Brazil’s Favelas: Colors, Chaos, And Crime

Published December 3, 2014
Updated October 28, 2019

Welcome to the favelas, slums so underserved that they maintain a state of cold war with Brazilian officials.

In every conurbation in Brazil, all across the country, there exists a separate state-within-a-state that houses over 11 million of the nation’s poor. Over 6 percent of the country’s population lives in this archipelago of slums, which puts them almost entirely out of the authority of the central government.

These are the favelas, and they are almost a foreign country that maintains a state of cold war with Brazilian officials.

Favelas Nova Friburgo
Favelas Long
Favelas Vidigal Mountain Beach
Favelas Chatting
Brazil’s Favelas: Colors, Chaos, And Crime
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The only contact most favela residents have with the government that theoretically represents them is the occasional "pacifying" police raid. Most are not provided with basic services, and violence is the only currency that passes between the mafia-ruled slums and the central authorities. The people of the favelas are on their own, in other words, and they've built up their communities as colorful, crowded and utterly unique city-states that have held their own against a hostile world for decades.

And then a more in-depth analysis of the violence in urban Brazilian slums:

Richard Stockton
Richard Stockton is a freelance science and technology writer from Sacramento, California.