Rio's Favelas

10 comments

Brazil is quite a poor country, and in Rio it's easy to get into trouble if you don't keep aware of your surroundings. We had few problems ourselves and even took a tour of a local Favela. Favela's are basically illegal neighbourhoods with no authorized electricity, plumbing, or phones, yet a majority of the population lives.

While the city was younger with fewer people, the government decided to turn all of the mountain sides into official parks, so that no one could build there. The mountains were to be used for everyone's enjoyment, not just the rich. With little land nestled between the steep mountains I imagine the city quickly ran out of affordable places for middle and lower class people to live. So they started building up the mountain sides into the park land.

Rio is probably one of the only places in the world where the poorest people have the nicest views. In North America, a favela might be referred to as a shanty town. All electricity and phone lines are illegal, there's no proper plumbing, and no proper sewage or garbage removal. The houses are slightly better than the corrugated tin houses in most third world ghettos, but not too much better. The houses have limited foundation, and when you want more people or more family to live with you, there's nowhere to build but up. During heavy rains buildings often collapse and slide down the mountain side.

The other difference between your standard third world squatter camp and favela's is the quality of life. The favela's in Rio actually house many lower-middle class families, not just the poorest. These are full on communities with everything from grocery shopping, cell phone sales, clothes, butchers, bakers, everything you'd normally find in a regular city or town. Housing is simply far too expensive in Rio for the average Brazilian.

They're also supposedly very safe if you live there... and very dangerous if you don't. Each favela has a single gang that runs all of the drug operations in that community. The gangs make up a large proportion of the younger people living there. Each favela has people on the lookout for unfamiliar faces. Someone suspicious will be shot on the spot. The gangs are very paranoid of undercover police, spies from neighbouring favela gangs, and journalists who may take photos of gang members. After they've killed you, they'll check your ID and plant drugs on the innocent so the police won't investigate ("a drug related homicide").

Both Sam and I felt a bit odd on the tour we took of one (since we were with a local, it was "safe"). It seemed a bit invasive to their community. But it really was an eye opener.

Peanut Gallery

favela

what you write, i do not know who give you this information, but I live in Rocinha and you write wrong things.

Zezinho

Can you elaborate on what's

Scott Hadfield

Can you elaborate on what's wrong in this post? I'd be happy to update it.

favelas

I am first going to respond to the first pargraph you write becase there is too much..

You Write:
Brazil is quite a poor country, and in Rio it's easy to get into trouble if you don't keep aware of your surroundings. We had few problems ourselves and even took a tour of a local Favela. Favela's are basically illegal neighbourhoods with no authorized electricity, plumbing, or phones, yet a majority of the population lives.

I Write:
Brazil is actually a rich country full of many resorces but the problem lies in curruption of the goverment and unequal distribution of wealth. Yes, it is true that any large city can be dangerous and you have to have the street smarts. I think almost every country have some type of crime. Just to let you know, you are more able to get robbed outside the favelas than inside them becase the drug guys do not want police coming to the favela. So, there is little or no crime inside favelas. I have fear everytime I leave Rocinha becase of potential crime or the police stopping me and giving me problem becase of where I live.

Favelas exist becase the upper and middle classes pay poor wages. As long as this exist, favelas will always exist. Favelas started in the 1890s after the war of Canudos in the northeast of Brazil. Slavery was obolished in 1888 and these free slaves and other poor people were ofered a deal that if they fight in this Caudos war, they would receve housing and jobs. Becase the northeast of Brazil was very poor, after the war, many people moved to the larger cities in the south becase of job oportunities. The goverment did not provide the housing like the promised and told the people to build their houses on the hills. And that is what people did. The first known favela still exist today. It is locate in dowtown Rio called "Morro do Providencia". If people have the choice it would prefer not to live in these conditons but the goverment give very little help for infrestructure.

Rocinha where I live is a favela but the goverment like to call it a nieghborhood. For me, the diference of a favela and formal neighborhood is acess to services that as humans everybody should have like runing water, eletricty, quality schooling and healthcare. People outside say that we do not deserve this becase we do not pay taxes but this go back to understanding that in Rio if you earn under 1.400reais a month you do not pay taxes. The average person in a favela earn about 500-700reais a month.

