Rocinha is the largest favela in Brazil. According to an official census around 70,000 people live in the favela, but unofficial estimates are as high as 2- or 300,000.
In eight years time – from 2003 until 2011 – 40 million of the 200 million citizens in Brazil joined the middle class, and many of them live in favelas like Rocinha. In a way the development of Rocinha is exemplary of the change that Brazil has gone through in the last decades. When Rocinha was founded it consisted of simple shacks built on a steep hill prone to mudslides. Now the neighborhood consists of brick and concrete houses that are sometimes three or four stories high, most of them with basic sanitation, plumbing and electricity. In reality, Rocinha is now classified as a “barrio” (neighborhood), and is no longer technically speaking a favela.
Rocinha, like many other favelas, has been known to be a hiding place for drug traffickers and other criminals. But since FIFA appointed Brazil as the host of the 2014 FIFA World Cup the authorities launched a new project in 2008: Pacification. It was finally the time to clean the favela of the criminals. The goal was to send the traffickers to prison, drive out the gangs, and have the police take control of the slums that for generations had been outside of control of the authorities. While the strategy was successful in the first few years the police has more recently been widely criticized for the way they have acted inside the favelas.