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  • Informal Economies:


    People from slums bring in goods from the city to sell to people living in slums. The result for the city is that the formal/ city economy cannot be evaluated as accurately because of informal shops in the slums selling those goods.

    These trades in the informal economy are basically "hidden" from the formal and documented, economy. The economy cannot be valued accurately because at one point in the cycle of trade, the good disappears from the market: Costo sells 5 oranges in bulk for 15 bucks, a guy from a slum buys those oranges for 15 dollars, Costco makes a 15 dollar profit. (heres where the informal economy starts and where it becomes hidden from the market) the guy brings it to his shop and sells the each orange for 5 dollars. This guy gets a profit and someone else just bought a good. This half of the  process is completely undocumented therefore it took place in the informal economy. This may happen or the exact opposite may happen. The orange seller could have grown his own oranges and sold each for 3 dollars, either way the formal, documented, economy would not know.

    So, in Rio, this is a problem and/or a benifit, depending on how you look at it. This is a problem because some good and services are going being sold and provided off the market which effects the GDP of Brazil. Also, this further increases the wealth gap when products go off the market and are sold at a lower price within poorer communities: it keeps the money from the rich, with the rich, and the money from the poor, with the poor; their is no circulation. The upside to this is that, since there are so many people living below the poverty line who can't afford the cost of living in Rio, the goods and service brought off the market and sold and provided at a lower cost give the people in Favela's affordable costs of living. Unfortunately, a huge portion of people live under the poverty line and rely on these goods to that go off the formal market and into the informal economy.

  • Jaime Lerner made it clear that he has little tolerance for urban exclusion. “The higher you build your walls,” the former mayor told us when we met in Curitiba, “the more people will be waiting for you on the other side.” Lerner, a rock star architect and urban planner, put in motion a host of innovative urban, ecological and social reforms that transformed Curitiba into a global model. So he has the right to insist that walls don’t work.

    In Rio I often heard the wealthy areas described as “bubbles.” They were almost paradises that their inhabitants rarely left. The notion of a bubble went much farther than a physical space; it was a mental one as well. A blogger/activist we met, Julia, described being at this lovely beach party in Copacabana several years ago when suddenly she saw a flash of light across the sky and she thought, “Oh! There must be fireworks!” Then she realized it was a tracer bullet. When walking through the wealthy areas like Ipanema and Copacabana you certainly do get this, “Oh, everything is okay,” vibe. Then you look closer and you see the favelas right across from you and you notice that all these rich homes are gated. All of them.

    The view from within the favelas is a bit different. In March of 2009, city planners began building a 9-mile, 10-foot-tall system of building cement block walls around the favelas. The so-called “eco-barriers,” estimated to cost $17 million, were erected without the approval (or participation on any level) of favela residents. They were justified on the grounds that they would help save the rainforest. But for favela residents, who make up over 20% of Rio’s population, it sometimes felt like imprisonment. One resident, Francisco de Moraes, said angrily, “The state government walled us in, so more houses wouldn’t be built in the forest.” Eliane Lopes adds, “They treat the people here like children who need to be corralled in. We can respect limits as well as the rich people. We don’t need a wall.” Others criticized the eco-barriers as creating ghettos and a state-supported system of apartheid. (http://www.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/americas/12/09/brazil.ecowall/index.html)

    But the city responds by pointing to the rapid and continuing expansion of the favelas. The walls are necessary, says Icaro Moreno, who directs Rio’s public works commission, because favela expansion causes deforestation and the ecology of the region is at stake. At this point, less than 7% of the Amazon rainforest is left. Although critics of the eco-barriers draw comparisons with the Berlin Wall and the Gaza Strip, members of Brazil’s Green Party say that those comparisons aren’t valid. Fernando Gabeira, a Green senator, says, “Everyone may pass. There is no control trying to...[prevent] people visiting the community or leaving the community.” (http://www.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/americas/12/09/brazil.ecowall/index.html) In fact, Gabeira suggests a satellite tracking system to prevent expansion of the favelas. He calls it “the difference between soft power and hard power.” (http://www.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/americas/12/09/brazil.ecowall/index.html)

    Walls ARE hard power. Interestingly, the locations chosen for the eco-barriers were mostly in the wealthy southern district, close to the famous tourist beaches and the “best” homes — close to the bubbles. It’s not hard to look back at the walls that Chinese authorities built around the Beijing slums before the 2008 Olympics and draw the conclusion that the eco-barriers are a pretty pathetic attempt to cover up what Brazil doesn’t want the world to see. Using rainforest protection as a defense makes the walls even more offensive.

