The Fight for Rio’s Future

Marielle Franco represented a new, empowered generation of favela leaders from Rio De Janero. Despite her death, Rio’s leaders are unlikely to back down.

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“They tried to bury us, but didn’t realize we are seeds.” – Proverb cited at events marking the March 14 death of Rio de Janeiro city councilwoman Marielle Franco.

BY THERESA WILLIAMSON | MARCH 21, 2018
RIO DE JANEIRO

Firstly, when Brazil abolished slavery in 1888, enslaved Africans comprised 40 percent of Rio de Janeiro’s population. Lacking rights in what was, and remains, one of the world’s most unequal countries for land ownership. Newly freed slaves mostly settled into informal communities. They are favelas. These are which today shelter 24 percent of Rio’s population.

More than a century of public policy, often repressive and discriminatory by design. This has kept the favelas and their residents from realizing their potential. Therefore and more importantly, from making full use of the assets they have developed in their communities.

Though the deck Is stacked against them, Rio’s favela residents have succeeded. They weave together a vibrant cultural and collaborative fabric over generations. This emerging, more positive favela identity is possible since a growing generation of local leaders are in. They take on roles to organize themselves, improve their communities and face often neglectful authorities.