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Brazilian Slums rio de janeiro facts
In 2016, the Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro drew massive media attention to Brazil. While the majority of the media focus centered on the games themselves, concerns grew about Brazil’s dangerous climate, particularly in regard to the country’s slums. Below are facts about Brazilian slums.

Top Facts about Slums in Rio de Janeiro and Brazil

  1. The common term for a Brazilian slum is a favela. The name originated out of wartime, as soldiers during Brazil’s civil war sought temporary refuge on hills filled with favela plants.
  2. Favelas grew as migration increased. Since proper housing was too expensive for many immigrants, they turned to the poor, yet cheap, conditions favelas provided on the outskirts of Brazil’s major cities, such as Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo.
  3. Approximately six percent of Brazil’s population lives in favelas. Today, there are about 1,000 favelas in Rio and 1,600 in São Paulo.
  4. The typical favela has poor infrastructure, leading to difficulties in electricity and plumbing.
  5.  Disease is also rampant within favelas, as there is no standard for sanitation. Health risks may stem from overcrowding, pollution and a lack of waste disposal systems. Life expectancy within favelas is approximately 48 years, while the national average is 68.
  6. Poor living conditions within favelas often breed crime. Drug trafficking is common, with most members being young male teenagers, who are four-fifths more likely to die before age 21, Joe Griffin of The Guardian reports.
  7. Gangs not only initiate wars amongst each other in Brazilian slums, but against police. There have been frequent shootouts between gangs and police, especially during the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio when the state government was forced to employ numerous police pacification units (UPPs).
  8. Although UPPs originally heightened safety when initially introduced in 2008, they have recently been the center of much controversy, as civilian deaths have increased as a result of police misconduct.
  9. Despite these poor conditions, life in favelas is beginning to improve. NGOs, such as Community in Action, are focused on sustainable community development within these Brazilian slums.
  10. Many houses now have access to new technologies, such as television and the Internet. In addition, small businesses are making progress within their communities, most recently in the area of tourism.

Although progress appears underway, the Brazilian government must take more secure action to ensure that conditions within these Brazilian slums improve further.

Genevieve T. DeLorenzo

Photo: Flickr

mexican slums mexico city shanty towns
It’s no secret that President Trump has some choice words associated with Mexico, “wall” being one of the most frequently used. The President’s plans to complicate American ties with Mexico could have devastating effects on Mexico’s poor. Cutting back on economic ties with our southern neighbor could mean speeding up the economic degradation of Mexico’s poorest communities, exacerbating the issue of Mexican slums.

Top 5 Facts About Mexican Slums

  1. Mexican slums become breeding grounds for drug dealing and gang activity. Despite being among the richest nations in the world, Mexico’s poorest citizens live on less than $13 a day. The economic degradation leads many who live in Mexican slums to turn to drug dealing to support themselves and their families.
  2. One of the most commonly dealt drugs in Mexican slums is methamphetamine, a highly addictive stimulant drug that produces a high when inhaled or smoked. Desperate and impoverished, many residents of Mexican slums turn to dealing meth because it is a synthetic drug that can be made cheaply and sold for a high profit. The ease with which someone could make more money dealing drugs than working a real job is a telltale symptom of the depth of poverty present.
  3. The striking difference between affluent members of Mexican society and those who live in Mexican slums is most pronounced in photographs of Mexico City. Photographer Johnny Miller’s aerial photographs of Mexico City include brand new middle-class homes built right next to a rundown “barrio.”
  4. Approximately eight million people around the world live in slums, and in Mexico, most of those people are concentrated on the outskirts of the Mexican capital. Many rural residents travel to Mexico City in search of a better life only to wind up in shanty towns bordering the capital. However, many residents still believe that they and their families stand a better chance at finding a more dignified lifestyle in Mexico City than elsewhere. Al Jazeera reports on the Garduno family, who moved into Mexico City and lived with extended family in a small hut. Now, the Gardunos have their own home and are preparing to open a taco shop.
  5. Nezo-Chalco-Itza is the world’s largest slum, with about four million impoverished people living in it. The residents of this Mexican slum account for almost 10 percent of the population of Mexico City.

