Society

Brazil’s favelas doubled in size since 1985, says study

Informal housing is a characteristic of all major Brazilian cities, but problems with infrastructure, sanitation, and crime have made the country's favelas a social problem that no government has managed to tackle

favelas study size
View of Rio de Janeiro’s Rocinha, the largest favela in Brazil. Photo: Donatas Dabravolskas/Shutterstock

Brazil’s favelas are a constant feature in the landscapes of the country’s big cities. The favelas in Rio de Janeiro, particularly, are known around the world for their unconventional architecture, improbable geography, and their urban violence, depicted in many Hollywood movies.

While at times idyllic and home to a sense of community and solidarity lost across most of Brazil, the pervasion of crime and lack of basic infrastructure and public security in favelas make them a social problem that no government has been able to properly address. And Brazil’s favelas are only getting bigger.

Over the last 35 years,...

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