Santa Marta Favela
Translated by: Livia Rosi Siqueira
Review:: André Rezende Broseghini and Junia C. S. Mattos Zaidan
|Santa Marta Favela|
|Population:||3.908 people in 1.176 houses.|
Santa Marta is a favela located in Morro Dona Marta [Dona Marta Hill], in the neighborhood of Botafogo, South Zone of Rio de Janeiro. The origin of the favela’s name dates back to the beginning of the 20th century, when a devotee of Saint Marta took a statue of the saint to the top of the hill. In the 1930s, a chapel was built to house the image. At the top of the favela, there is a panoramic view with sights such as Christ the Redeemer, the Sugar Loaf, the Botafogo Beach, the Rodrigues de Freitas Lake and the entire Botafogo neighborhood. The place is known as Dona Marta Lookout.
The community is also often called “Dona Marta”, which is actually the name of the landform where it is located. Many people question whether the right name is Dona Marta or Santa Marta, but the residents call it either way.
The land belonged to the neighbour Santo Inácio School, which allowed the employees to use some parts of the Morro Dona Marta for housing. It was the beginning of the favela that would later be known as Santa Marta, as homage to the saint, whose statue is until today stored inside a chapel, located on the top of the hill. It was the first favela to receive a Pacifying Police Unit (UPP), in 2008, and it has seen the number of tourists increase a lot since then. Nowadays, the community is considered one of the tourist spots of the city. The first residence dates back to 1942, when the hill was covered in a dense forest. The original occupation had a strong presence of migrants from the north and northeast of the country.
In the 2010 Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE) census, the favela had 3,908 residents and 1,176 households. It occupied a land area of 54,305m². The per capita income was R$580.41 (slightly over ⅓ of the average income in Rio de Janeiro at that time). More than 99% of the population had access to tap water, electricity and garbage collection. Morro Dona Marta can be accesssed mainly via São Clemente Street and Marechal Francisco de Moura Street in Botafogo.
Mocidade Unida do Santa Marta Recreation Club & Samba School
Santa Marta has a samba school called Mocidade Unida do Santa Marta, founded on March 8th, 1992. The samba school court is located inside the favela and, after the installation of the Pacifying Police Unit, it started to host many events. Its drum section is named Furacão Azul [the Blue Hurricane] and takes part in many carnival groups of the South Zone, among which “Me esquece” [Forget Me] and “Spanta Neném” [Scares Babies Away]. Its official colors are blue and white. The samba school won its first championship in 1993, in the year of its debut. It even paraded once at the Sambadrome, the most privileged venue of Rio’s carnival, in 1998, when it was in Group B and presenting a parade about Zumbi dos Palmares.
In 2009, with Amazonas and its popular culture as the parade’s theme, the association came in 11th place with 154,4 points, remaining in the former access Group D, far from the main group. In the following year, with the theme of “Axé das Águas” [Water's Axé], they got sixth place. In October, in the middle of the preparations for the 2011 Carnival, Jackeline Nascimento became the president of the school, replacing José Luiz de Oliveira, known as Sabá. With her election, the president invited Plínio and Janaína to be the couple of flag-bearer and master of ceremony. In 2011, celebrating 19 years of parades, the school talked about its neighborhood, Botafogo, with the title "Botafogo na folia, Santa Marta mais um ano de alegria" (Botafogo in revelry, Santa Marta in another year of joy), developed by Cássio Carvalho. By getting the last place, and with the consequent relegation, Haroldo Fully was elected president.
For 2013, they bet on the formation of a Carnival Commission, which the experienced carnival artist Eduardo Gonçalves took part in. Mocidade, in that year, was the last school to parade and honored Santa Marta favela itself, becoming the winner of the group. In the next year, with a Carnival Commission one more time, they bet on a theme about popular folklore, in a parade with several references to the work of children’s author Monteiro Lobato. Once again, the last one to parade, it was promptly named as the school likely to be the winner, which was eventually confirmed.
