Getulio Vargas Foundation and PUC-Rio

Bianca Freire-Medeiros is Senior Lecturer of Sociology at Getulio Vargas Foundation (FGV- Rio de Janeiro) and is the author of “Touring Poverty” (Routledge 2012). Leo Name is a Lecturer of Geography at Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro and has published extensively on urban and visual studies.

“Peace, love & fun!”: a cable-car and the traveling favela

The application of ski-slope technology to segregated urban areas has attracted widespread attention since its first implementation in the city of Medellín, Colombia in 2004. From then on, this mobile technology has been exported to different parts of the Global South carrying the idea that it is capable of fostering social and economic integration in most polarized urban contexts. Based on interviews with residents and key informants, as well as on the analysis of media and popular culture products, this paper focuses on the cable-car system (the so-called Teleférico) implemented in 2011 in a Rio de Janeiro favela as part of Brazil’s Growth Acceleration Program, an urban revitalization program started under former President Lula da Silva. At the Complexo do Alem†o favela, the US $133 million system can carry 3,000 passengers per hour, resolving massive transportation issues within the favela while reconnecting it with other parts of the city. Using the Teleférico shortens travel time between its two extreme stations from fifty minutes by foot up-and-down an unpaved hillside, to sixteen minutes. Within the context of the much-publicized ‘pacification’ of Complexo do Alem†o by military forces, the Teleférico’s value, however, exceeds its impact on physic mobility: the 3.5 kilometer ride also offers a panoramic view of Rio’s landscape and is already being incorporated into the touristic imagination, an icon of “peace, love and fun” as advertised by a local tourism operator. Our aim is to advance the concept of ‘traveling favela’ while addressing the following questions: how far has the cable car shaped “mobile lives” and new forms of self-projection for the favela residents?; what roles do mobile technologies such as the Teleférico play in the spectacularisation of poor urban spaces on a global scale?