Governance Through Security: The Contested Remaking of Rio de Janeiro


The panoramic vista from atop Morro da Providência is Rio de Janeiro at its beautiful and beguiling best, the marvelous but divided city from its oldest favela. Providência was founded in the late 19th century by soldiers denied the promise of government housing who constructed their homes out of makeshift materials on a hill they named favela after a coarse, untamed plant. Since their first construction to today when they surpass 1,000, the favelas symbolize the contestations between Rio de Janeiro’s quest for modernity and its ongoing inequalities. Providência is not only iconic of the inequality for which Rio de Janeiro is historically renowned but also symbolic of the contestations over rights to the city. From their pacification by the police to their integration through infrastructure, once marginalized favelas are now crucial to Rio de Janeiro’s urban remaking. As part of its plan to upgrade all favelas by 2020, the city government is building a cable car from the central train station to the top of Providência, purportedly to ease access for residents, but many fear that it is the beginning of their displacement. Last year, they returned home to find the initials of the municipal housing secretary spray-painted to their doors to indicate the destruction of their homes and their imminent removal. In the words of one resident, “They want to put an end to our history.”

Julia Tierney
Publication date: 
September 27, 2013
Publication type: 
Student Research