Brazilian Urban Popular Movements: The 1997 Mobilization of the Inner-City Slum Movement in Sao Paulo

Charmain Levy


Introduction Between 1997 and 2005, more than 80 occupations of
abandoned buildings took place in downtown Sao Paulo. They involved
more than 10,000 people and were mobilized by five different social
movement organizations. The scale and impact of these occupations surprised
both social scientists and public officials given that the downtown cortiço1
population has continued to diminish during the past 50 years and was
never considered mobilizable by urban popular movement activists, even
during important waves2 of urban land occupations and contestation in the
1980s.3 An urban popular movement4 organized around housing issues has
a long history in Sao Paulo. Since the early 1990s, it has become more institutionalized,
concentrating on housing project negotiations with government
and international development agencies, and abandoning more radical forms
of action such as occupations.

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Studies in Political Economy:
Online ISSN 1918-7033
Print ISSN 0707-8552