Beyond the Map - Frame from teaser - Google.

Beyond the Map – Frame from teaser – Google.

Rio 2016 – Rio’s slums host 1/5 of the city’s 6.5 million residents, but on the maps, favelas are just blank spaces. Until now. Digital mapping technologies are contributing to improve safety and life conditions in Rio de Janeiro. The Ta No Mapa project by AfroReggae no-profit organisation in collaboration with Google trained 150 favelados to map 26 slums and finally give to the residents a proper address. In the meantime, Amnesty International launched the Cross-Fire application that allows to map shootings. We explore the urban history of  the city slums: from outposts founded by freed slaves to the digital-mapping projets… that don’t only aim to help the visitors in town for the Olympics, but Cariocas themselves.


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Favela Vidigal rom above - Photo by Chensiyuan.

Favela Vidigal from the sea – Photo by Chensiyuan, CC.

Not being on the map has serious consequences. It means that if you need to call an ambulance, report a fire or a crime it will be difficult to get any help. It also means that if you run a small business, it will be pretty hard to draw more people to it, impossible to get mails and challenging to deliver supplies.

Favela Rochina - Photo by Chensiyuan, CC.

Favela Rochina – Photo by Chensiyuan, CC.

In the past two years, no-profit organization AfroReggae has been carrying out the Ta No Mapa digital-mapping project in collaboration with Google. 150 favelados have been walking and Google-mapping 26 slums unveiling new streetscapes to the world. Initially residents were suspicious, then, once they found out about the opportunities, they opened up and helped to complete the puzzle – Watch video of the making of.

The Ta No Mapa project “Not only allowed locals to find businesses like Bar do David—an award-winning restaurant in the favela Chapeu Mangueira—it also helped some local residents get a mailing address for the first time” say Marcus Leal, Product Manager at Google Maps.

Rochina Favela before and after digital mapping - Google.

Rochina Favela before and after digital mapping – Google.

But “Slums are not simply a place, they are a community, and to understand them, you need to enter and see it for yourself“. Google launched the Rio: Beyond the Map new platform that features 360° videos of the slums and stories of residents.

Beyond the Map - Google.

Beyond the Map – Google.

Jump on a scooter driving through a maze of alleys or meet Luis who achieved his dream: to become a ballet dancer despite bullying and prejudice – watch video.

Amnesty International launched a new app to document the use of firearms in Rio de Janeiro before and during the 2016 Olympic Games. Cross-fire will allow people living across Rio de Janeiro to report incidents of gun violence, which have been increasing over the last few years.

Cross Fire - Screenshot .

Cross Fire – Screenshot .

Brazil has one of the highest levels of homicides across the world, with around 42,000 people killed with guns every year. Those living in the most marginalized areas of the city are disproportionately affected by this crisis,” said Atila Roque, Brazil Director at Amnesty International. “The application is a tool to give more visibility to the tragic reality thousands of people across Rio de Janeiro have to live with every day and a way to urge the authorities to take some real steps to tackle this crisis”.

Cross Fire - Screenshot .

Cross Fire – Screenshot .

Brazil favelas were founded at the end of the XIX century by soldiers who had nowhere else to live and former African slaves. In Rio, they occupied the hills surrounding wealthier, more central and less welcoming neighbourhoods.

Favela Vidigal rom above - Photo by Chensiyuan, CC.

Favela Vidigal rom above – Photo by Chensiyuan, CC.

Ignored for decades, favelas started to become an issue in the ‘40s. In the ‘70s a second wave of penniless migrants from rural areas seeking for better opportunities in town settled in. Since then police have been violently dealing with residents while the new districts fell in the hand of organised crime. History of violence and drugs have marked the favelas so far.

View on Copacabana from the favela - Photo by Michael Sharman Flickr CC

View on Copacabana from the favela – Photo by Michael Sharman Flickr CC.

In 2008, The “pacification” program by mayor Eduardo Paes aimed to emphasise law enforcement and community engagement battling organised crime and offering a possible future beyond the drug trade.

Favela Urban scape - Frame from Ta No Mapa teaser.

Favela Urban scape – Frame from Ta No Mapa teaser.

Rio 2016 Olympics could be (or could have been) an opportunity. But many are the scandals so far, starting from mass evictions and favela removals to make the Olympics more “shiny” or the victims related to the construction sites. The new digital projects could put favelas on the map not only literally and spike opportunities for their residents as well all create greater awareness of a neglected soul of Rio de Janeiro.

Favelados - Frame from Ta No Mapa teaser.

Favelados – Frame from Ta No Mapa teaser.