Posts tagged ‘Rocinha’

Favela walls?

Walls are going up around the hillside slums of Rio de Janeiro, further dividing a city already separated between rich and poor.

Beneath the gaze of the statue of Christ the Redeemer, work is nearing completion on one of 19 walls to be built around the city’s sprawling favelas — the informal and often crime-ridden shantytowns that are home to more than a million people.

Critics say that the concrete barriers, up to 3m high, will seal the favelas as ghettos, segregating the inhabitants by sealing them off from the richer areas.

“We had the Berlin Wall, we have the walls of Palestine, now the walls of Rio,” José Saramago, the author and Nobel laureate, said.

Sérgio Cabral, the Governor of Rio, has plans to surround 13 favelas in the south almost completely in a project that he says is designed to stop their sprawl destroying the last of the city’s forested peaks. In a city riven by violence, mistrust and social inequality, few believe him.

“The Government does not have access to the favelas, so they are going to encircle them,” says Rossino de Castro Diniz, the president of the Association of Rio Favelas.

About a fifth of Rio’s six million inhabitants live in its 946 favelas, which have grown rapidly in the past decade. Many are controlled by drug traffickers, armed police can enter only in force and every week people die in pitched gun battles.

In the Rocinha favela, home to an estimated 160,000 residents and the largest slum in South America, rubbish is piled up, sewers overflow and there is a huge rat infestation.

“I am totally against the wall,” says Antonio Ferreira de Mello, known locally as Shaolin, who is the president of the residents’ association. “It’s an offence to human dignity.”

He says that the association, despite struggling to cope with the rapid expansion of the favela, has banned further building on new land so the Government’s ecological argument is redundant. Instead, expansion in Rocinha is vertical — one storey on top of another.

At the highest reaches of Rocinha, among the trees on a vertiginous slope, a wall is also under way. Far below is the city and above there is nothing but trees. It is a wild place.

“There are a lot of animals here,” says Waldir Domingo da Silva, who lives in one of the wooden shacks in one of the highest reaches. “Snakes. Scorpions. It’s a forest.”

The authorities say that the walls are designed to keep it that way. Icaro Moreno Junior, the president of Emop, the Rio state public works department, says that if nothing is done the green space will be gone in ten years. “We are protecting the forest,” he says. “We’re not dividing people . . . It’s crazy to compare it to the wall of Berlin or the wall of the Gaza Strip.”

In Dona Marta, on the slopes of Corcovado below the statue of Christ and once one of Rio’s most dangerous favelas, a new wall is almost finished. Its building has been carefully co-ordinated with other public works and the project has more widespread support.

Joel Miguel Rondon, 52, is one of the many residents working on it. “It’s a good idea,” he says. “Protect the environment.”

Since the police took control of Dona Marta in November and installed a base there, it has also become more secure and state money has been spent on a crèche, new housing and a network of secure concrete walkways instead of the usual treacherous paths. A free tram that opened in May last year climbs the favela’s steep gradient, lifting passengers to its dizzy heights.

“It got better with the wall,” says José Raimundo Brito do Santa, 26. He says that his sister’s house has increased in value from £2,500 to £4,600 since the tram arrived in May 2008.

Joseli Sebastião, 51, is hanging out washing. She welcomes the changes in the favela that have accompanied the wall. “I want peace,” she says. “I want to live.”

Even tourists are seen in Dona Marta, says Marlene dos Santos, 56, smiling as she sells cold drinks from her tiny house. “Everything that’s coming here really helps.”

For Rubem César Fernandes, the director of Viva Rio, an NGO that works to reduce violence in the favelas, the walls are an aggressive symbol of deeper divisions within the city.

“A wall satisfies public opinion,” he says. “Symbolically it is control. It is a bad solution to a real problem.”


December 4, 2009 at 9:46 pm Leave a comment

Gringolado: Simon Keegan

My first impressions of Brazilian favelas came through the media. I was still living in the United States, so newspapers, films, music, and the internet were my only sources for Brazilian culture. I spent a great deal of time focusing on all things Brazilian throughout college. Yet, despite the depictions of violence and crime, I was intrigued.

When I finally made it to Brazil for the first time, I was an exchange student living in Salvador, Bahia. I lived with a host family that employed a lovely young women who happened to live in a favela. After establishing a firm friendship, she invited me to go meet her boyfriend and his family. When I arrived, the atmosphere was calm and tranquil, yet, the architecture suggested that it was indeed a favela. Still, there were no drug dealers. There was no crime. No violence, at least as far as I ever saw. What I did see were working class families. Children playing in the dirt road. Papayas growing next to the electrical lines. And we were only minutes walk from the best beaches in Salvador!

After this first experience, I knew the depictions I had scene in films and newspapers was not sole true. I had seen otherwise, and decided not to allow the fear created in such violent depictions of the favela scare me away.

That is, of course, until I got to Rio. If you have ever landed at their international airport you know that to get to the zona sul you have to drive by one of Rio’s largest favela complexes. The favela is right there, staring you down as you head south on the highway. For a second I thought to myself, “Holy shit where am I? We’re not in Kansas anymore!” I seriously considered jumping on the next plane back to Salvador.

