is due to the fact that the majority of these people are black or mulato. Over 75% of the faveladors are mulatto or black. This compares to less than a third of the rest of the city. Even though a very large portion of the population lives in the favelas, the government will often times not admit to their existence. There have been maps made recently, by the city that show vacant land where tens of thousands of faveladors live. It becomes easier to marganilize and forget, than to admit and deal with the situation. In many ways, Rio does not wish to acknowledge the existence of the favelas and would rather passively ignore them instead. By doing this the problem only gets worse and the favelados are still subject to marginalization.
Despite efforts to clear and stop the migration, people have just kept coming to Rio. Although residents are being marginalized and blamed for all kinds of Rio’s social problems, the faveladors have created a society based on cooperation to survive and have found a niche in the overpopulated city. Non Governmental Organizations also play a major role in this niche helping provide social services that the government cannot offer. Recently, the populations in the Favelas has leveled off. Much of this is due to the lack of available land and the clearing of favela settlements. Even though this is taken place, the migration to the city still continues.
“Our Favela”: Same but different
The Favela Pereirao, where the Pousada Favelinha is located, consist of only about 2000 people on a hill, where violence and drug traficking has stopped completely (see “Security” )! Since the year 2000 there has been no recorded incident with the police and none of our many tourists has ever reported a problem…
Also, this Favela offers some of the greatest views of Rio de Janeiro, even unique among many other Favelas. The Pousada is on top of the hill, so in turn it has one of the best locations inside this favela! Just come and see for yourself what life in a favela is like – to see for yourself, you need more than a guided bus tour through one of the big favelas in Rio! Live with the locals – and enjoy life!
Welcome here in Rio´s hidden secret!
Copyright: Some of the above text is taken from the website Text above mainly taken from http://www.communityinaction.org/favelas.htm! Thanks!