    Approaching the Olympics, the government is taking a different approach: removal. Or “relocation,” as they like to call it. The favela of Vila Autodromo has become a symbol of resistance for communities facing eviction in the lead-up to the Olympics. Settled 40 years ago near the neighborhood of Barra da Tijuca, Vila Autodromo today sits right next to the future Olympic Stadium. Despite being awarded a 99-year lease to the land, the community is now caught in intense legal battles for the right to remain in an area slated for an Olympic makeover. Representatives of Vila Autodromo’s Residents Association say the incentive behind relocation is that developers don’t want an “ugly favela” next to the Olympics. Despite this stigma and pending eviction, residents hold firm that the evictions are illegal and the compensation for their homes is insufficient. The housing units of 150square feet they are offered are often much smaller than what they have now, and local businesses would not receive any compensation at all. Although they face a lack of information and clear justification from the government, residents plan to continue the fight.

    In one of the largest favelas, Rocinha, a compromise was reached between favela residents and city officials. Instead of tall barrier walls, the city built a park with nature paths. There are walls, but they can’t be taller than 3 feet. (http://favelissues.com/2012/10/04/new-ecological-park-for-rocinha-public-intervention-worth-bragging-about/) It’s a hopeful sign of important symbolic walls coming down.    

  • According to the international human rights research and advocacy NGO Human Rights Watch, Brazil’s rise as an important democratic nation has “masked severe disparities based on race, gender, economic status, region, and urban or rural settings.” Although Brazil has had an organized and effective women’s movement that has made big gains in gender equality (with feminist leaders who were called the “lipstick lobby” succeeding in changing the constitution in 1988), Brazil is still influenced by its patriarchal traditions. In 2010, theUnited Nations ranked Brazil 73rd out of 169 nations based on theGender Inequality Index, which measure women's disadvantages in terms ofreproductive rights, political and economicempowerment and participation in the workforce. Contrary to this statistic, women are more literate and more highly educated than men in Brazil. They are training for and taking jobs that transform their economic status and they’re running for public offices. In 2011, Brazil inaugurated its first female president, an event that mirrors Barack Obama’s status as the first African-American US President; it’s a huge step forward but it doesn’t mean that gender (or racial) equality has arrived. The election of Dilma Rousseff in 2010 was a “historically unique” sign of the “maturity of Brazilian democracy,” according to the new President’s Secretariat for Women’s Affairs, Eleonora Menicucci. Menicucci says that she is “obsessed” with stopping violence against women in Brazil. She has proposed new laws that provide for women’s health and equal pay, including protections for domestic workers.

    The real experiences of women in Brazil tell the story of a continuing struggle for equality. In 2005, the journalist Giordana Moreira was writing about Brazil’s first National Meeting of Women Graffiti Artists. She realized that it was very hard to express yourself outwardly in a culture that designates “private space” for women. It was hard for women to break into the all-men world of urban graffiti. So women graffiti artists started to paint together. They formed Artefeito, a group of artists supporting the Maria de Penha Law against domestic violence. They use graffiti as a platform to address sexism and gender issues — and challenge the male-dominated art world. Giordana says, “From the moment a woman takes responsibility as the owner of creation, she will certainly share power with men.”

    Giordana also knows that realizing equality requires commitment and activism. It’s a “false idea that (the problem of women’s rights) has already been solved,” says Moreira. The most important first step is “making people recognize discrimination.”

