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Monthly Digest

Latest News and Opinion on and from
Rio de Janeiro's Favelas

August 2015
Volume V Issue 8

Welcome to our August digest with the latest news from RioOnWatch (Rio Olympics Neighborhood Watch), Catalytic Communities' project to bring visibility to favela perspectives on the rapid transformations in Rio through the 2016 Olympic Games. For this month's RioOnWatch articles see below and for an exhaustive list of news reports and features on favelas from the full range of English-language media sources, see the right-hand column. Should this email appear clipped, you can click to view the entire message in your browser.


Before we jump into our regular news summary, we need to make sure you know about our ongoing crowdfunding campaign for our Rio Favela Olympics Media Package. At $25,290, we've raised 32% with two weeks to go to our September 18 deadline. This is our most important fundraiser ever, as our core advocacy and reporting work depends on it in this critical upcoming year. 

If all our readers donate just $7, we'll reach our goal. 

Please take a moment to 
support our work and to share our campaign pageour video, and a personal message with your networks. Check out an example message from one of our staff members for more reasons why our work is so essential this year.


August 5 marked one year to go to the beginning of the 2016 Rio Olympics, and we published an important summary of the ongoing impacts of the Games' preparations. In the context of misplaced public priorities that fail to invest in basic services, favela residents reflected on what the real legacy of the Olympics will be for them.

Two favela residents and journalists—Michel Silva and Thaís Cavalcante—were each given a platform on The Guardian to share their thoughts on how the Olympics are affecting their communities. We spotlighted this and other fantastic journalism in an article on best and worst favela and Olympics reporting from this one-year-to-go period.

One of the most disturbing stories to emerge this month was the news that 11 construction workers at the Olympic Village were forced to live and work in "conditions analogous to slavery." Property tycoon Carlos Carvalho spoke openly of his vision for the Olympic Village and other properties to become "home to a 'noble' elite." For activist Jane Nascimento, the Olympics have meant both eviction from her Vila Autódromo home and renewed determination to keep fighting for her rights. Two houses in the Praia do Sossego subsistence fishing community were also demolished this month, after a federal judge upheld the eviction mandate.

And with investment pouring into Olympic construction, residents and environmental groups in the North Zone have been left wondering why funds allotted for an urban park in the Serra da Misericórdia have been returned without explanation.

Meanwhile, community activist and media collective Papo Reto has launched a campaign to demand an end to the escalating violence in Complexo do Alemão. The Black Justice Collective held a meeting on the institutional racism in Brazil that allows such violence to continue. An Alemão artist has responded to violence by creating a Facebook page to inform residents of shootings and by painting murals to beautify favela walls.

Participation has been a key theme of the month, beginning with a youth advisory board launched by the City to improve dialogue between young people and the government. A conference on social interest housing in the Port region invited residents into the planning process, at least on paper, while a civil society organization held the first meeting in a series of events to create participatory planning mechanisms at the neighborhood level.

In community news, we highlighted Asa Branca's dedication to welcoming the recent influx of Haitian immigrants, plans for eco-tourism in Vila Laboriaux, and an innovative elderly day care center in City of God. Aforementioned journalist Thaís Cavalcante contributed a profile of Maré's brilliant new children's choir.

And finally, September marks CatComm's 15th birthday! To celebrate, we want to know what the people who've made CatComm and RioOnWatch a success over these years—YOU!—are up to today, and how we can best support our collaborators going forward. Please take a few minutes to share your thoughts on our brief questionnaire! They're very important to us!
We hope you enjoy this month's carefully compiled digest and video recommendations below. Please share and don't forget to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

