Situating Fortaleza: Urban space and uneven development in northeastern Brazil

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31 Citations (Scopus)


The academic literature on Brazilian cities focuses overwhelmingly upon the metropolises of Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. While fruitful in its own right, this research confronts scholars of Latin American cities elsewhere with two ongoing limitations: (1) Despite estimates that nearly one quarter of Brazil’s urban population inhabits the conurbation of Rio and São Paulo, at least 75% of urban space in Brazil, an area populated by roughly 120 million people, is consistently overlooked; and (2) the findings from these two megacities are often (and unfairly) extrapolated across other urban contexts in Brazil, perpetuating lingering misgivings about the overall ‘nature’ of Brazilian cities.
In this paper, I consider the Northeast of Brazil, drawing upon my own research from the favela (slum) community of Pirambu, located in the city of Fortaleza, to help understand urban development outside of the Rio/São Paulo corridor. By considering historical circumstances, geographic specificity, theoretical implications, and the course of Brazilian development, I highlight informal urban growth in an oft-overlooked region of Latin America while, at the same time, revealing many of the geographic attributes that give Rio and São Paulo their truly exceptional character. My goal in this work is not to refute the work of others, but rather to underscore the importance of geographic context to socio spatial processes of urban development.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)45-52
Number of pages8
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jan 2011


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