    From my experience visiting three different favelas in Rio, there seems to be little room to discriminate against women especially with leadership roles. In all the favelas we visited, leadership was evenly split between genders; it was based on character and ability. With so much changing in the favelas and Rio in general, if a movement’s voice is to be heard or have an impact, there can’t be discrimination, period. Silencing women’s voices or curtailing their full participation severs the possibility of growth and advancement of society as a whole.

    Regardless of the leadership roles women have assumed, gender equality is still an issue in favelas. In 2011, a group of women from favelas on the north side of Rio began broadcasting issues affecting women in their communities on a community radio station and called their station “Radio Mulher.” Staffed and run by an all-women team, Radio Mulher exposes the difficulties that girls and women experience in favelas, including rape and abuse. They report on issues “that no one wants to talk about,” says one of the station workers. “Women appear to be more resilient,” she says, “but they weren’t raised to get a job and be successful.”

    We learned about widespread sexual abuse by drug gangs before pacification. A favela resident told us how when the police came in to “clean things up,” the police took the spot of drug leaders, taking advantage of the girls in the community.

    Brazil has been making much progress towards gender equality with the election of its first female president and with more and more women like Giordana and the women of Radio Mulher making their voices heard. Just as important is the 2006 Lei Maria da Penha Law, which makes it a federal crime to commit domestic violence. This law set an international standard because it protects the basic rights of women. It also states that all people, regardless of sexual orientation, have “fundamental human rights.”

    It’s worth noting that the US Congress hasn’t yet reinstated the 1994 Violence Against Women Act. Clearly, there’s more work to be done in Brazil and also internationally to ensure that gender equality remains a critical priority. Real gains don’t hide the fact that a lot of work still has to be done. 

  • Curitiba, the capital of the Brazilian state of Paraná, is known for it’s powerful urban influence, it’s organization, and it’s extremely successful public transportation system. Jaime Lerner, world-renowned architect, was mayor of Curitiba from 1971 to 1992 and greatly impacted the city and it’s infrastructure. The layout of the city is like a grid, with the streets running parallel and perpendicular to each other. It’s structure is crucial to Curitiba’s public transportation system. The system and its Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), the worlds first, is famous around the world for it’s efficiency. It is a simple to understand though intricate system that is easy to use, and has helped transform the city of Curitiba. 
    The system is composed of many different parts. Each type of bus has a different use and drives different routes throughout the city. The colors of the buses represent the route they take and their purpose. Red buses, the BRT, are the core of the system. They run two paths, north-south and east-west, that make an X and cross in the center of the city. The roads were specially altered for these buses to make them as efficient as possible. They are divided into three sections: two outside lanes for local traffic and the center for bus traffic. Having the bus lanes separate from the private automobiles allows for a smoother traffic flow and makes sure the public transportation system is not slowed down by other vehicles--this decision prioritizes public transit above the personal transit in a car. 
    The other bus colors include green, blue, and silver. The green buses go in circular routes that radiate from the center of Curitiba. The circles are concentric and different sizes to accommodate different areas of the city. The blue buses are the most recent addition to the BRT, and currently only have one route that extends from the middle of the city. The buses are like the red ones but longer, and can fit up to 270 people. Finally, the silver buses are for longer journeys, and only stop about every two to three kilometers. 
    One of the most well-known components of the Curitiba system, and what helps to make the BRT so rapid, are the glass boarding tubes. These are one of the main reasons that the system works so well and works quickly. To board the buses, you have to pay first, and then enter into the tubes on the sidewalk that match the size and height of the buses--like a train platform. Some tubes are longer or shorter depending on traffic in the station. Paying before entering the bus makes boarding and exiting them move much faster because more people can go at the same time. It is very similar to a subway in this sense, but the buses are also very different from subway cars. The fact that they are above ground means they can have windows that open and make it less hot and cramped for passengers inside. It also takes off the time of having to go underground and come back up, making for a shorter journey. Implemented in 1974 and still running today, the Curitiba system still has lots to teach us about public transport and urban equity.

