Social Issues

Brazil’s biggest favela is not in Rio or São Paulo

By Alex Mirkhan and Waldheim Montoya

Brasilia, Mar 26 (EFE).- Brazilians were surprised when the government announced that the country’s biggest favela was not in either Rio de Janeiro or São Paulo but rather the capital Brasília, just 35 kilometers from the seat of power.

Brazil’s favelas, humble neighborhoods plagued by inequality and poverty, have almost always been associated with Rio, where they conjure images of gangs and deadly police violence.

But according to the preliminary 2022 census by the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE), the country’s biggest slum is now Brasilia’s Sol Nascente, whose 32,081 registered households surpassed that of Rio’s Rochinha, with 30,955 households.

The rest of the top five biggest favelas are Rio das Pedras, in Rio de Janeiro, Beiru Tancredo Neves, in Salvador, and Heliopolis, in São Paulo.

The head of the IBGE, Cimar Azevedo, said the term favela as a descriptor was used for any settlement that originated from precarious living.

The news even surprised local leaders, including Cláudio Ferreira Domingues, a regional administrator in Brasilia.

“It surprised us because to say Sol Nascente is the biggest favela and that it surpassed Rocinha, is to not know the city. We have basic sanitation and all of the public services,” he told Efe.

In Brasilia, poverty has historically been a relatively minor issue and was less visible than in Rio and Sao Paulo, where homelessness has grown dramatically in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Domingues acknowledges, however, that there are certain “critical” zones in the neighborhood, where services are lacking and irregular housing has been built on protected land.

Brasilia’s governor Ibaneis Rocha, who also disagrees with calling Sol Nascente a “favela” argued on March 21 that the district was under construction and going through a process of regularization.

Community leader Edson Lopes told Efe that while Sol Nascente started off as an illegal settlement, much of it has since been regularized.

“Sol Nascente is now a big city,” he said, adding that it had a population of around 150,000. He acknowledged that there were “security issues” in the area, but insisted that was common for any developing neighborhood.

While public services and basic sanitation have been connected to the favela and the crime rate is low relative to others in the county, the local community has called on the authorities to do more to tackle the problems that arise from rainfall each year.

“Our biggest problem is the rain. When it rains it sweeps debris that hits people, motorbikes and cars. The sewage system can’t take it anymore and the asphalt is damaged,” Aline Correa Silva, a local resident, said.EFE


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