Why We Should Call them Favelas

Rio’s favelas are some of the most written about, scrutinized, and studied low-income communities in the world. Yet in this constant, often well-meaning spotlight, favela communities are consistently misrepresented by lazy choices in the language used to describe them. Here we deconstruct some of the most common misrepresentations, outline why we should drop the sensationalism and just call them favelas, and offer some examples from good reporting. Slum This is the most common translation for the word ‘favela,’ appearing in major media publications all over the world. According to the UN-HABITAT definition, a slum is a run-down area of a city characterized by substandard housing, squalor and lacking in tenure security. This description doesn’t apply to the vast majority of favelas in Rio: the primarily brick and cement houses are built well and to last; conditions are not squalid, with running water, electricity, garbage collection and Internet access, though of low quality, reaching the majority of homes; under adverse possession legislation, residents have the legal right to occupy the land and in some favelas residents hold title. The key connotation of the word ‘slum’ is squalor. The word ‘slum’ originated from the Irish phrase ‘S lom é’ meaning “it is … Continue reading Why We Should Call them Favelas