Complexo da Maré is a cluster of favelas and housing developments in the North Zone. With approximately 130,000 residents, the area has one of the lowest per capita incomes and very low human development indicators.
The complex is located in a mangrove on the shores of Guanabara Bay. Occupied since the mid-twentieth century by shacks and stilt houses, the mangrove was gradually filled in by the growing population or government actions.
The name Maré (Portuguese for tide) is derived from this natural phenomenon that caused serious problems for residents. In the past they lived in very precarious houses and the tides would bring snakes, rats, mud, and various diseases.
The urban settlements that form Complexo da Maré emerged in several ways. Some emerged from the construction sites when Avenida Brasil was built and others arose from landfills in the surrounding areas. Still others were formed by those expelled from other areas. Nova Holanda favela, for example, received residents removed from other communities in Rio de Janeiro such as Morro da Praia do Pinto and Morro da Formiga. The first shacks built in Nova Holanda were put up as an provisory measure, but what was supposed to be temporary became permanent. Years later, the residents themselves remodeled their homes originally built by the City.
The inhabitants suffered all kinds of pressure throughout the formation process of Complexo da Maré; fear of disappropriation, police violence to prevent construction and the destruction of their shacks.
Resident Associations were founded and play a significant role in the organization of the favelas. The first ones appeared in 1954 and gradually succeeded in securing public services such as water, electricity, sewerage, paved roads, and garbage collection. Over the years, several associations emerged and fought for different causes, including the right to remain in the area they had occupied.
Most of the Maré favelas are on the water’s edge; disorganized and irregular constructions that form a labyrinth with many dead ends, as the streets hug the contours of the land. Areas closest to Avenida Brasil are flatter and are more densely populated. Many housing projects took years to be built and were at the mercy of various local governments.
Projeto Rio was the first major federal government intervention in Maré. The goal was to remove the precarious houses on stilts and move its residents to prefabricated houses built on a landfill at Guanabara Bay. The first phase began in 1982. At this time one third of Maré’s population lived in stilt houses, especially in the communities of Baixa do Sapateiro and Parque da Maré. After much controversy, the first residents began to be transferred to Projeto Rio’s first housing development called Vila do João.
Other housing developments were built in the complex. Pinheiro’s brick and concrete constructions were inaugurated in 1990. This same model was repeated for the Conjunto Nova Maré. Inaugurated in 1995, this complex accommodated residents who had been removed due to construction of the Linha Vermelha expressway.
Maré also benefited from the program Favela-Bairro, a municipal urbanization project, which began in 1993. Residents were consulted to identify the real needs of the community. Renovations were carried out and more streets were built.
Although small, there are shops throughout the entire subdivision complex. Some areas feature a greater variety of stores. There is a bus station, health clinic, police station, and schools. Schools are few and insufficient to meet the needs of the entire population; many children cannot study within the community. Another major problem is the growing insecurity caused by rivaling drug gangs fighting for control over the drug trade. Residents often get caught in the cross fire of regular shootouts and youth are often drawn to a life of crime.
Due to a fast growing population and the difficulties that the residents still face, several organizations have been created to better serve the citizens of Complexo da Maré. Among them, a Local Development Agency of the Secretary of State of Government stands out for promoting the Work and Education Program. Maré is also home to the dance school Corpo de Dança da Maré, the Maré Museum, Municipal Ecological Park and the Maré Olympic Village.
In the social area, Maré also has entities such as the Studies and Solidarity Actions Center, which promotes socio-educational activities, the School of Popular Photography sponsored by UNICEF and supported by Kodak UK in partnership with the NGO Observatório de Favelas.
In addition, there is the Projeto Uerê, an alternative school program for children and adolescents with learning disabilities caused by the trauma of urban violence.
The Maré neighborhood was established in 1994. Today it is made up of approximately 16 micro-neighborhoods, usually referred to as communities, spread out over 800,000 square meters close to Avenida Brasil.
Here are the area’s subdivisions in chronological order.
- 1940: Morro do Timbau
- 1947: Baixa do Sapateiro
- 1948: Conjunto Marcílio Dias
- 1953: Parque Maré
- 1955: Parque Roquete Pinto
- 1961: Parque Rubens Vaz
- 1961: Parque União
- .1962: Nova Holanda
- 1962: Praia de Ramos
- 1982: Conjunto Esperança
- 1982: Vila do João
- 1989: Vila do Pinheiro
- 1989: Conjunto Pinheiro
- 1992: Conjunto Bento Ribeiro Dantas
- 15.1996: Nova Maré
- 16.2000: Salsa e Merengue
Watch a video made by Jessica Andrade, a resident of Complexo da Maré