Mary Grace Costa

Photo: Flickr

katchi abadisImagine Arthur Dent’s surprise when he woke up to the sound of bulldozers, reared back to demolish his home. That is the iconic opening to Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

Now imagine that instead of Arthur Dent, an entire community faces such a predicament.

This was the case for the low-income community of Afghan Basti in Pakistan. On May 21, 2014, government-backed workers armed with bulldozers came to commence with roadworks. The Central Development Authority (CDA), which holds municipal responsibilities for Islamabad, had already demolished 25 stalls and five rooms nearby as part of the work.

According to Tribune journalist Maha Musaddiq, the bulldozing team was met with outcries as elders and children came out in protest of their forced eviction.

Enter July 2015. Despite protests, the CDA demolished sector I-11 in Islamabad. The sector was a low-income community similar to Afghan Basti. Both communities are known as ‘katchi abadis’.

What has motivated these evictions are claims on the part of the CDA that katchi abadis house criminals and terrorists. Umer Gilani, a lawyer for the Foundation for Fundamental Rights, challenges these allegations, seeing them as unfounded. He is not alone.

Tasneem Ahmed Siddiqui, an urban planner, has called for a paradigm shift in urban planning, taking Islamabad’s katchi abadis as an unfortunate example of what happens when a city is planned for the rich and fails to account for those laborers who might work for them.

According to the Tribune, Siddiqui has since proposed a solution to the Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, in Karachi, a new city district called DHA City is being constructed. But to some, the plan has committed the mistake Siddiqui outlined: there are no residences marked for drivers, housemaids or other staff.

A proposal has been submitted to the prime minister for a low-cost housing scheme.

Where protests in Pakistan have occurred over urgent circumstances — forced eviction with bulldozers at-the-ready — Indian koliwadas, or fishing villages, have protested their classification as slums.

Specifically, it is Mumbai’s Worli Koliwada, a historical fishing village, home to the Koli people who make up the city’s oldest residents.

Times of India journalist Priyanka Kakodkar reports that the land in question has been seen as valuable by property surveyors — and classifying the koliwada as a slum would open up the historical area to development.

The plan, however, was abandoned after locals vehemently objected to it.

It has instead been suggested that the local community try to develop and rehabilitate the area.

– The Borgen Project

Sources: Times of India, Tribune 1, DNAIndia, Tribune 2, Pakistan Today, Tribune 3
Photo: Wikipedia

Biggest Largest Slums in the World
As the world continues to urbanize and globalize at the most rapid pace in modern history, the global population of slum dwellers also continues to grow tremendously. UNHABITAT estimates that there are currently around one billion people living in slums, largely in developing countries. In fact, nearly one-third of all city-dwellers in developing countries live in poor-quality housing settlements known as slums. Urban slums are the world’s fastest-growing human habitat. Since accurate statistics on the demographics of slum areas are nearly impossible to come by, below is a list of the largest slums in the world ordered by estimated populations.

 

5 Largest Slums in the World

 

1. Khayeltisha, Cape Town, South Africa
Khayeltisha’s population is projected to be around 400,000, with a striking 40 percent of its residents under 19 years old. This township was developed during the collapse of apartheid system in South Africa.

2. Kibera, Nairobi, Kenya
The largest urban slum in Africa, Kibera is estimated to be housing anywhere from 200,000 to one million people. It has faced attention from news outlets, NGOs, the UN and celebrities from all across the world, but still remains overwhelmingly underdeveloped despite many rehabilitation efforts.

3. Dharavi, Mumbai, India
Also famous among journalists and development organizations, Dharavi is home to somewhere between 600,000 and one million people. Unlike most slum areas, which are concentrated on the outskirts of large cities, Dharavi is located squarely in the heart of Mumbai. This has contributed to its surprising multi-religious, multi-ethnic diversity. Fun fact: Dharavi provided the backdrop to the Oscar-winning film Slumdog Millionaire in 2008.

4. Orangi Town, Karachi, Pakistan
In recent years, Orangi has crept up in notoriety as the largest slum in Asia, compared to its long-time predecessor, Dharavi. With a population of over one million, Orangi was once the center of ethnic conflict between the Pathan and Bihari gangs. Since then, the area has become known for its self-financed sewage system and its booming cottage industry.