Now in Rocinha where I am from, we do have a light station at the bottom of the favela and we do have fix telefones in the house for those people who have the money for this. About 70% of Rocinha has plumbing, maybe not like the asfalto world, but it works for us.

I will respond to more later..any question you have?

favelas....Rocinha my home

I need to write that I am talking about my home Rocinha, other favelas I canot write about becase I do not know about them. But I know almost everything about Rocinha becase I am born and raise here..

you write: Rio is probably one of the only places in the world where the poorest people have the nicest views.

I write: This is true, best views are in favelas, this is why I live in Rocinha near the top because I have nice view.

you write: In North America, a favela might be referred to as a shanty town.

I write: Yes true or slum they call but we do not like these words..we prefer favela or "comunidade" or comunity.

You write: All electricity and phone lines are illegal, there's no proper plumbing, and no proper sewage or garbage removal. The houses are slightly better than the corrugated tin houses in most third world ghettos, but not too much better.

I write: This is NOT true, at the bottom of Rocinha is the company called "LIGHT" which give eletricity to Rocinha residents. Are there people who make "gatos" or ilegal eletricity yes, but somebody have to pay, they do not get for free. They have to pay the person who they hook their line to, the diference in the "LIGHT" bill. So nobody get for free.
We do have legal fone system too in Rocinha. There is a fone hook up company not far from where I live on the Estrada da Gavea main street very close to Paul Brito.
There is plumbing but it is not to standard to the first world correct, but we do have it..In my house we have a toilet and shower, but never you see bath tub in Favelas.
The prefeitura picks up the garbage twice a day, or so they are "supposed" to. We have drop off places in the street, and yes, this is aweful becase it attract rats and other potental problems..Why the goverment will not give us big metal containers to put the garbage in I will never know??
Houses: Yes very true, the houses are not so great but it is all we have..I am happy and like my simple house and it cost only $2.000 and when I get more money, I can make it better. Now that we have land rights in Rocinha, you will always se change and people building to make better their homes when they get money..

You write: The houses have limited foundation, and when you want more people or more family to live with you, there's nowhere to build but up. During heavy rains buildings often collapse and slide down the mountain

I write: Yes the foundations are not so good but there are many people in the favela that have good foundations for their houses. Yes true, only can build up now but there is a rule for families that you can not build more than 5 floor becase it is dangerous. For people who have special permits can build higher but has to be business or somebody who have conection to have the building build to safety codes. In two areas where the really poor in Rocinha live, Macega and Roupa Suja this was very comon until they build a protection wall at the base of the mountain to prevent the rain from washing the houses down the hill. If your house is not build into the rock and you are high up under the two brothers mountain this can happen..

ok more... you write: The

ok more...

you write:
The other difference between your standard third world squatter camp and favela's is the quality of life. The favela's in Rio actually house many lower-middle class families, not just the poorest. These are full on communities with everything from grocery shopping, cell phone sales, clothes, butchers, bakers, everything you'd normally find in a regular city or town. Housing is simply far too expensive in Rio for the average Brazilian.

I write:
there is truth to favelas now having lower middle class people living there or moving in..The strange thing that is now hapening is foreign peoples are now moving in. In Rocinha, I see diferent levels of poor people. In Roupa Suja and Macega there are people who still live in shack without eletricity or runing water..most people who live in favelas live there becase they have no other option, not becase they choose to. And if you are born in the favela, unles you are famose singer, entertainer or footballer, chances are if you move out of the favela, people will not acept you anyways..you will always be the "favelado" (slumdweller)!

How can a person move out or up out of favela if they are making slave wages? My father earns 600 reais a month, where outside the favela can he live?

you write:
They're also supposedly very safe if you live there... and very dangerous if you don't.

I write: depends on the favela and the controlling gang and atmosphere of current fight between police and gang in control..I can only say about Rocinha. Rocinha is safe for anyone who is not in another gang or a police officer. As I said before, the gangs main thing is to sell drugs and yes they have people who are "Olheiros" or watchers, but they are looking for things they see as a threat to them or their busines..I have never had a problem inside Rocinha. I had more problems with the police. If you were to walk in to Rocinha right now, nobody would stop you. There are not gurards armed at the entrance to Rocinha. Other favelas in zona norte area can be more dangerous for anyone. Depends on current climate of the favela. I have not heard of foreigners being killed in favelas..I did read about some lost tourists getting their car shot at because they got lost..things like that happen. But I can tell you in Rocinha, this does not happen becase the gang is well organized and they want the place to be safe so outsiders can come in and buy drugs.

you write: Each favela has a single gang that runs all of the drug operations in that community.

