The term favela has been universally applied to identify urban conglomerations characterized by substandard housing and precarious subsistence. While this terminology is widely used by the media to characterize the poorest areas of underdeveloped countries, its historical and cultural implications are hardly ever explored. The simplistic portrayal adopted by the media tends to spread a biased view that dismiss the complexity encompassed by the favelas. The study of its origins and history reveals a multi-layered social structure in which past and present intermingle in a contradictory landscape of suffering, violence, solidarity and communal experiences.
As a late product of exploitation colonization, favelas are a direct consequence of the precarious situation of a politically independent, but economically vulnerable, country. Because of a poor distribution of land, a great part of ex-colonies inhabitants were forced to live in them. However, the problem still persists and nowadays around 61% of the people in Cape Verde, Angola and Mozambique are in favelas (ONU - 2015). Owing to its cultural importance and sociological relevance, the theme is an essential gateway to the study of Lusophone countries.
While the historical intricacies of the favelas are mostly unknown by the general public, writers, musicians, composers, filmmakers and artists have depicted its geography, stories and human relations. Such richness and variety of this depiction enables Portuguese language to be approached through its main subtopics, such as class struggle, high and low culture, community and individual values and economic dependency.