Brazil is infamous for bringing an estimated 4.9 million slaves from Africa from 1501 to 1866 – more than any country in the world. When slavery ended in 1888, many of the free slaves weren’t accepted into society and built their own informal communities – today’s favelas. 

A favela is a community built without any oversight from a public authority. No zoning, no building codes, and basically no help from the government. These communities usually exist along the hillside outskirts of cities in Brazil. They are built by makeshift materials with poor infrastructure and contain a lack of sanitation. Although they began to pop up in the late 1800’s, it wasn’t until the 1940’s when a mass migration from rural areas to the cities made them densely populated. Today, many favelas have evolved and are considered ‘cities within a city’. 

Due to the lack of regulation, most of the nations favelas are known to be controlled by drug traffickers. Despite this, many favelas exude an unspoken community-first and resourceful mentality. While opportunities for success are slim, the adversity has bred some of Brazil’s most famous football stars like Ronaldinho and Rivaldo. Over time the world has taken notice, and the favelas have become a part of global popular culture through films like City of God and video games like Grand Theft Auto.