Will Slums Change the World?

In Brazil, 11 million people live in favelas, or slums. That figure represents 6% of Brazil’s total population, and 44% of all people living in slums are concentrated in 3 major cities: Sao Paulo, Belem and Rio de Janeiro, per the 2010 census. Of course, it’s usually a negative to have such a high population concentration in the slums, but an encouraging trend in Rio may be signifying the start of a change. 

As the city becomes safer generally, we are undergoing a cultural renovation in the slums of Rio de Janeiro. From data acquired in 2012 there were 314,224 foreigners living in Rio, an increase of 12,000 from 2010.

Many foreigners are moving to the hills of the city— which hold the best views— as it becomes safer and safer for visitors and regular inhabitants. The most sought after places are Vidigal, Pavão-Pavãozinho, Cantagalo, Santa Marta and Rocinha, all of which are in the south region. This influx of new residents caused real estate costs to increase more than 100% in some areas.

As we approach two big events, the World Cup (2014) and the Summer Olympics (2016), there will be a mass of visitors going through Rio de Janeiro and it’s a safe bet that many will settle down in the hills of the city.

Looking at this behavior we can see that these slums are developing into creative social environments, as they sit at the hub of so many different kinds of people. With their proximity to safer neighborhoods and diverse populations moving to Rio, the slums are exchanging experience and knowledge that adds up to a stronger community.

I’d like to be optimistic now and believe that this flux of foreign people moving near the slums will change the way the Brazilian people perceive their own city and their prejudice toward its less fortunate citizens. I also believe that in a short period of time— maybe five to ten years— this wave of foreign immigration will turn the slums into a creative pole, showing the world some of the greatest art and humanitarian projects ever to be seen.

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