By Zoë Roller, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Last week marked the three year anniversary of the pacification of Dona Marta, sometimes called Santa Marta, the first favela to receive a Police Pacification Unit (Unidade de Polícia Pacificadora, or UPP). The community was pacified in December 2008 and is often referred to as a model pacified favela, receiving many infrastructural and social upgrades.
Dona Marta’s UPP hosted a celebration to commemorate its anniversary, complete with cake, music, and gifts. State Security Secretary José Mariano Beltrame attended, with his wife, Rita.
The Children’s Symphony Orchestra of Pacified Communities, a group that offers classical music classes, performed traditional Christmas music and Roberto Carlos songs.
Karate students from Rio 2016 gave a demonstration. The United States Consulate also sponsored the festivities, and handed out presents from the Marine Corps Toys for Tots program.
Dona Marta is a community of about 7,000 residents, built on one of the steepest hills in the city overlooking Botafogo. After the pacification, the government widened streets, installed staircases, built public housing and a library, as well as Comlurb, the city garbage collection agency, brought service to the favela.
After the pacification the community also became a tourist destination, due in part to its spectacular views of Pão de Açucar and Corcovado. A government built tram running up the steep hill made it more accessible to residents and visitors.
Many tourists also visit Santa Marta to see a statue of Michael Jackson in a small plaza near the top of the hill; Jackson filmed the video for “They don’t care about us” in the community.
Extreme sports fans have taken advantage of the community’s new-found safety to explore rock climbing spots on Morro Dona Marta.
In 2010 the State Secretary of Tourism launched Rio Top Tour, a program that trains residents to be tour guides. Many tourism agencies offer tours of Dona Marta, though critics of the practice recommend finding a tour guide from the community.
In October an anthropologist from Argentina visited Dona Marta to assess the possibility of adapting Rio’s security model to Buenos Aires.
UPP Coordinator Colonel Rogério Seabra commented on the three year anniversary: “The idea of peace should permeate our daily lives, and the Military Police are making this possible with the UPP program, reclaiming territory and responding to the community’s needs.”
“What we’re witnessing in Dona Marta today is that unity comes through art. Pacification offers opportunities to children who otherwise would never have known anything about classical music.” Seabra added.
Valdenize Ricardo, a resident who moved to the community from Rocinha agreed. “I came to live in Dona Marta to find peace for my family… It was a great decision, because here my daughters can learn, for example, how to play music.”
A few days after Dona Marta celebrated pacification, police arrested the former chief of the favela in Jacarezinho. Francisco Rafael Dias da Silva, aka Mexicano, commanded drug traffic in Dona Marta and Tabajaras before the UPP. He was captured by BOPE last Wednesday.