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The paradox of Rio’s slums and “favela chic”

Rocinha is one of many favelas in Rio where gentrification is forcing some longtime residents out. (Ed Johnson/flickr/cc)

Beyond the klieg lights of the World Cup in Brazil lies the urban paradox that is Rio’s favelas. Simon Jenkins reports for the Guardian that where some see hopeless slums, others see a “new urbanism” for the developing world.

The favelas, after all, have much going for them, beginning with desirable locations close to the city center that feature stunning views. They’re densely populated, walkable and reliant on fuel-sipping motorbikes as taxis rather than cars. As other cities in emerging nations choose to raze slums to make way for gentrified neighborhoods, Rio has largely left its favelas intact.

One solution is to preserve the favelas while improving them through infrastructure upgrades. According to the article, that’s already occurring, but with mixed results. Neighborhoods become safer and welcome new businesses. But the trendy restaurants, hotels and “favela chic” that takes root causes real estate prices to skyrocket — and some locals to flee. 


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