Then, of course, you hit the Zona Sul; Jardim Botanica, Lagoa, and Gavea. The favelas give way to green mountains, the palm trees tall and growing in force. I most definitely sighed a breath of relief when I realized that my first glimpse of rio; the favelas and industrial waste, would not be the only backdrop to my Rio experience. What a comfortable realization.

After residing in that comfort for a number of months, I realized it wasn’t as comfortable as it could have been. Granted, the beaches were nice and the people were beautiful. But, it wasn’t that community I had seen in the favela in Salvador. It wasn’t that drinking beers in the sun while playing cards in the middle of a dirt street with all your neighbors kinda fun. The sterile lifestyle of the Zona Sul was not the cultural experience I was looking for. The friendships weren’t as warm, nor were the bonds that I formed. My neighbors didn’t even talk to me in the elevator. I never even met the guy who lived across the hall.

That whole time, Rocinha was staring me in face; I lived in Sao Conrado. The richest of the rich living next to the poorest of the poor. My curiosity abounded, yet, it was intimidating. Eventually, my hunger overran any fears I might have had and I ventured in for some good eats. Sao Conrado is completely unlivable for a guy who wants to walk out the door and grab some food. But, Rocinha was there for me, and provided me with countless X-tudos for about a dollar apiece.

In the end, you realize, favelas are working class communities. Granted they contain controversial elements. Yet, who’s fault is it if there has been established a parallel power structure? It is exactly this fact that favelas and their populations have been so long ignored by civil society and government agencies, that they have developed a need to defend and provide for themselves. It is too bad that to an extent they have done it “by any means necessary.”

Still, one of the number one misconceptions of the favela is that there is no law. This is false. In fact, favelas have complex systems of enforcing civil codes. Peope seem to think that with the drug dealers comes lawlessness. This is not the case. Favelas are not places without rules. Granted, sometimes crudely enforced; the population does not live in a state anarchy. Crimes like thievery are not tolerated. And the rule is typically obeyed religiously by all.

My experience in the favela had much more to do with community than violence. People say hello. Everyone knows everyone else. They all know each others business, but, for the most part keep it to themselves. They party together. They cry together. More than anything they live together. Everyone knows everyone else’s struggles. And most do their part to help their neighbor. Respect is highly valued, and people typically offer it to one another freely without too much judgment or condemnation. When you are there you are reminded, we are all just human, all just humans in this life together.

To me, that is a beautiful feeling; a beautiful experience to have. To be in communion with others has no other comparable feeling in the world. No false pretense. Just human to human interactions at their purest.

That is what I found there in the favela’s of even Rio de Janeiro, some of the most violent places in the world by some standards. Granted I never experienced any violence, I just experienced a lot of very compassionate folk.

November 28, 2009 at 8:08 pm 2 comments

Gringolado:Amy in Rocinha

Here’s a youtube video of an Australian girl and her experience in Rocinha.

November 24, 2009 at 4:04 pm Leave a comment

Ja Rule in Rocinha

Yes the once famous US Hip Hop (or in Carioca Hippy Hoppy) artist Ja Rule (pronounced Ja Hooley) preformed off of the Curvo do S on Estrada da Gavea in Rocinha in summer. The concert was advertised on banners, cars and blasting speakers not only throughout the favela but all of Rio. It cost 30 Reais to get into the bus parking lot that is the Arena do S which is a little expensive. Everyone in the favela talked about the costs but ended up on the streets to watch the concert from afar. There was a nice display of fireworks when the concert kicked off that made it well worth it for everyone even though the music was less than prefect. It just goes to show that to have a good time in Rocinha you only need your friends and loud music.

November 18, 2009 at 6:36 am Leave a comment

Volunteering:2 Bros

Are you interested in volunteering check out 2 Bros You can live and work in a favela and get to know the culture.

November 18, 2009 at 6:29 am Leave a comment

Zezinho, the favela tattoo king

If you think you’re crazy about favelas check out Zezinho. If you google favela, there’s no doubt you’ll encounter something connected to Zezinho, whether it’s a comment, post, or his favelatour website. He’s crazy about his Rocinha! You’ll definitely hear more about him from us at Soufavelado. Check out his tattoos!

November 17, 2009 at 1:48 am 3 comments

Fashion Designer Mark Ecko, Gringolado?

Fashion designer Mark Ecko posted a video of him in Rocinha, and wrote a little about the favelas in Brazil.
Ecko logo

You really don’t get a taste of Brazil until you get to visit the Favela’s. I visited both Helipolis in Sao Paolo, and Rocinha in Rio. In Sao Paolo I got to visit the work of Apprendiz and other social projects involving the arts and community. In Rocinha I got a very special night time tour with MC Junior and Leonardo– who are giants in the music scene here.

I had an amazing time. People were lined up on the streets watching old videos of Michael Jackson. The food was great. Graff scene in Sao Paolo is sick! Rio is a completely different vibe– much more chill, typical of a beach community. Rio is LA. Sao Paolo is NYC. This video is a little long, but it’s worth watching- especially for the music in the end.

Side note: Interesting comment left on Mark’s blog by a brazilian that shows the Brazilian attitude towards favelas. “Damn, so I, a brazilian, who visited hundred of different places of my own country, but never a favela from Rio or São Paulo never got the “real taste” of my country?”

November 9, 2009 at 9:25 am 1 comment

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