Invading Rio’s Rocinha

This week, everybody in Brazil – and especially in Rio de Janeiro – was talking about the “peaceful” police invasion of Rocinha, the largest – and most (in)famous – favela in the Americas.

Ipanema beach in Rio

The Changing Face(s) of Rio

Spurred on by its double hosting duties—of the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games—Rio de Janeiro is undergoing metamorphosis on a massive scale. Major projects currently underway range from extending subway lines and revamping the historic, but dilapidated port zone to cracking down on drug-related crime and improving security in and around Rio’s notorious favelas by installing Police Pacification Units (UPPs), specially trained community police forces that have had considerable success in quelling violence and restoring safety to numerous communities throughout the city.

View down into Guanabara Bay with the round peak of Sugarloaf Mountain rising from the peninsula.

Flying Down to Rio with the Obamas

Shortly after Obama was sworn in as president, polls showed that Brazilians’ “good opinion” of the U.S. had shot up to 73 percent. Brazilians – an estimated 45 percent of whom can claim some African descent – celebrated the victory of the “black candidate” as if Carnaval had suddenly been proclaimed in November.

A hillside covered entirely in multi-story ramshackle homes.

Showdown in Rio’s Favelas

For a long time, the government and most citizens tried to pretend that favelas didn’t exist (on city maps, the areas they occupied were traditionally rendered as blank). Now all eyes are on Rio de Janeiro’s showdown between police and military forces and the drug trafficking gangs that for years have controlled the favelas.