“On March 24, 2010, in the company of several other planners, designers and academics, from Montreal, London and Vienna, I had the opportunity to visit the Vila Autodrómo favela, thanks to the Rio-based group, Catalytic Communities. This was an independent and welcomed complement to the workshops I had been attending as part of the UN-Habitat World Urban Forum, taking place in Rio from March 22-26, 2010. CatComm organized a visit to the favela to raise awareness of Mayor Paes’ plan to relocate residents in order to create a media and training center for the 2016 Olympic Games. While the conference contained numerous workshops on the topic of slum upgrading and bridging the urban divide, UN-Habitat did not organize any site visits for conference attendees. Moreover, the conference presenters namely included policy-makers, politicians and academics, with very little representation from local community actors.
The visit to Autódromo, therefore, provided an eye-opening experience, which allowed us to gain a more nuanced understanding of favelas. If not for the visit to Autódromo, one of a small number of peaceful favelas, and one that is not environmentally at-risk, I might have left Rio perpetuating the same stereotypes of favelas: that they are universally ridden with violence and characterized by unsuitable living conditions. As an urban planner, I was impressed by the neighborhood’s built form, physical layout and preservation of green spaces, as well as its amenities and social organization. After speaking to community leaders, I learned that despite being offered compensation to move elsewhere, the community does not wish to move. Many residents have been displaced in the past and they have built new homes and resided in Autódromo for over forty years now.
By bringing people to the actual site of where Cariocas’ rights are currently being contested, I was able to truly understand and empathize with the conference theme, the right to the City. I hope that others will get the chance to visit Autódromo and see for themselves, firsthand, the efforts, determination and desires of the community’s long-standing residents.”
– Rebecca Lazarovic, CURA / ARUC Research Fellow, Masters candidate, 2010 / candidate à la maîtrise 2010, McGill University School of Urban Planning / École d’urbanisme de l’Université McGill. This tour was part of CatComm’s Educational Community Visits Program (ECVP).