Earlier this week, Brazilian troops and police raided Rochinha, the largest shantytown in Rio de Janeiro.
When I visited Rio earlier this year, I did a tour of this shantytown (with a company) and it was the highlight of my time in Rio. We learned that monthly rent in a favela goes for about $600 which seems like an insane sum since the average wage is about $400/month and I was paying no more than $800 for a bachelor apartment in the heart of Toronto. The top of the favela is considered the most desirable place to live because it is cleaner, has better access to water and other amenities and is further away from the entrance (where police enter and gunfights happen).
It was amazing to see the favela up close and afar. Walking through Rocinha, you can see the materials people used to build their houses. And from afar, you can see how they really stack on top of each other.
Most of the people living here were just regular people going about their daily lives but there were teenagers patrolling the walkways with guns (working for the drug lords). The favela, while a bit dirty, didn’t actually seem like a horrible place to live. I saw worse living conditions in Laos, but I think because Brazil has such a large disparity between rich and poor, it makes the conditions seem intolerable relative to the lavish lifestyles some people are living.
I hope that the recent events are actually effective and not purely for show. I think favelas are often raided with little or no impact. And hopefully the Olympics will have a positive impact on Brazil’s notoriously bad economic disparity. My local newspaper has an article on Brazil’s rising middle class here.