Brazil post 3 – The Favela experience.

3Now that all the world cup mayhem has finished the Favela’s of Brazil are now dealing with their day to day struggle. In I990 whilst visiting Rio de Janeiro I approached the subject of Favelas to two local nurses from the safety and comfortability of an Ipanema bar. They had mentioned they had a work colleague who lives in a Favela and would try to arrange a visit for me. I had learned that these places were dangerous, with frequent ‘shoot outs’ from feuding drug gangs. They were invariably governed by the drug barons and at that time were effectively ‘no go areas’ for outsiders, even the police wouldn’t go in. So for a ‘Gringo’ wandering in would be stupidity. My enthusiasm waned a little until I met them again with the news of the go ahead with assurance that not only was he a community leader with respect from the inhabitants, that their work colleague Eduardo would be my ‘armed’ chaperone. I was swayed. 11

I met up with the two girls who decided to come along as it would be a new experience for them as well, and would translate for me. We met Eduardo one mile away from the Favela who then accompanied us in the car to the entrance in the Salgueira district of North Rio. Keeping very close to Eduardo we gradually walked up the steep gradient to where he lived. My trust was totally reliant on him for my safety as I witnessed many occupants holding guns and rifles including some children. The tension was relieved once we arrived at what was a childs 5th birthday party. We were welcomed and enjoyed the fun, hospitality and family happiness that is often overlooked. I met and photographed many wonderful and dignified people who had to endure so much hardship. Unacceptable sanitation little or no electricity in such a wealthy city unlike many African places I’d previously experienced.25

There was one telephone for the whole Favela which was amplified with a loudspeaker to announce the name of the call awaiting. I couldn’t begin to imagine what this place would be like after a monsoon. Whilst photographing the cityscape from the roof of the child’s party I heard distant gunshots followed by a small group of men accompanying a wounded or deceased body on a home made stretcher. Such a mixture of happiness and pride with the ugly violence polarised by the wealth, educated and developed Rio De Janeiro. 41610 I remember getting into the car to leave without turning my back.

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