By Jack Arnhold, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – On Monday, April 19th, Rio de Janeiro’s mayor, Marcelo Crivella, walked through the city’s biggest favela community of Rocinha to observe the implementation of urban regeneration work that he had ordered: the painting of 150 once colorful buildings into a uniform grey.
While being interviewed by Rocinha Alerta (Rocinha on Alert), a local news organisation, the mayor went on to explain that the purpose of these works would be to improve the image of the community. However, residents have been less than impressed by both his words and actions.
“Every facade will be painted, the frames changed, to be standardized, tidy and beautiful[…] Our idea is that when people drive along the Lagoa-Barra highway, they see this and have an idea of a neat, beautiful community of working people.” said Crivella in the interview for Rocinha Alerta (Rocinha on Alert). He then went on to call the current appearance of the buildings “a bit ugly.”
The interview has since been viewed over 19,000 times on Facebook, with residents complaining below how this work is merely “camoflage” and “painting over” what is really going on in the community at the moment.
English expatriate living in Rocinha, Jody King, a DJ and operator of an NGO English language school Favela Phoenix, shared what he has heard. “The general view is that those who are having their houses painted like it.”
Then adds, “but everyone else does not like it because they know its just being done on the outside of Rocinha because thats what the outside looks at, where as inside people have houses riddled with bullet holes and many open brickwork houses.”
“[Residents] feel aggrieved,” he explains, “their houses will never get painted like this just because their homes are not being seen by wealthier people or passing tourists.”
Rocinha is currently facing some of its most challenging times in recent memory, with unprecedented levels of violence, a lack of sanitation and clean water, and widespread poverty.
While community projects are also being implemented and reinvigorated, it seemed fitting that the mayor of Rio de Janeiro, Marcelo Crivella, should pay a visit. However, many residents have reacted with disbelief and anger that this cosmetic change is going to be the focus of his work here.
David Miranda, the first LGBT counsellor in Rio de Janeiro and a former favela resident, tweeted in response to the story, “Crivella is taking care of people, like he said in his slogan, but now we know which ones.”
Talking with O Globo, the Vice President of the Residents’ Association of Rocinha, Alexandre Pereira, made some cutting remarks.
“The only place in Rocinha that does not need the help of the state is with that […] We have already requested numerous meetings and we have not been able to meet him. At the time of the elections they come here. We want to distribute services equally, but what the mayor wants is to do marketing. And he’s shot himself in the foot.” Pereira said.