Google/ Beyond the Map

A Google web documentary takes a look inside the city’s informal settlements.

In the months leading up to the 2016 Summer Olympics, Rio de Janeiro has been in the headlines for the worst reasons: political instability, mucky waterways, mosquito-transmitted viruses, police violence, unequal infrastructure, and most recently, lost keys.

It’s natural and even necessary that the city is put under a microscope as the mega-event unfolds. But while there’s a lot to criticize about the city hosting the Olympics this year, there’s much to admire about the people—particularly those who live at the sidelines of the Olympic events, in Rio’s favelas.  

With the help of local Afro-Brazilian collective Affroreggae, Google has been trying to map these infamous informal settlements, which house one in five residents in the city. While favelas were inadvertently constructed consistent with many urbanist principles, they lack basic infrastructure and services. Several pockets are also ridden with high crime.

According to NPR, more than half of Rio’s favela residents are Afro-Brazilians. And many, but not all, are poor. To shine a spotlight on the spirit and humanity of some of these favela locals, Google created an interactive web documentary, called “Beyond the Map.”

“Most people only know the favelas through the news: crime, poverty, violence. But that’s only a small part of the story,” the Brazilian narrator says in the introduction to the short doc. “The favelas are not simply a place, they’re a people. ”

One of them is Luis, a teenager from Complexo do Alemão, who yearns to be a ballet dancer—not a common or easy career choice among young boys in those parts. Another is Paloma, thoughtful young woman from Maré, who despite living in one of the most dangerous favelas, has made it to a computer sciences program at a prestigious university.

“The favela is a blank spot on the map … it’s as if we didn’t exist,” Paloma says at the beginning of her story. She ends with this: “This is a daily fight. We are saying that we are here, that we exist, that we are a part of the city.”

Luis, a young boy from one of the favelas, wants to be a ballet dancer. (Google/Beyond the map)

Hear all the stories, look around (with 360 degree panoramas), walk the streets (with Google Street View), and listen in on the din and music in the favela neighborhoods here.  

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. The Cincinnati skyline and river
    Life

    Maps Reveal Where the Creative Class Is Growing

    “The rise of the rest” may soon become a reality as once-lagging cities see growth of creative class employment.

  2. A crowded street outside in Boston
    Life

    Surveillance Cameras Debunk the Bystander Effect

    A new study uses camera footage to track the frequency of bystander intervention in heated incidents in Amsterdam; Cape Town; and Lancaster, England.                            

  3. A migrant laborer rides a bicycle past a residential community in Shanghai.
    Equity

    When Affordable Housing in Shanghai Is a Bed in the Kitchen

    In this sector of the city’s informal housing rental market, as many as 24 people can be crammed into a three-bedroom apartment.

  4. Design

    A Hated Expansion of Ottawa’s Chateau Laurier Will Go Ahead

    The city council voted to approve an addition to the historic landmark over criticism that the design is “a travesty” and “frankly grotesque.”

  5. The facade of a building in Manhattan, with an A/C unit in every window.
    Environment

    8 Charts on How Americans Use Air Conditioning

    The U.S. government’s long-running Residential Energy Consumption Survey includes a lot of data on our A/C habits—and some surprises.

×