Trip Start Jan 19, 2006
332Trip End Jan 19, 2007
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In the afternoon we go on a favela tour. First head to the largest one - Rocina (sp?) this is the largest one in Rio. Approx 1 1/2 million people (out of about 6 1/2 mill) live in Rio's favelas, of which there are 30. We first meet some local artisans and take pictures of the great view of Rio - at least they have the best views of Rio if not the best conditions. Then we head further into the centre where we cant take photos due to drug dealers etc. Main laws of the favelas are:
1 - No stealing - mainly to stop the police coming anywhere near the place as they are so corrupt
2 - See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil - keep your mouth shut even if you see something to stop the police coming there
The 'houses'are very higgledy piggledy but are made of bricks and cement and most have electricity, water and sewage - at least in the biggest favelas anyway. The way the housebuilding works is that you claim the land and start to build your 'floor' the land is yours after 5 years and you can save to build the next floor and charge rent to the tenants there and gradually improve the place and build as you go. Some people have build huge blocks and others are very small and basic. There are shops and restaurants and there was a McDonalds until fairly recently after some fight. The police station is decidedly empty. We walk through the main street which looks fine. I am desperately searching for kites flying along alley ways as white kites means there is a supply of cocaine, green is marijuana and red is danger. Not because I want any drugs (obviously) but just through morbid curiosity particularly having seen City of God (very good but sad film if you havent seen it). We then leave this favela and head to a smaller one which has benefitted from money from the EC and our tour company. First we visit an out of school club for favela kids to help them with homework etc and then we walk around the favela which is more run down and there are some open sewers but also some play areas which are very well maintained. Is not as bad as we imagined and feel pretty safe although we would not want to live here. Contrary to what a lot of people think, especially Brazilians apparently, people are happy here but obviously need a lot more access to opportunities and are severely discriminated against for living here. Even the buses change the name of where the bus started having left the favela as the middle classes are so anti and scared of the favelas.
Are glad we did the tour and apparently the inhabitants are glad that tourists are interested as there is so much misinformation about the favelas. Do feel a bit weird about going to see people who live in such poor conditions though.