Brazil

The Prosperous Classes of Rio de Janeiro

In the “cidade maravilhosa” privilege is a question of perspective

Rio de Janeiro, with its population of almost 7 million, is Brazil’s second largest city and is set in a spectacular natural landscape of beaches, forests and mountains. But it is also home to some of the country’s most glaring social inequality.

On one hand are the city’s prosperous classes, composed of fashion designers, architects, gallery owners and Brazilian and foreign business people who lead privileged lives in the new urban paradise of Barra da Tijuca and the richest parts of the city, like the historic neighbourhoods of Ipanema, Leblon and Copacabana.
On the other hand are the inhabitants of the favelas, who make up more than 23 per cent of the city’s population and for whom the lifestyles of their wealthy neighbours are simply unimaginable.

However, paradoxically, in the eyes of the well off, the inhabitants of the favelas are the privileged ones. In a city where the value of real estate is increasingly determined by location – in particular, an elevated position and views over the natural landscape – buildings in the favelas perched on the hilltops have ended up being the most desirable: so much so, in fact, that some members of the prosperous classes are moving to live precisely there.