Favela Painting was a project developed by the Dutch artist duo Jeroen Koolhaas and Dre Urhahn - known as Haas&Hahn (photo at the end of the text)- in several favelas of Rio de Janeiro with the aim of “beautifying” the favelas and, thus, changing the stigmatized public opinion about the place. The initiative started in 2005, with a debate, from the point of view of art, on themes such as drugs, violence, poverty and inequality.
The project was developed, in each place, from the dialogue with the residents, and it was financed with donations from several companies and partners to make the project possible.
The painting of Santa Marta was done only in 2010, when the two Dutch artists idealized the painting of Cantão Square. They started doing research, prototypes and studies to change the face of this location, which is one of the entrances to the hill. A group of 25 younths was trained to transform, in less than a month, the square and its 34 houses into a great work of art.
- In 1987, the filmmaker Eduardo Coutinho directed a 54-minute documentary about the place called: “Santa Marta - Two weeks on the hill”
- At the beginning of 2009, Santa Marta came back to the news due to the installation of a free wireless internet network on the hill for the community to use.
- The highest point on the hill is the Dona Marta Lookout, which is 362 meters above sea level.
- In September 2009, the State Government announced that they would install surveillance cameras in Santa Marta. At that time, the Military Police’s public relations, major Oderlei Santos, explained that the equipment were part of a “pioneering project, with a experimental character” and that now “just like it happens on the beaches of the South Zone and in upper-middle class condominiums, the communities will also be able to count on the modern technology to their benefit.” This became known as “Big Brother Santa Marta” and caused a lot of controversy among residents.
- The name of the hill “Dona Marta” came up around 1680, when a priest named Clemente Martins de Matos bought the lands in the region and named the hill after his mother, Marta Figueira de Matos, who had died a few years earlier. In the same neighborhood, he traced out a path through his land towards a small chapel he built. It was Saint Clemente Chapel, which marks the start of the current São Clemente street. The favela’s name, Santa Marta, is a tribute to the saint who occupies a place in the chapel at the top of the hill.
Santa Marta, media and celebrities
The place is internationally famous for being one of the stages of the video for “They don’t care about us” Michael Jackson’s song, in 1996. On that occasion, the video clip crew had to ask permission from the local chief of drug trafficking, Márcio Amaro de Oliveira. Almost ten years later, Márcio helped to write the book Tough Guy - Morro Dona Marta’s Big Boss, by Caco Barcellos, which tells a little bit of the history of Santa Marta.
In 2009, on the 13th of November, the community received the visit of the north-american singer Madonna accompanied by the governor of the state of Rio de Janeiro, Sérgio Cabral, and the mayor of the city, Eduardo Paes. In February of 2010, with the recording of another music video, Santa Marta received the visits of singers Alicia Keys and Beyoncé. In the same year, they also hosted part of the shootings for the soap opera “Escrito nas Estrelas” (Written in the Stars). The favela was the center stage for the scenes of the movie Fast and Furious 5, along with the city’s financial center recorded in 2011. It is also one of the scenarios of the serie “A Arma Escarlate” (The Scarlet Weapon), from the Brazilian author Renata Ventura, released in 2011.
In June 26th, 2010, a year after the death of the American singer Michael Jackson, the State Secretariat of Sports, Tourism and Leisure (SEEL) financed the works for a public space on the slab where the king of pop performed, in 1996, above Dedé’s outpatient clinic. The space has a panel made by painter Romero Britto and a statue of the cartoonist Ique that were financed by the SEEL. The slab where Michael recorded the video clip “They Don’t Care About Us”, fourteen years before, was immortalized for the delight of Michael Jackson’s fans, inside and outside the favela.
Radio Santa Marta
In July, 2010, Radio Santa Marta began to air, a community station. Through the 103,3 MHZ frequency, the residents of the community broadcast their news to the entire Botafogo neighbourhood.
Santa Marta’s UPP
The favela is currently occupied by the Military Police of the State of Rio de Janeiro, which installed on November 28th, 2008 the city’s first UPP - Pacifying Police Unit. According to the State Public Security Secretariat, the drug selling points that operated in the place were extinguished.