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Favela in Brazil

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A favela is a slum in Brazil, within urban areas. The first favelas appeared in the late 19th century and were built by soldiers who had nowhere to live. Some of the first settlements were called bairros africanos (African neighborhoods).  These were the places where former slaves with no land ownership and no options for work lived. Over the years, many former black slaves moved in. Even before the first favela came into being, poor citizens were pushed away from the city and forced to live in the far suburbs. However, most modern favelas appeared in the 1970s due to rural migration, when many people left rural areas of Brazil and moved to cities.

Unable to find places to live, many people ended up in favelas. Study shows, in 2010 about 6 percent of the Brazilian population lived in favelas. This means that 11.4 million of the 190 million people that lived in the country resided in areas where there is a lack of public services or growth. During the end of slavery, many people from the country-side migrated to the city of Rio. The citizens from the country-side sought work in the city, but wasn’t getting much income. They could not afford urban housing. In the 1920s, favelas grew enormously that they were perceived as an issue for society. However, it was not until the late 1930s that favelas became center of attention all throughout the country.

There was a separation between the favelas and the city areas. The government did not extend sanitation, electricity, or other services to the community of favelas. The poverty rate increased drastically. Most of the citizens in the favelas were moved to public housing in a different area in Brazil.  In recent years favelas have been troubled by drug-related crime and gang warfare. The majority of favelas are self-policing. Ruled by drug lords, crimes of property within the favelas are dealt with the gang owners. There are many different things that go on within these favelas. It is not only about the culture they live in, but how they go about following traditions.

The history of the favelas of Rio de Janeiro begins in the final years of the nineteenth century as Brazil transitioned from an empire to a republic. As the nation continued to undergo dramatic political changes throughout the course of the twentieth century, the slums of its second largest city grew in size and number. As they became more numerous and increasingly populated by a burgeoning urban underclass, favela residents began to organize internally, forming residents’ associations. These organizations served as forums for deliberating matters of community governance, in addition to acting as connections between favela residents and the city hall. Since the city and state governments failed to extend many public services to the favelas, community members, led by their local associations, banded together to provide sanitation, medical care, and transportation to their friends and neighbors.

The favela dwellers build their houses out of wood and garbage, then later when they have the money, they upgrade to a homemade concrete home. There are no government schools in the favelas, there’s usually only homemade water supply and sewer system and the electric is acquired by a hook that’s thrown onto the electric supply to siphon power. Those who are born and who die in favelas aren’t recorded – for the Brazilian government, it’s a crime to be poor. Naturally, the poor in Brazil don’t take their fate lying down and scratch out whatever kind of life they can for themselves. With almost no education or opportunities and an alarming incidence of teenage drug abuse the career options open to a Brazilians from the favelas are limited to selling on the street, cleaning houses, drug dealing or prostitution.

In Rio de Janeiro, however, favelas arose on the hills overlooking the rich neighborhoods and this gave them a distinct advantage; with so much wealth nearby they were in the perfect position to deal drugs on a large scale. The drug lords rule the favelas and establish a strict regime within. No one may rob or kill anyone else within the favela without facing severe punishment. Degenerative drugs like crack and heroin typically aren’t allowed in though cocaine and marijuana is readily available. The drug lords employ the youths to deal drugs on the street corners – minors can’t be prosecuted in Brazil.

Largely ignored by city and state government for much of the first half of the twentieth century, the favelas began to attract political attention starting in the mid-1940s. During this period, populist politicians risen to power on both the national and local stage championing a platform of poverty improvement and national reconstruction. A central part of their program was providing modern, sanitary, public housing units as an alternative to slums, which were thought to breed not only disease, illiteracy, and crime, but also moral corruption and political radicalism. These original settlements were intended as temporary housing for displaced favela residents until the city and state government could erect permanent housing projects. As they were not properly maintained and their management style was quite unpopular among their residents, the parks were abandoned within several years after their first occupation.

Over time, communities started to develop social and religious organizations. They also formed associations to obtain running water and electricity. Because there is crowding, unsanitary conditions, poor nutrition, and pollution, diseases is rampant in the poorer favelas and infant mortality rates are high. There was a research done by Nancy Scheper- Hughes, basically talking about women crisis in modern Brazil. When she first start this research she was twenty years old at the time. She was a Peace Corps volunteer when he went to northeast Brazil as a community health worker.

Most of the main concerns where with political repression, violence, poverty, and death- especially in children from diarrhea and dehydration. Death of a baby was not a tragedy in town. Mothers were almost casual and indifferent. Fifteen years later, Scheper- Hughes returned as an anthropologist. Between 1982 and 1989, there were four field expeditions. These expeditions were all recording of the lives of mothers and their children. The theme of Nancy’s field work was to show the relationship between chronic child loss, poverty, and a mother’s ability to express maternal love.

Scheper-Hughes had considerable difficulty in tracking down local birth and death statistics, but those she finally succeeded in assembling indicated that the infant death rate in 1987 of 152 per 1000 was less than half what it was in 1965, by 1989 it appeared to be again on the rise, and over one half of all deaths in the municipal were of children under one year of age. Around 87 per cent of child deaths occurred in the poorest districts of a place called Bom Jesus. In the Northeast as a whole, the infant death rate in 1987 was 76.6 per 1000, more than twice that of the Southeast of the country.



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