The Absence of Favelas in Rio’s 450th Anniversary Celebrations

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For the original in Portuguese by Mônica Francisco* published in Jornal do Brasil click here.

All the changes undergone in recent years, with emphasis on the mega-events the country is hosting such as the forthcoming Olympic and Paralympic Games, have undoubtedly dramatically impacted the lives of Brazilian cities, particularly Rio de Janeiro.

We cannot imagine a Rio de Janeiro without its direct association with the favelas that surround it. However, the point is that whilst this is true, favelas have not had any presence in the celebrations of 450 years of the city.

Nothing is innocent or without motive. The absence of favelas in the call to celebrate the anniversary of our city has the clear intention of showing just how undesirable this part of the city really is.

Even more damaging than simply not mentioning the history of favelas being so intertwined with the history of the city, this neglect serves as an evident signal, though not as clear as in past times, that the dream of extinguishing them is alive and well. The dream that never died, even though some people think it did.

It is no accident that every so often a few favelas disappear from official maps. But underneath all this there are the forced evictions and police operations that cause catastrophic damage to communities.

The city, its institutions and favela residents would gain much more if there were recognition and respect for the historical process and fundamental role the favelas have in preserving the balance of our deeply unequal society. As the song goes, when you give the favelas their turn, the whole city will sing. It’s just a piece of advice!

“Our fight is every day. The favela is the city. No to autos de resistência, or deaths caused when suspects “resist arrest,” no to gentrification, no to the reduction of the age of criminal responsibility, no to racism, no to institutional racism, no to compulsory voting, no to sexism, no to violence against women and no to forced evictions. No!”

*Mônica Francisco is a representative of the Borel Institutions Network, coordinator of the Arteiras Group at the Asplande NGO.