Monday, January 29, 2024

Brazil Renames Its Urban Neighborhoods

Brazil has recently changed the way it categorizes its poor, urban neighborhoods. Previously, these areas were referred to as "subnormal agglomerates" by the national statistics and geography institute (IBGE). This term was (rightly, in my opinion) criticized for being stigmatizing and vague, implying that the people living in these conditions were also subnormal. It encompassed various types of neighborhoods, including favelas, which are especially common in Rio de Janeiro.

The decision to change the terminology to "favelas and urban communities" came after years of reflection and discussion, starting in the 2000s. This change aims to provide a more accurate and less derogatory description of these neighborhoods, many of which have existed for generations and have been developed through individual and collective investment despite a lack of state support in services like sanitation and education.

The term "favela" has historical significance in Brazil, originating from a settlement formed by soldiers and former slaves in the 19th century. The new terminology also recognizes the resilience and struggle of the residents in these areas. The change is seen as a step towards better representing the realities of these communities and improving engagement and support from the government.

This reclassification will be reflected in the upcoming census data but won't alter historical census data. The IBGE worked with city authorities and civil society groups to identify these areas more accurately, and the full impact of this change will be seen in the upcoming census results. The term "favela" is more commonly used in Rio, so IBGE combined it with "urban communities" to cover similar neighborhoods across Brazil.