Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Don´t believe everything you see on TV: A day in a favela

Hi everyone, Veronica here! Greetings from Rio de Janeiro. I am currently at the International Brain Research Organization conference for the week, and I have taken the opportunity to explore Rio in my free time. Of course, I have hit the main tourist attractions like Christ the Redeemer, going to the World Cup stadium, etc. (which you will see later in a photo blog). BUT, I did something that most tourists don´t do; I went to a favela, the Portuguese word for "slum". Below is part of the favela.

The thing about this favela was that you had to go through it using a moto-taxi or walk to it to get to Vidigal mountain and beach (photos later). Since our final destination was to get to the top of the mountain, we just took a (very scary) ride to the top, where the favela was just a massive blur. But on the way back, we realized we had a lack of money to catch a bus AND a moto-taxi, so we just chose to walk down.

In all honesty, when I realized we were walking down, I had a specific, crude image in my head: starving people, trash everywhere, a lack of resources, every man for himself. But in all honesty, walking through the slum, I realized what a community it was - how everyone took care of each other and shared. When I talked to a Brazilian (Silvia), she told me that favelas are usually very cheap land, and that is why there are so many buildings close together. Anyways, there was literally everything you needed in the favella: a clothing shop, a market, restaurants.... even hair and nail shops! It was as if it was a city that was just very compact and close together. In addition, you could definitely see that everyone knew each other because everyone lives in such close quarters. It was also interesting to learn about how favela culture worked from my Brazilian friend (Silvia), and how favela inhabitants would never steal from each other, for they were a large community; a large, extended family if you will.

Of course, I am not saying that their living situations were ideal, and perhaps I was in a "good" favela, but the image I had in my head was completely different. And to be honest, when walking through the favela, I found the buildings quite beautiful, for the people had found innovative ways to make the place beautiful - like adding graffiti, beautiful paint, or tiles to the walls of the buildings.

Overall, I thought it was an interesting, eye opening experience, and it was definitely interesting to see a different side of Brazil - one that is not as commercialized and catered towards tourists.

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