I write:
true.

you write:
The gangs make up a large proportion of the younger people living there.

I write: depends on the gang..the CV (Comando Vermelho are crazy and it is comon to see 12 yrs old with guns..here in Rocinha, the majority of those with guns are 18 or older. One of the security guys that works for the dono is 38 yrs old..so ADA (Amigos dos Amigos) has a older crew of gang guys.

you write: Each favela has people on the lookout for unfamiliar faces.

I write:
True they are called "Olheiros" or watchers and they are the first line of defense for defending the favela from threats.

you write:
Someone suspicious will be shot on the spot.

I write:
This is not true. I do not know who tell you this but, this is absolutely not true! If you look "Suspicious" they will aproach you first and question you. If they do not like your answers the worst they would do is escourt you out of the favela..unles of corse you come in the favela with a gun shooting, then yes, they wil shoot you. Again, there main thing is to make money, they prefer not to have kill anybody, even police.

you write:
The gangs are very paranoid of undercover police, spies from neighbouring favela gangs, and journalists who may take photos of gang members.

I write:
This is true, but they are not going to shoot anybody unles the have some proofs that the person is actual threat to there busines. I saw a tourist take a foto of one of the drug guys and the guy took the tourists camera and told the tour guide to make sure the guests do not take fotos..but never has a tourist or guest been shot for taking fotos...now back a few years there was a journalist who was caught filming stuff and they did kill him..I am not make excuse but the gangs do not like the media at all. But this guy who was killed had come into the favela before filming and was at a baile funk party acting strange. Usually 47 yrs old people do not go to baile funks. The interesting thing is at baile funks you can see many people having a good time and taking fotos..the diference is, they know respect for the gang guys and would never take their fotos..now, if you know people in the gang and are friends, it is possible to get fotos. I know I have many fotos of the guys, but I do not sell them or exploit this. These guys let me take there fotos, but they also KNOW I am NOT a rival drug gang and I am NOT police.

you write:
After they've killed you, they'll check your ID and plant drugs on the innocent so the police won't investigate ("a drug related homicide").

I write:
Again, I do not know where you hear this, if this happens, it is not comon becase I never hear of this from drug guys...Now, I do know that police have done stuff like that to people.

you write:
Both Sam and I felt a bit odd on the tour we took of one (since we were with a local, it was "safe"). It seemed a bit invasive to their community. But it really was an eye opener.

I write:
So let me ask, after your tour, did you still have fears? Too bad you did not take a tour with me becase you probably would have had a great time meeting all my friends and learning truth about ROCINHA!

Rio Trip

Anonymous

Hi there. My name is Michael. I am coming to Rio in a month for a school trip and would love to have someone who knows their way around to talk with. I find your stories extremely interesting. I am currently studying favelas in Rio and would appreciate some information. Would you be willing to give this to me? My email address is macerna3@yahoo.com

Thank you!

Clearly visiting Rio for two

Anonymous

Clearly visiting Rio for two weeks and being given a whistle stop tour of a Favela is not going to give you a true idea of how they really operate. Rocinhajj, i find your explanations very enlightening and informative. Next year I will come to Rocinha to volunteer for the 2Bros foundation. Can you recommend any particular area in Rocinha which is nice and affordable to live with good access to the rest of Rio. My email is sadg_250@msn.com, please get in touch, i would love to be shown round the community with you and your friends!!!

Hey Michael, I'm not actually

Scott Hadfield

Hey Michael,

I'm not actually in Rio, was only there for a couple weeks. There are plenty of favela tours that are offered and locals are the tour guides. I would recommend trying to find one of those tours and then you can ask your local guide more about what you want to know.

Thanks! I will contact one of

Anonymous

Thanks! I will contact one of them immediately!

These people might have a

jullie

These people might have a great view due to the fact that they live on the mountain side, but all that garbage ruins everything from my point of view. And it's not just the garbage, something like Baltimore trash pickup could easily remove it and make the place prettier, but it's also the gangs, drugs and corruption that flourish in there which keeps me away from that place. I doubt I could ever live there...