On August 14 and 15, nearly 300 people gathered in the Utopia Warehouse along the coast of Guanabara Bay in the Port region of Rio for a long-awaited conference to discuss social housing provisions for residents in the region. The question of social housing in the Port region has become critical in the context of the heavy private investment in the Marvelous Port renewal projects in anticipation of the 2016 Olympics.
  On Saturday August 22, almost 100 community members and journalists gathered in a peaceful protest against escalating police violence in Complexo do Alemão. Alemão has been the scene of shootings on 81% of days this year, resulting in a total of 21 deaths, a spike from previous years. This particular gathering was the first of four planned protests over the next month, organized by community action group Coletivo Papo Reto. 
Since its inception in 1991, Casa de Santa Ana has pioneered the delivery of healthcare and physical therapy to elderly residents in Cidade de Deus. Located in the heart of one of Rio’s biggest West Zone favelas and just 5km from the site of the Olympic Park in Barra da Tijuca, Casa de Santa Ana is a multipurpose care facility specializing in elderly health and wellbeing. 

favela-olimpiada-620x264Favelas and the Olympics – Whose Legacy Is It?
by Fernanda Mena | August 25
Rio’s favela residents share their views of the 2016 Olympics and of the pacification process. Even with less than a year to go to Rio 2016, there is still a lack of clarity regarding what can be considered an Olympic legacy for these areas, which are home to approximately 20% of the population of the city.
  The heightened global attention on Rio with one year to go to the Olympics has produced some truly stellar reporting on Rio’s favelas and the current context of the city. At the same time, the single event that drew the most coverage to Rio’s favelas was the death of a wanted trafficker, which shows there is still work to be done to reach more balanced coverage. Furthermore, the use of stigmatizing language that misrepresents Rio’s favelas remains prevalent.
  Well over R$24.1 billion will be spent on infrastructure and development projects in support of the Olympics, but few residents are seeing improvements. Is quality of life improving for Cariocas? Or is the money merely spent “para inglês ver”—for the English to see—and serving private interests? What are the City’s priorities?
2014-06-27-11.02.30-620x264Complexo do Alemão Artist Gives Back
by Nicole Froio | August 20
Mariluce's stand in the Palmeiras cable car stop is located right in front of the community library. With many children spending their free time there, Mariluce started putting on a painting workshop for children every Saturday to teach the kids how to paint. “It’s important to do this because the workshops fill up the children’s free time and I am also motivating them to develop an interest in art and culture.”
  On December 16, 2010 Mayor Eduardo Paes signed Decree 33.280 to establish Leopoldina Municipal Urban Park in the Serra da Misericórdia, located in the North Zone of Rio. In 2012, the project received a R$15 million investment, of which nearly R$11 million came from the socio-environmental foundation of Caixa Econômica, the federal public bank. Yet, it was recently discovered that the project has been abandoned and the funds returned.
  Friday August 14, the Ministry of Labor in Rio de Janeiro and the Ministry of Labor and Employment rescued 11 workers in a situation analogous to slavery, all living in one house and one kitchenette, without sewage pipes, amongst rats and cockroaches. According to the investigation, the workers had come from other states to work for the contractor Brasil Global Serviços, that manages construction of theIlha Pura Project, a residential complex that will house the Olympic Village and serve as lodging for athletes and organizers.
  At the beginning of August, after a decade-long struggle, Jane left the house which she had fought so hard to acquire and build. The area around her house demonstrated the asphyxiation to which she had been subject over the course of months. On one side, the rubble of her neighbors’ demolished houses. On the other, a huge building which reflected the struggle of the small pitted against the mighty, and the destructive force of the latter. But it also reflected resistance.