5. Neza-Chalco-Itza, Mexico City, Mexico
With around four million residents, Neza-Chalco-Itza barrio has been considered the largest slum area in the world. Unique to this area is its diversity in housing arrangements. While most residents live illegally on authorized land, some live in former mansions-turned low-income apartments that were abandoned by wealthy families.

– Tara Young

Sources: International Business TimesNational Geographic, The Hindustan Times
Photo: Wikimedia

electricityAs we stumble into a dark room, it is only natural that our hands reach for the light switch a motion that takes only a moment before we are bathed in artificial golden rays illuminating the enclosed space in which we stand via electricity.

In our homes and about our daily lives, we do not place a schedule around the daylight hours; with a generous supply of electricity, we can be productive at any time.

We neglect to think about the children who cannot finish their homework each night, the markets which cannot operate in the evenings, the businesses which can’t get off the ground or the schools and clinics which fail to provide the most basic services in areas without electricity, laments a video by the World Bank which describes the harsh reality of living in such circumstances.

When we think of places that have no electricity, often images of remote villages come to mind, but surprisingly, many of those who are lacking access to power are those living in urban slums.

Two years ago in the slums of Nairobi, as many as two million people lived in “informal settlements” which were not equipped with power, or if they were, they were unsafe, unreliable and illegal connections prone to catching fire or causing electrocutions sold by local cartels. This unsafe environment was not desirable and for any change to occur, the Kenyan community would have to embrace the notion of safe and affordable electricity.

At first community members were skeptical of Kenya Power, Kenya’s national utility which focused on taking down illegal connections in the slums from 2011-2013. Community members associated Kenya Power with dismantling their source of electricity, despite how unsafe it may be they were unhappy, often putting up another illegal connection within days.

Kenya Power adapted a community approach and conversed with people, opting to leave the illegal connections alone and just focus on providing safe electricity. In just one year, the number of legal connections would grow from just 5,000 in May 2014 to 150,000 and counting in May 2015.

With the reliability and affordability of such a system in place, its usage has become contagious, “Most consumers use pay-as-you-go scheme, buying pre-paid chits, available at any corner store, and paying for electricity in small increments.

In fact, many of the former vendors of illegal electricity are now in the (legal) business of selling Kenya Power chits,” says the World Bank, which provides funding for Kenya Power and also offers a South-South Knowledge exchange including Kenyan workers and experts from utilities in Brazil, Colombia and South Africa.

Support from the Global Partnership on Output-Based Aid and World Bank’s Energy Sector Management Assistance Program are also a part of the given support and part of a much larger $330 million World Bank project to help Kenya Power expand, modernize and light up its cities’ slums.

Nikki Schaffer

Sources: World Bank, Kenya Power
Photo: World Bank

Government_Planning
Rocinha, a neighborhood in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, is one of the largest and densest slums in Latin America. The neighborhood that still struggles with drug cartels, lack of access to education and healthcare, and seemingly inescapable poverty is beginning to slowly change with the visionary architectural work of Ricardo de Olivera, as well as impactful government planning initiatives.

Featured in the series Rebel Architecture, architect Olivera has no formal training. This has given him the adaptable ability to work with the material of the local context of his favela, rather than imposing ineffective westernized techniques. “Ricardo is famous around here. Everyone wants his services,” says a local resident in the film entitled “The pedreiro and the master planner” directed by May Abdalla.

“A foreign architect would not get into this hole and dig. He would hire someone or would hire machines. But here in the favela, we are hands on… Most of the buildings here were built by pedreiros like me… I did all three things. I didn’t need an engineer or an architect or a decorator,” says Olivera in the film.

Olivera has built over 100 houses, as well as supermarkets and parking garages. He is visionary and passionate about improving the quality of life of his birthplace. Olivera’s simple designs meet the needs of his clients and neighbors both socially and financially. Favelas arise spontaneously with no help or design from the government, explains the film. Rocinha is considered Brazil’s most urbanized slum. The tiny 0.8 by 0.8 square mile, steep area is home to 100,000 to 200,000 people. Residents live in states of extreme poverty, in small shanties stacked on top of each other, up to 11 stories high.

Residents of Rocinha rarely have access to education. Citizens on average have had only 4.1 years of formal schooling, and less than one percent of adults have earned a degree above a high school diploma. Jobs in Brazil are reserved for citizens with formal degrees—so Rocinha residents do not have easy access to escaping the impoverished conditions they were born into.