    Grace Bucking

  • Since the 8th grade have been very interested in spray paint and other forms of public art, so when I learned that I was going to Rio De Janeiro (one the spray paint capitals of the world) I was beyond excited. After being in Rio for just one day I had seen more spray paint than in all of Boston. I then knew that I should not just focus on finding the artwork itself, but also on understanding the value that it brings to the community and the people who created it.
    The value of this tabooed art began to be prevalent when I visited Cantagalo, a favela in the South Zone of Rio. This was the first time I had gone to a favela and I was surprised to say the least. Not only were my assumptions scattered about the quality of life there but I was amazed by the art and the way the locals use it to protect their home.

    Cantagalo residents have established a long pathway with murals running along the walls to take the viewer through the history of this particular favela in a unique and expressive way. It serves to educate both residents and visitors about the community. But what was really remarkable is that by creating such marvelous artwork they also have made it more difficult for the Brazilian government to destroy their land. The government has evicted people from many favelas for controversial reasons before. Recently, Cantagalo has also been the site of relocations as the government opens new roads and puts in large infrastructure projects.By having this attraction on their property it raises the value of the land which the government may demolish and would force them to pay the residents more if they did destroy parts of Cantagalo.

    Though spray paint can be quite beneficial it can also be a nuisance and an eye sore. Some of the most common spray paint throughout Rio is sloppy initials or random symbols that line the sides of the buildings. In fact, people frequently scale large commercial or residential buildings and spray paint as they go up, inflicting property damage along the way. This kind of spray paint is the reason this sometimes beautiful art has its bad stigma.

    Spray painting has impacted me and brought value into my life through beauty and inspiration. This moot art form has certainly also brought value into the lives of many residents of this particular favela and in some cases, a new peace of mind.

    Ben Hicks


  • Is the upcoming arrival of the World Cup and Olympics improving Rio de Janeiro, or is it doing more harm than good? Brazil has won the opportunity to host two of the main sports events in the world. In the process of getting ready, the city has to refurbish the current infrastructure and build new venues for the events. More complicated, however, is dealing with social issues that might create problems during the games.  A stipulation of getting the Olympic bid was that the city would improve its problems with crime and violence. A new government program called “Pacification” is working to that end. This government action has been focused on the favelas; where the poorest people of Rio live. This act of pacification consists of having the government send in police to root out drug traffickers, and then installing a permanent police presence in the neighborhood.  While the police historically would go in to do an operation and then leave, they now stay and make sure things are kept under control. On our trip to Brazil we heard from various people and got different perspectives on their ideas and thoughts about this government action. Two people we heard from were Julia Michaels and Jamie Lerner.

    Julia was the first person we met with when we traveled to Rio. Julia is an American-born writer who has lived in Brazil for more than thirty years. We had the wonderful opportunity to meet with her on the day after we arrived. Julia maintains a blog where she writes about Rio and the transformation it is going through due to these games.

    She talked to us about what she knew had been going on for the preparation for these mega events, and then we asked questions. Some of the things I found out were that she doesn’t feel confident that the government’s actions are going to improve the living conditions in those neighborhoods, after the games departure. She said these mega events are having a negative impact for the poor people, and nothing has gotten better for those who need it.

    One final resource was Jamie Lerner. He was the Mayor of Curitiba multiple times. He now is in private practice working as an architect with other people on mainly improving transportation. He is still actively involved in designing public area usage, for example, the waterfront in Porto Alegre. We got to ask him questions about pacification and if he thought it was helping the favelas or not.  Some of his thoughts were that it is helping a lot, but not everything has been solved. There has been a great improvement for violence and drug trafficking. He knows the people that live in the favelas and does not think they are any different to those who live in the city.

    Overall, pacification is helping improve the city by lowering rates of violence. A negative part to it is that it is also hiding the true culture of Rio by hiding the favelas from the visitors of the soon to come World Cup and the Olympics.

