While many Brazilians are celebrating the opportunity to host the World Cup for the first time in 64 years next year, the renovations have had a devastating impact, as the story of Elisângela reminds us .
Elisângela wasn’t home when authorities arrived without warning to tear down her house on Pavão-Pavãozinho hill in Rio de Janeiro.
Her 17-year-old daughter answered the door and was told that the property was going to be destroyed at that very moment. Panicking, the girl called her mother […]
Elisângela ran back home, tried to reason with the men, ask for some time to find another home, but it was no use. In a few hours, all that was left was debris. This happened in early 2011. To this day, Elisângela has not been compensated nor relocated. Her daughter had to go live with her grandmother, while Elisângela still searches for a new home.
And while government officials insist that actually improving the favelas surrounding World Cup sites is too expensive and that it’s better to just tear down their homes and force them to relocate, actual experts have a somewhat different perspective:
[A]ccording to the Rio People’s World Cup and Olympics Committee, engineers that have written technical reports about areas like the Pavão-Pavãozinho have pointed out that doing construction work to restrain or strengthen the slope, in order to eliminate the risk of slippage, would cost even less than relocating the families that live in the area.
It shouldn’t be surprising that government officials and others are willing to disregard the basic needs of the city’s urban poor, though, forcing them to relocate in the name of “development” and “improvement.” That has been the case since the early-1900s, when favelas developed on the city’s mountainsides as elites forced the urban poor out of downtown areas in order to make the cityscape look more European, a process that continues as once-devalued lands suddenly gain importance to the wealthy without any consideration of the socioeconomically marginalized who lived in those areas. Though this particular story took place last year, it’s just one case of hundreds (if not thousands) of people, including indigenous peoples, being evicted from their homes in the name of an international sporting event. It’s another sad reminder that the socioeconomic marginalization of Brazil’s urban poor is not something that’s just a part of its urban past, but a process that continues unchecked into the 21st century.