“It has its problems—sanitation, access to quality housing. The other problem is because of the narrow streets where the police can’t go, drug traffickers settled in Rocinha. The government closed its eyes to the arrival of those forming the favelas because they didn’t have the resources to provide housing and they needed cheap manpower. This logic is present in each and every city in which there is a poverty belt,” says Luis Carlos Toledo, the architect behind the master plan for the government’s improvement plan for Rocinha in the film.

As Rio preps itself for the upcoming Olympic games, there are competing forces at play determining the future of Rocinha. The city has implemented pacification programs, which destroy slums in an attempt to make the city look cleaner and less impoverished to outsiders.

The city has also created an ambitious transportation plan— a cable car system that connects downtown Rio with Rocinha. Citizens are against this system, seeing it simply as an investment in the tourism industry rather than a viable transportation solution.

At the same time, various foreign urban planners, NGOs, and architects have come to Rocinha with good intentions, but without a working knowledge of the local community, threatening to bring gentrification to Rocinha.

Amidst these various forces, citizens of Rocinha are speaking up more than ever before. Community meetings in Rosinha have raised a collective voice against the cable car system. “Only the population of Rohica can preserve the spirit. And without that, there is no future for Rohinca,” declares the film.

“The residents have aspirations for the whole favela, not just their house,” explains the film.

Despite the Brazilian government’s mixed history with creating helpful change, localized urban planning by the government has brought improvements to parts of Rocinha. In 2011, an ambitious project to change the district called Rua 4 was successfully implemented. Residents were moved to public housing within their neighborhood, rather than being moved to the outskirts of the city which is often the case in attempts to improve housing.

Before the changes, the Rua 4 area was a 60 centimeter ally, known for having the highest tuberculosis rate in the world.

Dictated by the urban planning project, roads were widened in Rua 4 to about 12 meters. Buildings were improved structurally and painted brightly. Gardens and plazas shot up. Staircases were built to connect different levels. Residents have contributed to building playgrounds, a stage, mosaics and murals.

Here, people relax on their porches outside and no evidence of the drug trade is present. Head architect Luiz Carlos Toledo said “Rua 4 is… an example of how you can, without abandoning the traditional pathways of a favela, improve them, adapt them to the scale and the topography of the site.”

The successful government project and Olivera’s rebel architecture demonstrate that impactful change in favelas is possible. As the community begins to demand more change collectively, hope and greater improvements in Rocinha seem to be in the favela’s future.

Margaret Mary Anderson

Sources: Arch Daily, Al Jazeera, Mundoreal, Rio On Watch
Photo: Flickr

solar-powered_iShack
In 2012, South Africa’s subsidized housing program had built about 2.8 million houses since 1994. As impressive as that is, the country still faced a backlog of nearly 2 million homes. Facing these numbers, the government decided to shift its focus from providing new-made homes for every household to improving current living conditions. Approximately 1.2 million households, or 3 million people, are still living in informal homes today. These shacks have no electricity or running water. Many are uninsulated and poorly ventilated, creating unhealthy environments for those inside.

Mark Swilling decided to address this problem back in 2011. Swilling, the academic head of the Sustainability Institute in Stellenbosch, asked his students, “‘What can be done while people are waiting?’ We wanted to orientate [our research] towards what the average shack dweller could do while they are waiting for the state.”

His question led to the solar-powered iShack. The shiny metal walls of these ‘improved shacks’ stand out in shantytowns where wooden pallets and corroded sheets of zinc are the building norm. The shacks also feature insulation made of recycled plastic products, a layer of insulating bricks around the bases of the walls, windows designed to improve airflow, and a coat of fire-retardant paint.

The most popular feature by far, however, is the solar electricity. The shacks are equipped with a photovoltaic panel on the roof that powers a porch light and interior lights, as well as an electrical outlet that makes it possible for residents to charge their cell phones.

Damian Conway, manager and director of the Sustainability Institute Innovation Lab, the main team behind the implantation of the iShack, says that part of their research methodology was paying close attention to what they community really wanted. “Electricity is the number one thing that most people in Enkanini say they need,” Conway says. “The needs are all there: sanitation, water … but the main thing is energy.”

