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The colors of Santa Marta

The colors of Santa Marta
Walk into the average Brazilian favela and it will look like many such neighborhoods. No just grey and dirty, but colorless. 

Santa Marta – one of Rio de Janeiro's many favelas – is different. This becomes immediately apparent because it’s so colorful.

It’s the favela where, four years ago, AkzoNobel’s Coral brand started its “Tudo de cor para você”, program, which is designed to add more color to deprived neighborhoods.

So far, around 250 out of the designated 639 homes have been painted – which amounts to a good 30 percent – and the change is noticeable. One of the best places to see the transformation is the little square, halfway up the hill, where Michael Jackson and director Spike Lee shot his famous They Don’t Care About Us music video.

Where the video only showed peeling walls, almost 20 years later, these same walls have become colorful features, thanks to the paint donated by AkzoNobel. Seen from the other side of the hill, or from lower Botafogo, it almost looks like a painting, as if an artist took up a paintbrush.

But the credit must go to the residents, says Maria Mattar, who has been managing the project from the beginning. AkzoNobel made no less than 300,000 liters of paint available, turning it into the biggest “Tudo de cor para você” program in Brazil. The people of Santa Marta used the paint to fix up their homes themselves.

“We only taught them how to do it,” explains Maria with a smile. “But they were quick to pick it up. And when they were done with the outside, many continued indoors.” 
You can see that it was done by beginners, but it doesn’t matter, adds Maria. “It wouldn't be right if it looked too slick.” She’s right. It would have ruined the charm and perhaps also the soul of the favela.

“But you can see that people are delighted with it,” she continues “because they realize that it improves the area. Their own little street has now become more attractive, while more and more tourists are visiting the area.”

Thirty special QR codes, made by AkzoNobel and local guides, tap into this and allow tourists to enjoy this colorful favela to the full. “It will ensure that the area improves even more,” says Maria. “The inhabitants are happier and there is less crime. That is good, because the purpose of this program is to make a positive difference in the lives of people through the power of color. We succeeded in that, although there is still a long way to go. A lot of homes still need to be painted.”

While walking around, it’s not only the many painted homes that catch the eye. The people of Santa Marta have also used the paint to decorate many of the favela's stairs and alleys with the Brazilian colors to celebrate the World Cup.

“Isn't it wonderful,” states Maria, pointing to a huge picture on the ground of the emblem of the Brazilian football association painted next to the official World Cup logo. “It not only makes the area look better, but also strengthens the bond between the people and their area and, of course, with each other.”