Elon International Studies: Brazil



Meet the Crew

Life in a Favela

Adventures in the

Black, White, and in
Between: Diversity
in Brazil


Biodiversity in the Amazon

Samba School

Favela Tour Opens Students' Eyes

Quality of Life
in Brazil

A Country that Runs
on Alcohol

Racial Inequality in

Ancient Indian
Remedy, New
Western Craze

Maracana Stadium

The Amazon


A Dish With Many Tastes

The Music and Dance
of Brazil as seen in
the Samba Schools

without Language

Fixing the
Race Problem

If an Entire Species is
Destroyed Before its
Discovered, Did it
Ever Exist?

The Beauty of Buzios

Salvador's Afro-
Brazilian Culture

Health Care and
Concerns in Brazil


Cristo Redentor

GST 243 Homepage

2004 Archives

Life in a Favela

Jeff Aden


        Favelas are areas around the major cities in Brazil . They are populated by many of the lower class and the living conditions are not the most desirable in some of the places. The reasons for these “shanty towns” are because of the migration of people that come from the country sides looking for work. Much of the farming has been industrialized and for this reason it left many of the slaves that were freed less and less to do. Cities offered more opportunity for the people with all of the hotels and commerce. The population is too large to afford housing for all of the people that migrate to the area. These dwellings that the people live in seem to built on top of each other. In heart of these communities there is not a place for sunlight to seep through. Even with all of the shortcomings it seems that the people that live in them are fairly content with staying there.

        These towns have been around for about 100 years and until recently the government hasn't really acknowledged them. They are self sufficient in a lot of their operations like schools, and other things that are usually government funded. The schools are beneficial because there are meals given to the children and there is also access to the internet. Children do not have the same luxuries that are afforded to the children in the United States . There is nowhere to play, children and parents do not have their own room, or a good plan for success. Drugs are rampant in the towns, and because of the absence of the government in these places the drug cartels will take over. Many of the families that are not directly involved in the selling of the narcotics will turn a blind eye because they are taken care of. There is a sense of security that the drug cartels provide as well. Safety is a big concern for these drug cartels. Often if there is a law broken in the favelas there is a fairly large chance that the offender will not go unpunished.

        Utilities are an interesting aspect of the people that inhabit these areas. The power polls look like they are wrapped as if they are a ball of yarn. Sewage runs down through pipes that are hung out of different orifices of each of the structures. It has been moved underground as opposed to the previous method of open sewage ditches. Trash is picked up usually by a public sanitation service, or it is incinerated, which can cause problems because of the close proximity of every thing in the confined area. Some of the buildings are being renovated and updated to have central electricity and heating. Marble is used in a lot of the structures and even though there are so many people living in so many different dwellings there are no building codes. Yet the structures are solid and all the masonry is done by the persons living in the area. The people do not like to call them favelas though. They prefer them to be referred to as neighborhoods or community developments.

        Brazilian people are required by law to vote in the elections of the state they reside, and this includes the favelas. Even though there are many people that do not know how to read, and are not caught up on current events. There are political posters that are draped all over the buildings and most of the population has never heard of the person that is campaigning. The process becomes very subjective and most of the candidates will not even visit the favelas when campaigning or after elected. Yet there is 20 percent of the population living in the shanty towns in Brazil . They are in a sense the backbone of the country because of their services that are provided to the communities and cities.

        The favela we visited in Rocinha was one of the oldest and largest in the country, and had a very good infrastructure. This may be because of the government intervention. The homes are not very luxurious, but some of the people have nice personal goods. They do not really want to build up their homes, and will use the money to buy some things that improve their standard of living. These things may include electronics, such as TV's and stereo systems. The thing about Brazil in general is the lack of importance that it seems is placed on rich and poor. There was a private school that was right across the street from a poor part of the favela. We could go into the city and walk around without any type of intervention of someone trying to hassle the group.

        When we walked around the area it was an interesting experiment in applying the information I had gathered about favelas before the trip. I was expecting them to be these dilapidated buildings that were barely standing up. Yet when we went it was a maze well built and sturdy structures that I actually found quite intriguing. The school that we went to told us of the different things that had been provided for the children, and about how some had actually made it out of the favelas and work for different large industries within Brazil . Also the people are content in their places it seems. They don't think that they are any less then anybody else, and the attitudes that the people have are very optimistic and care free almost.