The iShack has been warmly received. Nosango Plaatjie, a mother of three living in one of the iShack prototypes, commented that the ability to keep her phone charged and her lights on has made a huge difference to her family.

“The solar [lights] are better,” Plaatije said. “Now we don’t need to go to sleep early anymore because now we have lights. My daughter must do her homework now, she doesn’t have any more excuses. And I like the light outside because we can see what is going on, I feel safer.”

The iShack model of incremental improvements to already-existing settlements has a lot of people excited. In 2013, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation supplied the organization with a grant that would allow the project to roll out across the informal settlement of Enkanini.

With much success and steadily rising support from the local community, other groups are beginning to take notice. Slum Dwellers International, a global nonprofit that serves the urban poor, is watching iShack with an eye toward implementing the project across many countries in Africa.

The secretariat-coordinator Joel Bolnick gave the impression of hopeful patience when he said, “Our intention is to give the institute some time to develop the model. They’re almost there now.”

– Marina Middleton

Sources: Mashable, The Guardian iShack Project CNN Live Science Mail & Guardian
Photo: Street News Service

Rising_Poverty_in_Pune_India
A history of deep-seated poverty and vulnerability lies within the urban city of Pune, India. It is estimated that 40 percent of the population lives in slum dwellings—and this number is projected to increase in the future. Because of the rise in population and scarce affordable housing, slums endure and contribute to the persistent poverty in Pune.

Pune is considered to be the third city in India with the largest number of slums. These dwellings fail to provide basic human needs: access to clean water, proper sanitation and infrastructure and quality housing. Tenants also struggle with overcrowding and secure residential status.

Without these basic needs, communities are unlikely to thrive. For instance, proper sanitation majorly contributes to health and the success of future generations. In 2012, it was estimated that over 100,000 people did not have a toilet within walking distance. This issue not only challenges health, but also safety.

“Many toilets are not safe or useable: they are used as meeting places by criminals, do not have adequate water, or do not have electricity,” reports InfoChange, an online source for social justice and development in India.

While these factors determine safety, they also challenge health, especially for children. Lack of proper sanitation is detrimental to a child’s health, and causes diarrhea, cholera and typhoid. In India, roughly 1,600 children under the age of five die every day from these illnesses.

But what about access to health facilities? The story is the same. Often times, there is no access to a public health facility, or the wait time is too long, creating a perception of poor service in public health.

A woman who was interviewed by InfoChange states, “When we tell staff in government hospitals to cater to us promptly, they say: ‘This is a government hospital…not private. If you have money why don’t you go to a private hospital?’” Perceptions like these force communities to seek out private institutions, which can be expensive.

Private education is also expensive, which represents almost half of children’s education in Pune. In 2008, it was determined that 44 percent of school-going children were going to private-aided institutions, and only 26 percent were going to public schools. The main reason for this, again, is that there are not enough public offerings in slum areas.

While these statistics present a multi-layered issue of poverty in Pune, there is a much larger disconnect. The disconnect is between slum communities and people in position of power. For instance, slum households face broken toilets, clogged drains and flooding; however, there is little action taken to fix these problems. Overall, administrations have created a pattern of inaction (sometimes linked to class prejudice), which has spawned distrust from locals.

How can efforts, then, be redirected for poverty in Pune? People are seeking out NGOs to fix the problem.

Sunil Bhatia, a professor of human development at Connecticut College, is currently contributing to this idea. Recently receiving the American Psychological Association’s 2015 International Humanitarian Award, he states, “Poverty is the result of social and economic inequality, so we need to address this challenge globally, via effective policies and mobilizing the people affected by it.”

Briana Galbraith

Sources: Connecticut College, InfoChange, The Times of India
Photo: Flickr

osaka slumJapan currently ranks fourth globally with the highest percentage of people living in relative poverty. ‘Relative poverty’ is a term that means the population does not have enough resources to live on, and individuals are unable to provide themselves with basic and essential needs. Japan has approximately 16.1 percent of its population existing in this status. This condition is exemplified in the Osaka slum discussed below.

 

Kamagasaki: The Osaka Slum

 

Within Japan, a slum exists that is a prime example of foreign global poverty. It is a small area, only .24 square miles. The city itself cannot be found on maps of Japan. It is where the poorest people in Osaka, Japan reside. It is the largest slum in Japan: Kamagasaki.

