Priced out of the favela: The Brazilians turning to squats

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Priced out of Rio's favelas, Brazil's poorest communities are squatting in abandoned government buildings.

Despite billions of dollars pledged by the authorities to improve housing, Rio's poorest are yet to see the benefits.

Image source, Tariq Zaidi

But photographer Tariq Zaidi found that what binds this community together is a sense of camaraderie, dignity and a pride in the place they call home.

In their bid to host the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics, Brazilian authorities promised to improve life in the favelas of Rio.

But the "pacification" schemes and the promise to splash out billions of dollars remodelling the favelas has had an unintended consequence.

Rent rises are now pushing the poorest families into occupying abandoned buildings on the fringes of the favelas.

Less than a mile from the Maracana stadium, in Favela Mangueira, hundreds of families are squatting in empty buildings with no sanitation, running water or security.

Image source, Tariq Zaidi

Pamela, 16, lives with her mother and her seven-month old daughter in an old building which once housed the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE).

The structure, which was vacated by the institute some 17 years ago, has been occupied by about 100 families.

Image source, Tariq Zaidi

Pamela (left) has been living in the 14-storey IBGE building for the last 15 years. Pamela's mother, Martha, was the second person to move in.

But more people who cannot afford to pay the rising rents in the favelas keep arriving each week.

About two million people, or 30% of Rio's population, live in favelas which often lack proper sanitation, education services, security or healthcare.

In 2010, Rio Mayor Eduardo Paes pledged to upgrade and integrate every favela into the formal city by the year 2020.

The Morar Carioca (Rio Living) programme had a budget of $2.62bn (£2.06bn) but the plan has mostly failed to materialise.

Image source, Tariq Zaidi

There were plans to turn the abandoned IBGE buildings into a cultural centre by the end of 2012.

But as yet, nothing has changed here.

Image source, Tariq Zaidi

Taina, 12, has been squatting in the IBGE building with her family for four or five years.

Rio has more people living in favelas than any other Brazilian city. Taken together, Rio's favelas would constitute Brazil's seventh most populous city.

According to the 2013 census, 32% of favela residents consider themselves working class and 65% middle class.

Image source, Tariq Zaidi

Empty spaces in the abandoned buildings are used by the community.

In a parking compound in Vila do Metro favela, residents take part in a dance class.

Image source, Tariq Zaidi
Image source, Tariq Zaidi

In the IBGE building, children ride their bikes or look after younger siblings.

Most families here have no running water. Residents have to collect it at the few points where it is piped into the building.

Image source, Tariq Zaidi
Image source, Tariq Zaidi

In Vila do Metro, women wait in one of the alleyways to fill up their water buckets.

Image source, Tariq Zaidi

Thirty per cent of Rio's population live in areas which are not connected to any formal sanitation system.

Image source, Tariq Zaidi

Rubbish piles up outside the Vila do Metro community.

Image source, Tariq Zaidi

Cristiane has been squatting in an abandoned building in Vila do Metro for at least five years with her five young children.

In the favelas, 42% of households are headed by women, data collected by the Data Popular Institute suggests.

Image source, Tariq Zaidi

Despite being marginalised, the residents have tried to create a society based on co-operation to survive.

The graffiti on this house reads: "Somos seres humanos" ("We are human beings").

Image source, Tariq Zaidi

With Rio facing serious budget shortfalls, chances for improvement to living conditions of the city's poorest remain low.

But despite the difficulties that persist, two-thirds of those surveyed said they did not want to leave their neighbourhood, citing a sense of camaraderie, pride and dignity as reasons for wanting to stay.

Image source, Tariq Zaidi

All photographs © Tariq Zaidi, research and text by Sandra de Angelis and Clelia De Campos (translation by Tariq Zaidi)

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