As mentioned in a previous post, Santa Marta is the first favela to be “liberated” (2008) by the UPP (Unidade Pacificadora da Policia), part of Rio’s Security Secretariat (SESG/RJ). Following is the official definition/philosophy takenfrom the UPP’s official website: www.upprj.com
“We want Police officers with both technical and humanitarian formation.” – Security Secretary José Mariano Beltrame
“The Pacifier Police Division (UPP) is a new model of Public Security and policing that intends to bring police and population closer together, as well as to strengthen social policies inside communities. By reestablishing control over areas that for decades were occupied by traffic and, recently, also by militias, the UPPs bring peace to communities like Morro Santa Marta (Botafogo – South zone); Cidade de Deus (Jacarepaguá – West zone); Jardim Batam (Realengo – West zone) and Morro da Babilônia e Chapéu Mangueira (Leme – South zone) […] Created by the current administration of Rio’s Security Department, the UPPs work with the principle of the Communitarian Police. Communitarian Police is a concept and a strategy based on the partnership between the population and public security institutions. Rio’s government is investing R$ 15 million (US$ 8 million) in the qualification of the Police Academy, so that by 2016 the contingent will have been enlarged by 60 thousand officers. Until 2010, 3.5 thousand new officers will be sent to the Pacifier Divisions.”
[If you click on the website’s link- you will see the latest news on UPPs, as well as get an overview of the existing operations and”liberated” territories)
Accompanying this police domination, or “security intervention” as it is more officially called, comes a set of physical improvements and other interventions in the favela. First of all, once the drug dealers hand-in their armament, or escape (which is not to say that all drug related activities stop- they continue to happen unarmed and potentially in a less aggressive manner), the UPP begins to establish a set of police stations along the favela. In the case of Santa Marta, the police is present at both entrances/exits (top and bottom of the mountain) as well as along various posts along the favela. In addition to this high surveillance strategy and the physical police presence, there was a a containment strategy that followed in order to limit and restrict the favela’s growth and lateral connections with the city.
Following are a set the physical improvements such as connections and circulation systems, basic services, public lighting, some housing and sports equipment…
Santa Marta main mobility system is the Monoriel, a free rail-car service located on the edge of the favela. The monoriel has 5 stations total going up the mountain, stopping some distance from the top of the cliff.
It is important to note that the physical improvements do not continue past this 5th monoriel stop, even though the favela does. Needless to say some for the conditions on top of the morro are quite difficult, specifically due to the large disconnection, distances and steep slopes that settlers have to face.
Santa Marta originally became famous by Michael Jackson’s video: “They don’t care about us.” Today, working with or in favelas has apparently become a new trend and is now being followed by artists such as Modonna, Byonce, etc. Back to Michael, the video is very interesting to watch; apart from the musical value (who doesn’t love MJ?), we can see glimpses of the conditions in the favela pre-UPP…
I want to finish on a small side note, focusing on a development that I saw from the top of Santa Marta. As I have mentioned various times before, and as I am sure you have heard various times, the majority of Rio’s favela’s have priviledged views of the city, equaling that of the Cristo Rendentor’s and other famous overlooks around the city. Santa Marta is not an exception to this.
Not to deviate from my point, as I was admiring the view at the 5th monoriel station, I came across, in a hill facing Santa Marta, what seemed to be a “more organized” favela. I zoomed in with my camera, snapped a photograph and saw, to my surprise and somewhat my deception, that what I was looking at was not a favela but a formal building imitating the aesthetics of the favela!?!
Although it was comical as an initial reaction, this building is problematic as it an aesthetization of poverty. It is quite bluntly reflecting a formal interpretation of the informal; a constructed reality of what “the other” is or should be. Solely based on the visual properties of the settlement, this interpretation remains completely disconnected and separate from the logic of the favela as well as from the values and uses its residents embed in its form (a form which many times resides in the lack of choice). It is not a mystery that architecture possesses an unequivocal social and cultural power to produce representations of the world through built form. That said, we must be conscious of the fact that within these interventions, regardless of their initial intention will result in the aesthetization and theming of poverty. How can architects address the favela without dismissing it as a “slum” and without aestheticizing poverty and transforming it to a theme park?