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  • 04.21.14

A Look Inside Rio De Janeiro’s Oldest Favela, Threatened By Gentrification And The 2016 Olympics

A photographic tour of a rapidly changing neighborhood, where development has been in some cases disastrous for the people who have lived there the longest.

Brazil’s favelas are translated as “slums” in English, but they’re really more comparable to U.S. public housing. Favelas are more than just a place to live–they’re often tight-knit communities inhabited by families who have lived there for generations. Nowhere is this more true than in Providencia, which at an age of over 100 years, is the oldest favela in Rio de Janeiro.

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The paradox of Providencia and many of the hillside favelas is that they feature breathtaking views of the city below. In other urban areas, Providencia’s land would be considered prime real estate for the wealthy. But because Providencia is a favela–and not a wealthy enclave–it faces infrastructure challenges that aren’t as much of a problem as in the city below. (Though Rio in general has issues with dirty water, in the favelas, water quality is particularly unreliable.) It’s also dealing with gentrification due to its proximity to certain Olympic venues.

During a reporting trip to Brazil, I took a tour of Providencia with Theresa Williamson, the founder of Catalytic Communities, an NGO that supports the rights of favela-dewellers. Here is what we saw, in pictures.

Ariel Schwartz reported from Brazil as a fellow with the International Reporting Project (IRP).

About the author

Ariel Schwartz is a Senior Editor at Co.Exist. She has contributed to SF Weekly, Popular Science, Inhabitat, Greenbiz, NBC Bay Area, GOOD Magazine and more.

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