City of God

14 Mar

Took a favela tour this afternoon and it was awesome. It started on a good note when we hopped aboard motorcycles to reach the top of the shantytown.

I cant say I wasn’t nervous after hearing field reports of motor taxis rubbing shoulders with passing buses and oncoming trucks. The tour guide’s welcome speech to the favela also helped set the mood, letting us know that the territory was controlled by drug dealers, and that we shouldn’t take pictures lest the drug lords get pissed.

Up top was the most expensive part of the favela and that is where we started the tour. It’s more expensive on higher ground because the plumbing isn’t great (probably non-existent actually), so more and more waste appears on the bottom of the favela.

The top of the hill is also where we learned how the favela gets its electricity. The locals re-wired a few lamp posts on the way and dragged the wires across the entire town to power their own things. I’m not sure how people don’t get electrocuted on a regular basis.

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We proceeded onwards, and what we saw was poverty, but not desperation. The favela we were visiting had been around since the 1920s and was originally a national park. Since then, some 200,000 people have setlled on the land and called it their home. It is located surprisingly close to Ipanema and Copa and other nicer parts of town. The guide explained it was sort of a suburb really; that most of the people comuted into town every day and retreated back to the favela at the end of their shifts. As such it was more developed than I would have imagined and I found myself saying, it’s not so bad. Which is probably the wrong thing to be thinking…

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We probably shouldn’t have been this happy, especially since we were in the middle of a tour meant to show us poverty.

But what can I say, it was really fun.

PS I think the drug dealers took a day off because while the other groups reported small children running around with machine guns, I did not see any myself.

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One Response to “City of God”

  1. Zezinho October 3, 2009 at 4:00 am #

    The favela you are in is Rocinha. I live here and we do not have “Children” with machine guns..The ADA the ruling gang does not allow this. Unless those kids were playing with toy guns. Alot of times these tours exagerrate to promote a sense of excitement for outsiders. I have nothing agains foreigners coming to see the life here but, I do not apreciate irresponsible tour guides who talk up or promote lies about my comunity..Since ADA took over in 2005 I have not seen any “Children”..to me children meaning 6-12 yrs olds..with Machine guns..Machine guns are too heavy for children to carry..I do not support the drugs stuff here but I do not like people exagerrate or tell outright lies either..

    Thanks!

    Zezinho

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