Almost 40 years ago, Kamagasaki was a thriving area in Osaka, due to its construction businesses, and many laborers came from throughout Japan to work there because of such high demand. Three historical events changed Kamagasaki. In 1995, the Hanshin earthquake killed over 6,000 people throughout Japan. Then, in 2010, the rate of economic growth began decreasing in Japan, and it no longer had the second largest growing economy in the world. The demand for labor in Kamagasaki further declined and created more poor. And finally in March 2011, the Great East Japan earthquake occurred. In Kamagasaki, of the 330,000 workers evacuated after the earthquake, 200,000 were estimated to be out of work.

There was a rapid decline into poverty in this specific area of Osaka after 1995 as people began to leave the area. As a result, currently, due to the lack of employment, it is now home to only 25,000 aspiring elderly workers. Of the aspiring workers, 1,300 of them are homeless. The employment options are few and far between—there are very few jobs available. The lack of technology and access to the Internet affects the ability for the unemployed to connect with employers and better paying jobs. Picking through garbage has become a common source of income for residents, allowing them to earn from $9 to $13 per day.

Unskilled laborers after the age of 50 rarely get work and do not qualify for government assistance until the age of 60, leaving a gap of 10 years without income or eligibility for government assistance—including healthcare. The prevalence of tuberculosis infection rate in Kamagasaki is three in every 100 residents.The rate of tuberculosis infection is estimated to be between 30 and 40 times the national average in Japan.

Kamagasaki is a poverty stricken area in Osaka, Japan, the country with the third highest growth of economy in the world. The area was given a new name decades ago: Airin-chiku.

Continued focus on Millennium Development Goal 1, eradication of extreme hunger or poverty, needs to reflect further progress in this area, regardless of what it is called.

Erika Wright

Sources: The Guardian, The Japan Times, Pulitzer Center
Photo: Epoch Times

slum_destruction
After a long-standing 20 years, a would-be abandoned bank in Caracas, Venezuela will be demolished. In most cases, the destruction of an abandoned building is hardly notable. However, this abandoned building, commonly called the Tower of David, is home to 1,145 families.

This unfinished building has become a home to hundreds of homeless people and families, creating a community that fully depends on the existence of this empty 45 story tower.

In Venezuela, few squatters find safety in the slums within the city borders. The Tower of David is a vertical beacon, offering refuge to those seeking a long term way of living in the streets.

The future of the bank tower is unclear, with Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro telling media, “Some are proposing its demolition. Others are proposing turning it into an economic center. Some are proposing building homes there.” Maduro acknowledges the purpose it serves to many, while still acknowledging that this building represents the failed hopes of deceased dictator Hugo Chavez, whose goal was to create a dominant economy within Venezuela.

The building now holds social significance, appearing in multiple films and television shows as the Tower of David, the symbolic slum of Venezuela. Yet this has not coerced leaders into leaving the structure as is; the evacuation of residents has already begun.

The demolition project was suggested after several children were killed falling out of the building, proving it as a safety hazard to Venezuelans. With evacuations beginning on July 22, occupants have agreed to peacefully leave with the promise of homes and aid.

The refuge sought by the inhabitants will not be forgotten, as many reminisce on the solace the tower offered them. One resident, Yuraima Perra, 27, tells NPR, “Necessity brought me here, and the tower gave me a good home,” as the soldiers removed her valuables and belongings from her makeshift apartment.

Parra is one of what many Venezuelans call “invaders” that staked claim in the tower. These “invaders” rigged up electricity and controlled the elevators, essentially turning the abandoned building into subsidized housing for those in need. Due to the fact that there was little internal violence within the tower, civilians respected it, and  thus families were allowed to safely flourish in a protected area.

President Maduro recognizes the tower as, “a symbol of a strange situation, a vertical ‘barrio’.” With regrets of allowing its continuation for so long with little monitoring and even less consideration, Maduro looks to the people for suggestions as to what should happen to this symbolic tower. One thing is clear: the end of the era may have come for the Tower of David, but those who called it home will forge on in search of another safe refuge in the dangerous streets of Caracas.

Elena Lopez

Sources: Reuters, NPR
Photo: Flickr