Cantagalo and Pavão-Pavãozinho are neighboring favelas in Copacabana and Ipanema, in the South Zone. This is one of the classic examples of the formation of favelas in Rio Janeiro, in which the poorer population settled in the hills close to the fastest growing areas.
At the top is one of the best views in Rio, with Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas and the beaches of Ipanema and Leblon. The social contrast is very evident in this part of the metropolis, where lower class residents live close to one of the richest neighborhoods in the city.
In spite of being located in an upscale area of Rio, it faces all the typical problems of needy communities. Residents suffer from the lack of infrastructure, and until a short while ago they had to submit to the rules of the Comando Vermelho (CV), the criminal group that controlled drug trafficking.
The complex formed by Cantagalo and Pavão-Pavãozinho holds a population of some 17 thousand people. A study of the Cantagalo favela showed that 94% of the residents had water and sewerage service and 86% had a telephone. The study also indicated that 80% of the residents were born in Rio.
The location allows its residents easy access to the Central Zone and its jobs. Young people from this community are generally better informed, as they are close to the city’s cultural centers. However, they are also close to known areas of prostitution, like some streets and discos in Copacabana.
The geography of the hill and its privileged location also favor the sale of drugs outside the favela. Studies show that the criminal group that dominated local drug trafficking earned R$ 220 thousand per month in the low season and up to R$ 330 thousand in periods at the end of the year, like New Year’s Eve and Carnival.
In December 2009, a Police Pacification Unit (UPP) was inaugurated in the region, promising residents the end of drug trafficking and enhanced safety in the favela.
The results of the recently inaugurated UPP have still not been measured, but they are visible in the daily life of the communities. During the occupation of the hillside, the police seized a large number of weapons. With a force of 195 recently trained men, the Cantagalo and Pavão-Pavãozinho UPP is commanded by Captain Leonardo Nogueira, an official with an arts background, specialized in Latin Percussion by the Villa-Lobos Music School. Work is still underway, but security has already been improved and residents are no longer subject to shootings. The results of the UPP can be seen in the daily routine of these communities as residents are now starting to invest in new businesses and cultural activities are booming
The Cantagalo and Pavão-Pavãozinho complex has attracted social initiatives. At the top of the hill is a large building, called the Brizolão, where entities that try to promote improvements and educational projects for the residents of the community are located. In addition to government and UNESCO actions, there are projects by NGOs that were already established on the hillside, like the Criança Esperança Project and AfroReggae with its program “Dançando para não Dançar” (Dancing so you don’t Dance to the Wrong Music).
Athletes and artists promote social activities in the communities. Among these are the members of the Cirque du Soleil, documentary maker João Moreira Salles and ballerina Ana Botafogo. There is also an Integrated Public Education Center (CIEP). The school is the headquarters for classes and presentations on civic involvement, computers, circus, sewing, capoeira, dance and boxing. Alongside the professors, the police themselves help to administer the space.
Another initiative brought tourists to Cantagalo for New Year’s Eve 2007. The idea was a success, and for New Year’s Eve 2010, several tourists watched the fireworks from atop the residents’ houses, in Cantagalo. Community leaders are also developing the Favela Museum, with outdoor tourist routes that tell the community’s story and value local culture.
In July of 2010, a series of elevators was inaugurated at Morro do Cantagalo, connecting the hilltop community to the subway station of General Osório, in Ipanema. In addition to the elevators there is also a lookout, called Mirante da Paz (Peace Lookout). This construction contributes to a further integration between the community and the rest of the neighborhood and boasts a fabulous panoramic view from its 65 m high vantage point.