• slum upgrading;
  • Recife;
  • Brazil;
  • favelas;
  • modernity;
  • participation;
  • urban development

Abstract:  This article presents an ethnography of the evolution of Prometrópole, a slum upgrading project in the Brazilian city of Recife. The project aims to improve the urban infrastructure, eradicate slums and resettle the population. We focus on the project's first area of intervention, Jacarezinho. We analyze how, from lead-up through implementation, the project gained shape and gradually became real. Participatory procedures were very important in shaping the project that for a long time did not materialize. We argue that the project manifested itself as a vehicle of modernity that evoked a dream of progress. The population, which never asked for the project, was attracted to this dream, but remained critical. We contend that, although the project partly delivered on its promises, for many slum dwellers it failed to entail a better life. We portray the project's genealogy, the compromise between different aims, and an echelon of post-project frustrations.