  Around 150 people gathered on Saturday August 1 at UERJ to launch Viver Na Cidade, a series of events sponsored by the group Se A Cidade Fosse Nossa. This group is committed to promoting active participation and citizenship in the city. Its Living in the City series will consist of “cyclical themed seminars and neighborhood meetings” that work alongside online platforms with the intention of creating meaningful participatory planning.
City-of-Rio-Youth-Council-Launch-620x264The City of Rio Launches Youth Advisory Board
by Brenda Serpas | August 14
On Wednesday July 29 the City of Rio launched its first ever Youth Advisory Board in the City Palace in Botafogo. The Youth Advisory Board is a project of LAB.Rio, an initiative recently launched by the City intending to provide a platform for discourse between the public and the government.
  Our teacher was Dona Alba. She was tall, dark skinned and extremely pretty. She had dark curly hair which framed her face. This was also one of the reasons why I loved school. I would go just to see my beautiful teacher. But she was also so much more than beautiful. Dona Alba had a special way of teaching reading and writing, although I already knew how to read and write.
  Favelas are never finished, constantly being built and rebuilt by their residents. And in the same way, the community that inhabits them traditionally managed and designed the public spaces there, often through the process of mutirão, which is a great word that means group work with benefits for all. 
Laboriaux-group-620x264Vila Laboriaux Takes Steps Toward Community-Based Eco-Tourism by Julia Jones, Nia McAllister | August 11
On Sunday August 2, the community-based movement Preserva Laboriaux and its partner, Rio-based non-profit Favela Verde held the first meeting on sustainable community-based tourismin Vila Laboriaux, a small favela community at the top of Rocinha. With around 50 people in attendance, the meeting brought together experts in sustainability, favela tourism, representatives from the Tijuca National Park, and entrepreneurs to discuss and share their experiences in responsible eco-tourism with the residents of Vila Laboriaux. 
Skyline-over-Asa-Branca-620x264Asa Branca Favela Welcomes Haitian Immigrants
by Sarah Jacobs | August 10
The rise in Haitian immigration to Brazil has been hitting the headlines. According to figures from the Ministry of Work and Employment published by BBC Brasil, the number of Haitian workers in Brazil rose from 814 in 2011 to 14,579 in 2013. Justice Minister José Eduardo Cardozo declared that Brazil currently emits more than 100 visas a month to Haitians. Thanks to a dynamic community leader, one favela in Rio’s West Zone is reacting to an influx of Haitian immigrants in creative and inclusive ways.
  Judge William Douglas of the Fourth Federal Circuit issued a decision on July 27 upholding the eviction mandate of subsistence fishing community Praia do Sossego in Niterói, the city located to Rio’s east across the Guanabara Bay. Despite federal legislation protecting fishing and traditional communities, federal authorities justify the removal on the grounds of environmental preservation.
  Since winning the Olympic bid in 2009 and hosting the 2014 World Cup, the city of Rio de Janeiro has gone through immense urban transformations that have disrupted and changed the lives of its millions of residents. With one year to go to the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games, RioOnWatch offers this summary of what you need to know about the preparations for the global event and how it has affected residents across Rio de Janeiro.
At the Piscinão de Ramos, part of Complexo da Maré’s leisure park, Geise Freitas’ routine is different to that of other homemakers. She hosts about 50 children on her rooftop for music lessons. When she was on maternity leave at home, her nine year old daughter invited some friends to come and sing. And, little by little, the group grew. 
  On Tuesday, July 21, the Caixa de Assistência dos Advogados do Estado do Rio de Janeiro hosted the first panel in a series of dialogues organized by Coletivo Justiça Negra-Luiz Gama that discussed racism, public security, and affirmative action in Brazil. Over 80 people attended the event, many of whom were young lawyers, as the collective offers job training and English classes to young black Brazilians entering the legal field.