  • I could sense a bit of anxiety among our group as we made our first visit to a favela in Rio. My prior knowledge of Cantagalo was very slim. I was told it was safe, but as we trekked through the slender paths covered with graffiti on the walls, my mind went back to the image of favelas that’s been portrayed in movies and the media. We turned the corner and walked up a flight of stairs. This was where we met the directors of Cantagalo’s Museu de Favela -- or Favela Museum. They were extremely welcoming, and I felt a whole lot better. They took us up another flight of stairs onto the roof of the building. This was the first real experience I had seeing the teenagers and children spend their free time. On top of the building was one of the hangout spots for kids to have fun. This was a turning point that changed my pre-conceived idea of the favelas.

    They were all welcoming and invited us to join them in one of their activities which is kite flying. This was not your ordinary kite. These kites would extend great lengths and heights, and were very entertaining for not only the kids, but myself as well. I walked to the side of the roof, and looking down, saw what I had been waiting for the whole trip: soccer. The kids were laughing, playing, and even giving each other a couple of rough bumps. You could see how much they really enjoyed the game. Soccer is a colossal part of the Brazilian culture. Much of the population plays it, and everybody watches it. Everyone has their favorite team and favorite players. Some are rivals but regardless, it is a way for the whole country to connect. Soccer is my favorite sport and it was an easier way for me to communicate with Brazilians since I do not speak Portuguese. It is a lot different than it is here in America in the sense that they love the game so much and spend so much time playing it making them one of the best soccer countries in the world.

    When the teenagers and children of the favela want to play soccer they meet at the soccer space in the area. When my friends and I want to play soccer we have to text each other where and when we want to play. The closest soccer field is about ten minutes away and we have to drive there. We have so much space close to us and far from us, giving us many options to play. The favelas are a much denser environment. Everyone knows everyone and they can all meet to play at one single spot. This space is usually pretty small and on a concrete surface, while where I play is a grass field. Regardless of the space the children are probably a hundred times better because of the amount they play and the tight space they play in, making them more technical players. The space really impacts the way you play and the player you become. The informal fun of the favelas make it the special place it is for the children to enjoy their free time.  It makes me realize that to become a good player you do not need a huge field with a bunch of nets, but rather a love for the game and people who share the same interest.
    Michael Gray
  • Jaime Lerner, former mayor of Curitiba, describes the car: “A car is like your mother-in-law: you have to have a good relationship with her, but she cannot command your life." He was the mayor of one of the most progressive cities in the world. He installed the Bus Rapid Transit system, a bus system that is vital to Curitiba. While in Rio is developing their Bus Rapid Transit, cars do not have the same feel as they do in the states. To understand why this occurs, you must explore it on many different levels.

    One of the biggest reasons why this is true is due to fact that cars have a different value in Brazil. In America, most people own at least one car and drive almost everywhere. In Brazil, cars are not used as frequently and it causes a cultural difference. This gives a sense of entitlement to the people who do own a car. With this sense of entitlement, a different feel towards pedestrians on the street. The residents with cars suddenly feel as if they are more important and do not need to worry about pedestrians. In turn, this feeling causes a dangerous sense on the streets for walking pedestrians.

    Another critical difference that I noticed was the absence of walk buttons. Throughout the entire trip in Brazil, I did not see one walk button. I was quite amazed at how the system worked. A huge amount of patience is needed while waiting at some of the bigger intersections. This is a clear signal that the cars rule the roads of Brazil.

    The difference in public and private transportation gives a different feel to Brazil. In downtown Boston, it is common to see an MBTA bus drive by, but never eight or nine in a row. In the streets of Rio, this is very common. Up until 2 years ago, the bus system was very messed up. The buses stopped at every stop and created a very big traffic jam. Now, they are far more efficient and fly through intersections. This public transportation has a huge effect on how the city flows. The public transportation has a more communal feel because most residents only have access to public, rather than private transport. The private transportation in Brazil is smaller. The amount of cars on the streets, when compared to the United States is far less. In a downtown setting, around half of the cars are taxi’s, buses or some other kind of public transport. The increased amount of public transportation makes it more democratic and the communal feel is more important. Brazil is a different country when it comes to cars, they are not solely based around automobiles. The country may eventually change after the olympics, but for the time being it is a different place.


