Archives for posts with tag: brazil

ImageShanty towns in Rio de Janeiro, better known as favelas, started in the 18th century when the former African slaves had no land ownership and were forced to settle in these areas. But it was mainly during the rural exodus in 1970’s that the number of favelas in Rio grew rapidly. And it was still during the 70’s, while Brazil was under military dictatorship, that removal campaigns started and successfully placed over 100,000 residents in public housing projects or back to the rural areas.

Nowadays the number of favelas in Rio has doubled. And because these areas have been illegally occupied, there are many issues involving not only violence and drugs, but overpopulation, pollution leading to diseases and lack of basic infrastructure such as electricity, water and sanitation. Not to mention the great risk of landslides for the residents living on hillsides.

Many investments have been made by local governments to promote the urban development for the favelas and cultural programmes to reduce the gab between social classes. But that doesn’t solve all problems. According to 2009 statistics, 25 thousand families were living dangerously in hillsides. Up until last year 17,4 thousand families have been relocated, and the aim is to relocate the remaining families in the next four years.

Being 2012 a municipal election year, Rio has announced last week the revised plan to reduce the area favelas occupy by at least 5% until 2016. Rio had 46,84 million km2 of favelas in 2008, and has now managed to reduce this number by 2%. The aim is to complete the remaining 3% by 2016.

And for the favelas that are staying, just like the cable car that have been introduced to ‘Complexo do Alemão’, and the public library located on ‘Complexo de Manguinhos’, a project to build escalators and make the access easier for the residents of ‘Rocinha’, ‘Mangueira’, ‘Complexo da Penha’ and ‘Complexo da Tijuca’ is being discussed.

It’s a very controversial situation as the project makes a lot of sense and it’s clearly easy to see improvements are being made with more on its way. This will be a great gift to the city of Rio de Janeiro just in time for the 2016 Olympics. But it doesn’t sound as good if we look at it from the people being evacuated point of view. They’re being re-located to the suburbs further away from opportunity and economic advancement. This could end up increasing the homeless population living in the urban centre of Rio.

You might also want to read: Rio’s favelas to be removed


Most of us wouldn’t think twice before referring to sticky notes as ‘Post-its’, or flying disc as ‘Frisbee’ and in-line skates as ‘Rollerblades’. These are just a few out of so many brands that have become more widely used than their original names. I believe even a term has been invented for it: Genericide.

And just like anywhere else in the world, Brazil also has many similar examples. One of which being adhesive tape, where people refer to as Durex – a famous brand of tapes in Brazil, but also a famous brand of condoms in the UK.

Now with that in mind, I’ll tell you a story of this Brazilian English student who left Brazil a few years ago for the first time to visit the United Kingdom. Let’s call this guy Pedro.

Pedro is very keen on practicing his English and is taking every opportunity to talk to people, ask for directions, recommendations and so on. One morning Pedro walks into a WH Smith, a well known stationary shop in the UK, looks around for a while, doesn’t find what he wants and walks to a member of staff. “Excuse me. Can you help me, please?”

“Yes, how can I help you?”

“I’m looking for durex.”

The salesperson, obviously very confused, replies “I’m sorry, but you won’t find this here. You need to go to a Boots store. There’s one just down the road”.

“Thank you.” Pedro says even more confused. He walks out of the shop towards Boots. And at Boots he goes straight to the till point. “Hi, I’m looking to durex.”

And the quite helpful salesperson “Yes, what type are you looking for?”

Pedro’s reply was “the one you can write on”.

Of course Pedro learned some new words that day. But I wonder what was the first thought through the staff’s mind…

This true story still cracks me up every time I remember it.