Recommended Videos


in the Media

NPR August 30
Rio's Favelas Feel The Peace—And The Pressure—Of Pacification by Lourdes Garcia-Navarro

The Independent August 30
Outrage over Rio de Janeiro police's 'symbolic apartheid' by Beth McLoughlin

Life in Rocinha August 30
Favela Criativa

AP August 28
German sailor gets sick after Rio regatta

Reuters August 28
Fighting Olympic eviction in Rio favela by Ricardo Moraes, Stephen Eisenhammer

El Pais August 28
Rio de Janeiro bars poor black youths from its most famous beaches by María Martín

Wall Street Journal August 27
At What Cost Will Rio Host the 2016 Olympics? [VIDEO] 

Huffington Post August 27
Apparently Going to the Beach Is Now a Crime in Rio. Driving With 14 DUI Tickets Is Not by Thiago de Araújo 

Coletivo Projetação August 26
Mapping do Projetação na Vila Autódromo [VIDEO - English subtitles]

Slash Film August 26
‘Trash’ Trailer: Stephen Daldry Embarks an Adventure in the Slums of Rio by Angie Han

NPR August 25
For Brazil's 1 Percenters, The Land Stays In The Family Forever by Lourdes Garcia-Navarro

IJNet August 24
Q&A with Stephanie Nolen: How The Globe and Mail's multimedia project tackles race in Brazil by Kiratiana Freelon 

The Rio Times August 24
New Novela Aims to Portray Life in Rio’s Favelas “Realistically” by Chesney Hearst August 23
Artists see Baguio ‘Stone Hill’ as big, living canvas by Donna Bowater

The Bellingham Herald August 22
Sailing chief: Rio events could be moved from polluted bay by Stephen Wade

The Washington Post August 22
In Rio, the water’s fine… just don’t fall in by Dom Phillips

Citicsope* August 21
In Rio’s biggest favela, one flashy project thrives while another fails by Julie Ruvolo

Buenos Aires Herald August 21
Head of Rio’s water utility sees ’problems’ in Olympic bay by Jenny Barchfield

PRI August 21
For this expat, moving back to Brazil wasn't all sunshine and samba by Bradley Campbell

The New York Times* August 20
Trump Hotel Goes Up, and His Latino Views Barely Raise Eyebrows by Simon Romero

The Guardian August 20
Rio de Janeiro: 'It's a deep injustice that gun violence is tolerated' by Robert Muggah

The Guardian* August 19
Rio's Olympic Village: a green housing dream, but a gentrification nightmare [VIDEO] by Ana Athayde

National Geographic August 19
Will the Olympics Make Things Better or Worse for Rio? by Simon Worrall

Vice August 18
What Does the Police Killing of a Local Drug Lord Mean for Rio de Janeiro? by Donna Bowater and Priscilla Moraes

RioReal Blog August 18

Rio de Janeiro has moved forward, but won’t be spared recession: a conversation with Alfredo Sirkis by Julia Michaels

The New York Times August 17
Brazil’s Rising Turbulence by The Editorial Board

Black Girl with Long Hair August 14
16 Harsh Realities of Being Black and/or Mixed in Brazil by Leila

ESPN August 14
WHO supports viral testing for Rio Games' water sites by AP

Future of Places August 13
Squatting is Placemarking [VIDEO] by Robert Neuwirth

The Rio Times August 13
IOC Will Not Test Olympic Waters in Rio for Viruses by Lisa Flueckiger

NPR August 12
Dark-Skinned Or Black? How Afro-Brazilians Are Forging A Collective Identity by Lourdes Garcia-Navarro

The New York Times August 12
Scandals in Brazil Prompt Fears of a Return to Turmoil by Simon Romero

Bloomberg Business August 12
Rio Olympics Sell 3 Million Tickets; Poor Wait on Mayor’s Pledge by Tariq Panja

RioReal Blog August 12
Rio’s bay could be less dirty, shortly by Julia Michaels

eNews Channel Africa August 12
Rio de Janeiro cracks down on narco gang by AFP

The Daily Telegraph August 12
‘I’m afraid to die’: Time runs out for the gangster known as Playboy by AFP

The Telegraph August 9
Rio police kill 'Playboy' - one of the favela's most infamous drug traffickers by Donna Bowater

NZ Herald August 9
Rio Olympics: Poverty porn awaits by Dylan Cleaver

The Rio Times August 8
Photography Exhibition of Maré Dance Company in Rio on August 10th by Chesney Hearst

Citylab August 7
In Rio, It's Still Full Speed Ahead for 2016 by Mark Byrnes

Miami Herald August 7
With Summer Olympics a year away, Brazil wonders if it’s ready
by Vinod Sreeharsha

IJNet* August 7
Grassroots sources for journalists to start covering the 2016 Olympic Games now
by Kiratiana Freelon

AFP News Agency August 6
Rio residents protest against 2016 Olympic Games [VIDEO]

CNN August 6
More and more tourists are booking stays in Rio's hilltop favelas
by Shasta Darlington

CNN August 6
Would you stay in a Brazilian favela? [VIDEO]
by Shasta Darlington

The Independent August 6
'Britain needs more slums': Think-tank forced to defend blog proposing favela-style dwellings in the UK
by Adam Sherwin