    Nat Brown

  • Rio has dramatically changed within the past few years.  Informal housing communities, also known as favelas, have been a part of this dramatic change.  Many residents of favelas feel like they aren’t integrated with Rio.  A leader of Museo De Favela, a museum that attracts tourists to its Favela through street art, started that, “The favela is integrated into the city, but the city needs to integrate itself into the favela”.  This singular issue has led to problems between favela residents and Rio citizens. Tourism has also played a role in this disconnect.  With the Olympics and World Cup approaching, many people are interested in visiting Rio.  Numerous tourists have been drawn to the favelas.  Julia , a famous blogger in Brazil, feels that foreigners and tourists are almost more comfortable in the favelas than residents of Rio are.  There are two opposing views on tourism in favelas; those who side with it being okay and those who don’t.

    Those who do approve of tourism in the favelas argue that it is the only solution to solving the challenge of integration between favela residents and “asphalt” residents.  Pedro, a professor from Studio-X in Rio felt that a jeep tour through Copacabana and a jeep tour through a favela should be one in the same; if people are really trying to integrate the city.  Additionally, people argue that going out to dinner in a favela should be like going out to dinner in the North End of Boston, a unique environment with interesting housing and restaurants.  These people also argue that the favelas are a rich part of the city’s culture and a great attraction to Rio, keeping them separate from the city just wouldn’t make sense.

    Despite this, there are many who are completely opposed to the idea of tourism in favelas.  Those people argue that the environment within the favelas is completely different from Rio.  There aren’t common areas or public parks, instead it is compact housing.  Therefore, those people believe that it is rude and disruptive to favela Residents to be touring through homes for fun and enjoyment, because they look different.

    Ideally, it would be nice for the favela residents to decide about tourism in their homes.  However, it seems that the government will make that decision.  With the Olympics and World Cup right around the corner, the government is changing the city tremendously.  They have relocated and pacified favelas so it is likely that they will also decide who can enter them in the near future.

    Sarah Thompson

  • “Rio may be described as a marvelous city, but it does not seem too marvelous for the poor,” Jane, a leader in the favela Vila Autodromo says. Her colleague, and fellow organizer, Altair agrees with her statement, and adds a personal story describing how eviction has affected his life. He was evicted from his home in a south zone favela at age 14 and moved to the west zone’s City of God. Altair lived here for 26 years comfortably. When he turned 40, the city began building a highway right where he lived, forcing him to move. He moved from City of God to Vila Autodromo. Altair became involved in leadership within Vila Autodromo in hopes of preventing another eviction from this favela.

    Vila Autodromo is a well established and peaceful favela that has existed since 1967. It is located in the west zone of Rio de Janeiro right on a lagoon. This previously ignored favela has more recently become quite the talk of Rio, due to its close proximity to the under-construction Olympic Park. Many of the favelas in Rio have been evicted or relocated in preparation for the city’s upcoming events: The World Cup in 2014 and the summer Olympics in 2016. Some of the evictions have taken place overnight giving the citizens of those favelas little to no time to fight against the government. Vila Autodromo has been fighting the possibility of eviction for about three years. As a favela known for it’s peacefulness and friendliness, they have been able to build a network of support.

    According to one of the members of this favela’s neighborhood council, the main reasons why Vila Autodromo has not been evicted yet is because of land titles, exchange with foreigners, exchange with other communities suffering from eviction, and access to alternative media. Using alternative media, Vila Autodromo has been able to gather support from many people all over the world that are helping them fight the eviction. Through speaking with neighbor council members of Vila Autodromo, I began to understand the current contention over land between the favela and the city, but I also realized this dispute is far from over.

    While most people we have met with agree that Vila Autodromo is a nice community, and the plans for the Olympic Park don’t require the evictions, the future is still scary. Altair explained the real reason that the favela is so threatened. The government wants them to relocate is simply because they don’t want a “dirty ugly favela next to the new stadium.” The city needs to start to see Favela’s differently in order to understand them, benefit from them, and evolve them.

    Sydney Allen