Google Maps removing favelas

Screen Shot 2013-04-11 at 11.57.17 AM

Via Reddit Brazil, I came across an article (PT) about the virtual removal of favelas from Google Maps. Apparently, this was news two years ago (though I never heard about it) and was republished due to an ‘update’ to the article.

In the photo above, you can see the area around Rio Comprido, between Tijuca and Flamengo, and how the word ‘favela’ has been taken out. Despite the virtual removal, I was in this area several times in the last several months and, last I checked, those favelas are still there (big surprise…).

As one Brazilian commentor on the original article mentions, in some instances, the removal is reasonable due to technical (cartographical) reasons. There are examples where favelas are mentioned on the map, yet in reality there are only a handful of favela-type houses in that area. The argument, in these cases, then becomes one of relevance and whether a grouping of houses should be mentioned alongside an entire neighborhood. The same commentor also makes mention of the negative connotation that “favela” carries and suggests another word, “comunidade” (by the way, residents of favelas refer to where they live both as “comunidades” and “morros”).

Translated from the article,

“After the Mayor’s Office asked Google to reduce the presence of favelas on the Rio de Janeiro map, the word “favela” was practically taken out, substituted with “morro” (hill)…The image compares the Rio Comprido region between 2011 and 2013. The virtual removal is part of a project that is trying to make poverty and the poor invisible, both via virtual removals and forced physical ones.”

The government wants tourists who are planning their trip to not be frightened by the number shanty towns on Rio maps. Having lived in several of these (newly-pacified) favelas, especially those closest to the Rio which the gov’t promotes, I don’t see anything to be frightened about.


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