rio de janeiro

Revellers in Rio have joined a whirl of festivities as carnival fever took hold, the world's biggest street party putting firmly aside lingering protests over corruption and the cost to Brazil of hosting the World Cup. With the football extravaganza now just three months away, flamboyantly dressed metropolis residents indicated that, for the moment, they had spent enough time demonstrating and wanted to let loose instead.

January 23, 2014

Surrounded by samba music, residents of the Metro Mangueira favela were celebrating after a week of conflict. The small community is located next to the Mangueira favela, where 18,000 people live and is the headquarters of "Estacao Primeira de Mangueira", a famous samba school, where musicians like Jamelao and Cartola composed and played.

This year’s World Cup final will be played at Brazil’s iconic Maracana stadium, a venue that is in many ways a beacon of power, strength, and an illustrious history. But it’s also a reminder of darkness, disappointment and failure. Lying in the imposing shadow of the Maracana is the slum area of Favela do Metro.

Rio de Janeiro's shanty towns, its favelas, long stricken by poverty and violence, have a new boogeyman: Gentrification. First, only academics were worried about whether gentrification might really be happening in the favelas. Those fears have since migrated from anxious blog entries to coverage in major newspapers.

The bumpy ride in the rickety van heads up the steep hill into Morro da Providência, this city’s oldest favela. Last stop: a small, silent square with a hardware shop, bar and pair of young policemen in armored gear toting machine guns, patrolling the still-unopened cable-car station that the city has recently built. The port spreads out below. Spurred by two looming mega-events — the World Cup next year and the Summer Olympics in 2016 — local officials are struggling to reinvent this onetime third-world city with a first-world economy.

A decade ago, the Brazilian gangster Li’l Zé took movie screens across the world by storm in the low-budget crime drama “Cidade de Deus,” or "City of God." Set inside the eponymous slum in Rio de Janeiro, the film grossed $30 million, received four Oscar nominations, and won festivals from Los Angeles to Toronto.

The head of the Olympic Public Authority (APO), Marcio Fortes, delivered his letter of resignation, raising concerns about Brazil’s handling of the preparations for the upcoming Games. The resignation of one of the most senior figures involved in planning of the 2016 Olympics comes just two weeks before a team of inspectors from the International Olympic Committee were scheduled to visit Rio.

With all eyes on Brazil during the Pope’s visit, protests are planned in Rio throughout the week to reiterate demonstrators’ grievances, including insufficient but expensive public transportation, government spending on mega-events like the World Cup, and political corruption. A protest took place in Rio the first day of the Pope’s visit, when around 2,000 people demonstrated outside of the governor’s palace where the Pope had attended an event.