A Project in the making of Projects

The Brazilian favela…it can be a complicated thing to navigate, literally and figuratively. The reason behind their existence is a tad bit easier to explain so I’ll start with that.

“Although there is no consensus about the precise time the first favela appeared, it is generally agreed upon that 1897 was the year the first large one was started. It was in November of that year that 20,000 Northeastern federal troops, who had fought and won the Canudos’s war against Antônio Conselheiro in Bahia, were brought to Rio and left on the docks without a place to live. Tired of waiting for the government’s bureaucracy, which couldn’t find them a house after having promised them one, they just took over the closest hill in a neighborhood known as Gamboa, to build their improvised shacks.” – Brazzil

The other origin comes from the following,

“Some of the older favelas were originally started as quilombos (independent settlements of fugitive African slaves) among the hilly terrain of the area surrounding Rio, which later grew as slaves were liberated in 1888 with no place to live. The favelas were formed prior to the dense occupation of cities and the domination of real estate interests.” – Wikipedia

Some of the main problems that arise when the subject is talked about are criminality and the lack of alternatives to it (as the documentary Manda Bala states, the poor rob with a gun and the rich, with a pen), the lack of infrastructure and education, and the general lack of interest by those in power to help change the resident’s living situation (during more than a century of existence). Some good comes from NGOs and some good comes from within the favela itself (Viva Rio, Afro Reggae, Dois Irmãos) which can take the form of an NGO.

Looking at the problems, one sees the solutions. Give the residents a chance at education and thereby give them an alternative to joining a favela gang, give them infrastructure and basic rights such as ownership of their land, and also give them a way to have a real place to call home. What it all comes down to is treat them like citizens and like people. When they don’t feel they are doomed to repeat what their parents and grandparents went through, they will do the rest on their own. On the last part where I say ‘give them a way to have a real place to call home’, there are some examples emerging and time will tell if they work out or not. What I do know is if the government just gives a little (read about Public Housing, also called ‘the projects’), the favela as we know it will simply become a modern favela with most of the same problems.

I’ll finish with links to two articles which are aimed at ways to, in one example, turn favelas into ‘the projects’, and in another, to create public housing to fill a temporary need. Both examples absolutely require some critical thinking skills or in other terms, why would such an idea be bad for those on the receiving end? The credit system of always owing someone (usually a multinational financial company) something is tantamount to indentured servitude, as is the majority of the taxation system. It’s no coincidence that the countries in the ‘Axis of Evil’, as well as those associated with it, are those not tied to the IMF. My educated guess is that the flip side of these efforts to provide public housing aren’t altruistic and if someone thinks that NGOs can pick up the slack in any way, I’d suggest the film “Quanto Vale ou É Por Quilo?“.


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