A city for Danielly

By Mar Marin

Lisbon/Rome, May 25 (efe-epa).- Danielly is 22 years old; tough years spent growing up in Maré, the largest slum in Rio de Janeiro. She does not yearn for wide streets or green spaces around her. In the city of her dreams, the youth have a future, regardless of their origins.

Danielly Rodrigues, or Dani, as she is known to her friends, is a rare case for a favela resident: she has studied design, has learned Spanish and can work from home. The coronavirus cut short her wedding preparations: “I don’t know when I will go,” she says.

She shares a two-room apartment with her mother and brother on the third floor, so when the pump fails, they are left without running water for two weeks. But theirs is one of the nicer sections of the slum. “There are poor areas, and even poorer ones. Within Maré, there are differences as well.”

Dani has never left the state of Rio, although she holds onto hope of doing one day when she will leave Maré to move closer to the center and be able “to enjoy culture”.

Center, culture, water…while half the world debates how cities will look post-Covid-19, with green spaces and self-sufficient neighborhoods, the rest imagines how to open a bridge to the future.

“My ideal city would be one without inequality,” Dani says. “In my dreams, a city that is good for us is one that provides the same opportunities to those who do not live here.”

And what of green spaces and wide avenues? “For us, that is not the priority,” Dani says. “The priority is to have a life, to be able leave this place, or to be here and be able to move around freely, without being worried about what I am going to eat, drink, or whether I will make it home alive or not.”


Before the Covid-19 crisis brought the world to its knees, the Venice Biennale Architettura was preparing its 2020 exhibition titled “How we will live together?”

Nobody could have imagined then the weight this question would take on, but three months have been enough to drastically change the world.

Once the initial panic is over, the debate on alternatives for sustainable and safe development will begin as experts urge the redesign of cities so that they are better equipped to withstand future pandemics.

History is full of changes that have been triggered by survival: the plague changed Roman cities, Central Park was created in response to poor hygiene in Manhattan, boulevards oxygenated large capitals and reduced mortality rates.

“We have to rethink life in our cities. It takes courage but also balance,” Italian architect Stefano Boeri, a promoter of vertical forests, tells Efe in an interview.

Fifty-five percent of the global population lives in urban areas, a figure that in 2050 will climb to 70 percent, or more than 6.5 billion people.

The risk of contagion of diseases will multiply exponentially.

Urbanization will grow faster in poorer countries, the United Nations predicts.

“It would be a huge mistake to return to the normality that this pandemic has allowed. A normality in which we continue to punish nature, creating situations of imbalance,” Boeri adds.

On paper, the problem is clear: green, sustainable, healthy cities focused on correcting the profound imbalances that affect the poorest population.

The reality, however, is much more complex: solutions drawn up in New York, London or Paris have little to do with the dreams of people like Danielly.

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