With the eyes of the world on Rocinha for the past week, many in Brazil are now also looking at what’s going on in the favela communities in the country’s biggest city, São Paulo. Not only does SP have the largest number of favelas, it also has the largest number of people living in them – a surprise to those who associate favela life with the Cidade Maravilhosa.
Exact data is difficult to come by, but five years ago a UN report predicted that by 2020 there would be 55 million people living in favelas in Brazil. Another report ascertains that nearly twenty percent of the territory of the Municipality of São Paulo is occupied by “irregular settlements” or favelas.
Whereas favelas in Rio are easy to identify and locate, the geographical and historical development of São Paulo differs greatly as almost all favelas skirt around the edge of the city – way less visible to those living in the city.