Friday, March 30, 2007

let's build a sweet fort out of wood and boxes!

A reality created by the uneven distribution of wealth is the large number of favelas in all large Brazilian cities. Favelas are slums, shanty towns, tenements. They have a difference historically because slums were created by people who arrive somewhere with nothing in search of work of a better life, and find nothing. Favelas were originally created by a large number of residents being displaced when soldiers in the late 19th century were discharged after a civil war, and left without jobs or any government assistance for finding living. The original favelas were therefore on the outskirts of the city. The newer growth in the favelas is due to people moving in search of good work, but finding little; the origin of the favelas still separates them historically from other slums around the world. Today favela describes any area dense with people under the poverty line.
Today the favelas aren't necessarily just outside the city. It has been a natural progression that favelas have risen close to city centers. Close to the places of employment for many avocados. Closer to the public transportation. There is a small favela about 1km from my. How big is huge? Shopping Recife has 465 stores (not including restaurants) and 5,000 parking places. Many of the bus routes are directed to the Shopping. On one side of the bus stop is a huge shiny mall; on the other side is a small favela. It's not dangerous to be at that bus stop, but you can smell the favela when the wind blows in the right direction.

These people may not have water every day... to help their situation; many have large tubs on their roof with a plastic tube than runs into their house. The houses are poorly constructed, and all very small. Favelas often have electricity that is stolen from neighboring locations (it's not uncommon to just have extension cords running from upper-class houses or businesses into the favela. It is also not uncommon to have a favela right next to an upper-class home. Imagine a slum next to a couple of half-million dollar houses in Saint Louis. That contrast is a reality here, it's pretty interesting.

The favelas are going to be here for awhile. Laws were passed that to ensure the favelados could prove and retain ownership of their area. The was to prevent major corporations from falsely claiming ownership and simply bulldozing the favelas to make way for their new buildings. Favelados obviously couldn't afford a lawyer, and most couldn't afford the time to go to court.

While it is safe to be near some favelas (like the one by my place). It is not safe, especially for a white person to be in them. Some bus routes often drive people through the larger favelas in Rio. The busses aren't used very much after dark.

Favelas have developed their own culture. It is rumored many have codes within the favela dictating no violence against others living in their favela, and other similar codes to help maintain a sense of order. Favelas often develop a different culture from the city that is 100m away, and the culture of different favelas is largely independent. An interesting effect of this is that larger favelas often open up the favela and promote tours and cultural exhibitions. It's not uncommon for a tour bus to pull into a large favela in Rio, and unload a bunch of foreigners for an exhibition of the local dancing (which will be unlike other dancing you'd see in Rio). The fact that these foreigners remain safe is strong case that there is some sense of organization and authority within the favelas.

The film City of God (Cidade de Deus) is a story of favela life in Rio. It's very good if you haven't seen it. All events are based on the truth.

In other news…
- I find it quite amusing that spell check wanted to turn “favelados” in to “avocados.”
-I am spending all weekend with some Brazilians at beach that’s removed from the city a bit.
-I’m thinking about running a marathon in Recife in 13 weeks. Perhaps not, I think the training would really take away from my ability to experience other things.


Anonymous drew said...

marathons are for weiners. don't do it.

9:03 AM  
Blogger Gregory said...

man i want to go to a favela and just talk to the people. i don't want to go if they will hurt my bony ass though.

7:22 PM  
Blogger Cassy said...

I sleep in a fort every night. But mine has a record player and misc. toys.

6:23 AM  
Blogger Brady Beckham said...

I've been told it's not safe.. but I haven't exaclty challenged that.

6:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I'm a student from Brazil and I'm working on a research project about favela tours. We're now working on the tourists's perceptions about tourism in Rocinha and were wondering if you would like to articipate as an interviewer. We could send you the questions (about 15) by email and would appreciate it if you could get back to us with any suggestions you find useful.

Thank you for your attention,


2:13 PM  

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