This paper explores the intersection of local politics and global urbanization in the context of Rio de Janeiro - focusing in particular on current attempts to reinvent a city where some 1.3 million people live in approximately 750 favelas. Rio's favelas are unplanned neighborhoods of self-built dwellings which have sprung up on unoccupied land both in the affluent southern zones and in the industrial suburbs of the north and west. In recent years the favela has attained a global media visibility which has seen growing numbers of Rio's international visitors embark on so-called "reality tours" through one of the city's favela neighborhoods. At the same time, favelas have attained a renewed prominence in civic debates surrounding Rio's possible futures and its putative position in the global urban imaginary. Problems of poverty, crime and injustice have once again captured the public agenda. Of course, these issues are not new to Rio, it is one of the world's most unequal and violent cities, where the rich and poor live side-by-side yet in seemingly separate universes. But they have recently attained a new and deadly urgency. With the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics on the horizon, authorities are engaging in two simultaneous battles to transform the favelas: implementing "pacification" schemes to occupy and control urban spaces and investing billions in reconstruction and infrastructure provision as part of an urbanization initiative entitled Morar Carioca (Rio Living). The future of Rio is, it seems, now inextricably linked to the fate of the favela.