The Guardian August 5
Rio Olympics: view from the favelas – 'The Games have made things worse'
by Thaís Cavalcante

The Guardian August 5
Rio Olympics: view from the favelas – 'We're not ready for another mega event'
by Michel Silva

The Guardian* August 5
Sustainable slums? The promise of Rio's Olympic legacy is losing steam [VIDEO]
by Ana Terra Athayde and Matthew Wheeland

The Rio Times August 5
Olympic Construction Transforms Public Transport in Rio de Janeiro 
by Lisa Flueckiger

CNN August 5
Will Rio be ready for next year's Olympics? [VIDEO]
by Shasta Darlington

The Independent August 4
Olympics 2016: The road to Rio gold paved with grinding poverty
by Ewan MacKenna

The Globe and Mail August 4
Along the bumpy road to Rio 2016
by Stephanie Nolen August 4
Empowering juvenile offenders and young favela residents
by Andréa Azambuja

The Guardian August 4
The Rio property developer hoping for a $1bn Olympic legacy of his own
by Jonathan Watts

PRI August 3
This 'Star Wars rebel' biologist isn't giving up on cleaning Rio's polluted bay
by Catherine Osborn

Herald Sun August 3
How an Olympic dream became a nightmare
by AFP

AS-COA August 3
LatAm Minute: Juliana Barbassa on What the Olympics Mean for Brazil
by Luisa Leme

Foreign Policy August 3
Amnesty Report Reveals Epidemic of Police Violence in Rio de Janeiro
by Elias Groll

AP August 3
Official wants lagoon cleaned before Olympics

The Telegraph August 3
1 in 6 killings in Rio de Janeiro are by on-duty police by Donna Bowater and Priscilla Moraes

The Nation August 3
The Water in Rio Is Full of Sludge and Rotting Fish—And Olympians Are Supposed to Swim in It by David Zirin
*CatComm supported/quoted

RioOnWatch is a project of Catalytic Communities


Highlights from


CatComm Logo

Rio Favela Olympics Media Package crowdfunding campaign continues

Spotlighted this month by the International Journalists' Network, RioOnWatch has become the global go-to news portal for favela perspectives on the rapid-paced transformations taking place in Rio de Janeiro through the 2016 Olympic Games. With the intensity of change and awareness of our work growing, calls for support from Rio's favelas now come in throughout the day, every day. We must be ready to respond to these requests with real-time support, while growing the types of services we offer to take advantage of this unique window of opportunity. 

Our largest and most important crowdfunding campaign ever for the Rio Favela Olympics Media Package is underway with 32% raised and two weeks left. This package will grow RioOnWatch with a network of community correspondents and opinion leaders, build RioOnWatchTV, sustain the increasingly popular @RioONWire as a public news resource, and enable more features to help us best deliver the attention and support Rio's favelas need. We hope to count on our entire extended community of collaborators and friends to make our goal, so please donate now
CatComm's 15th Birthday Questionnaire

September marks CatComm's 15th birthday! To celebrate, we want to know what the people who've made CatComm and RioOnWatch a success over these years—YOU!—are up to today, and how we can best support our collaborators going forward. Please take a few minutes to share your thoughts on our brief questionnaire! They're very important to us!
Q&A with Theresa Williamson and Juliana Barbassa

With one year to go the opening of the 2016 Olympics, on August 5 CatComm Executive Director Theresa Williamson and journalist-author Juliana Barbassa held live Q&A's on Facebook and Twitter. Check out the #1Yr2GoQnA conversation on Twitter here!

Now Booking Final University Tour Prior to 2016 Olympic Games

We are now booking the final 8 talk slots available prior to the 2016 Rio Olympics. Catalytic Communities' Executive Director and urban planner, Theresa Williamson, Ph.D., will deliver lectures on a variety of topics in North America this November, including cutting edge citizen journalism and community resistance strategies within Rio's current pre-Olympic landscape. 100% of proceeds fund community efforts on-the-ground. For more information or to arrange a lecture on your campus, click here. For the full brochure on lecture topics, click here.

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