Rio de Janeiro, among other major cities in Brazil, has been surrounded with slums for over a hundred years. These slums, called favelasby the natives, began springing up in the 1850’s (Gay, 1994). Many people migrated to the city in search of a better life. Unable to afford a home, they built shelters on the illegally claimed hillsides of Rio de Janeiro, intending to improve their situation from there (Villareal & Silva, 2006). Instead, the number of favelas has drastically increased over the years. In Rio de Janeiro alone, there are currently over 1800 favelas housing about 2 million people, or one third of the population of Rio (Frayssinet, 2007a). Though stricken with poverty, the favelas became a place of culture and laughter. Festivities in the favelas would bring people from all over the city (Neate & Platt, 2006).
Meanwhile, as the government completely ignored the plight of the favelas, drug gangs began to move in and take over. They took care of the favelados, or people of the favelas, and kept peace within the community; something the government had never done for them. However, over time the rule of the drug factions became much harsher and more violent (Neate & Platt, 2006). In 2006, the murder rate in Rio de Janeiro was 37.7 murders per 100,000 inhabitants, most of the victims being between 15 and 24 years of age and related to the drug trade in the favelas (Michel, 2008; Iyer, 2004). Comparatively, the murder rate in 2006 for the whole United States was 8.7 murders per 100,000 people (Federal Bureau of Investigation [FBI], 2010). The violence brought to the favelas by the drug factions has become a major problem in Rio de Janeiro, especially in the impact it has had on children and teenagers in the favelas.