Inside Rio’s Favelas, The City’s Neglected Neighborhoods



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.

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Some of the first settlements were called bairros africanos (African neighbourhoods). Over the years, many former enslaved Africans moved in.In the city of Rio, close to 1.5 million people – around 23-24% of the population – live in favelas.


That’s comparable to the percentage living in affordable housing (public, rent controlled, cooperatives, community land trusts and other models) in major cities worldwide.


Rio’s favelas are our affordable housing market. Rio has more favela residents than any other Brazilian city and, all together, Rio’s favelas would comprise the ninth largest city in the country.


Twenty-five percent of the residents of Rio de Janeiro live in informal communities called favelas.

Not fully slums but not fully integrated into the city either, these favelas are home to both horrific gang violence and some of the most creative and resourceful people in Rio.