My South American Adventure: Rio’s Favela’s

I guess we’ve all seen the photos of brightly coloured houses, stacked high, perched precariously on the side of mountains in every guide book of Rio… they look cute and funky, right? …let me tell you, deep in the heart of the favela, the reality is very very different.

We’re given a stark warning by our guide: “don’t take pictures of people, they’ll take your camera [later we found out, “or will be shot” as an alternative]; don’t give them money for nothing, you’ll insult their honour; buy their wares at stalls; be respectful” … again later we were told that “they will know where you are at all times”

The hour long walk through the favela was sobering to say the least ~ there are narrow steep passages, with some sort of water draining away down the middle ~ it’s an imperceptible maze that winds its way through the dense ramshakledness of the favela. It’s not a place to explore on your own. At. All!

The guide is greeted with warmth by everyone who passed, but I couldn’t help but think that some of those passing were checking us out, seeing what we’re doing, what we’re taking pictures of.

We listened to young guys play brilliant rhythmic drums on tin cans and plastic buckets; we bought locally made cakes; bought bracelets; visited a day centre with lots of giggling children ~ our support of the community aiding, I’m sure, ensuring our safe passage through this frankly bloody dangerous area. If we were in any doubt of this the bullet holes in the walls were a stark reminder ~ a few months ago while doing the same tour tensions flared resulting in a 4hr gun fight. As firework warning/message shots rang out as we were coming to the end of our hour long trek and we’re told it’s a message about maybe us and ‘hide-the-drugs’, maybe there’s an official around, or maybe just something else, you really realise this isn’t a place to wander into or to disrespect anyone who lives here.

It’s definitely not all doom, gloom, drug dealing and gangs ~ there are projects to help educate the residents and enabling them to go to work. It’s hard to imagine how there will ever be a time when the favela doesn’t exist

In stark contrast there was so much artwork among the narrow alleys.

I can’t get those images and people out of my head ~ what do any of us have to complain about? Nothing, absolutely nothing.

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