Rio de Janeiro
A week ago I returned from a 6-day trip to
Chaos and Order
Chaotic is a fitting word to begin describing
Rio’s traffic, noise, crime, pollution, poverty and general disarray make
Given my generalization that Rio is far more chaotic a city than Baires, I must qualify that I found peace and order in two places I thought I never would: in two favelas and in the Maracanã,
Favelas and Villas Miserias
The Brazilian favela (slum) has achieved international infamy for being a hotbed of violence and drugs.
One of my favourite movies, Cidade de Deus, portrays several decades of a government housing project and the evolution of a turf war between rival narco gangs. When trying to imagine a favela, gripping scenes from Cidade de Deus inevitably come to mind.
Given this preconception, I was curious to visit and learn more about
The tour was perhaps the highlight of the trip. Our guide, an Argentine who has been living in a favela for several years, was very informative and open about discussing favela life. Also, some of the proceeds from the tour were donated to an after-school program for kids in the Vila Canoa favela.
The tour started in Rocinha, the largest favela in Rio, and possibly the largest in all of
The government, along with the Inter-American development Bank played an important role in providing basic infrastructure. However, it is the narco gangs that are the ultimate authority in the neighbourhood. Police rarely enter the favela, and if they do, they almost certainly provoke attacks from the drug lords.
This excerpt explains the role of the gangs in much the same way our tour guide presented them:
Rocinha, like many of Rio’s favelas, was under the control of a criminal faction known as the
Given the zero tolerance for delinquency within the favela, our guide explained that Rocinha is a relatively calm and peaceful place. Indeed, I felt more at ease walking around Rocinha than strolling around seedy Avenida Copacabana, the main strip located a block away from the world’s most famous beach.
Our guide emphasized that favelados are generally happy with their neighbourhood and ever since basic services and infrastructure arrived, few have a desire to leave. I found this hard to believe considering the stark differences between the favelas and wealthy neighbourhoods only footsteps away.
For instance, as can be seen in this photo above, at about 200 meters away from Rocinha, lies the residence of a private American school. Monthly tuition at the school runs $3000 reales per month (~$1400 US), while the average family’s salary in the neighbouring favela is 1/10 that amount, at around $350 reales (~$160 US)!
Furthermore, if a family has to subsist on $350 reales, I wondered why the government didn’t lower the high public transportation costs. For instance, the subway costs $2.30 reales (US $1.00) per trip while bus fares usually run between $1.80-$2.15 reales. If someone travels to work twice per day, twenty times per month, that’s $92 reales – one quarter of the average salary spent traveling!
While I am making quick generalizations and calculations, I can’t help but think there’s a link between the widespread poverty and stark inequality, and the power of the drug lords. In
It later occurred to me that a statement I heard from an Argentine artisan along Copacabana’s beach, underlies my hypothesis: “Acá hay pocos caciques pero muchos indios. En
He went on to explain that the Argentine disregard for rules and their innate craftiness, contrasted by the deference and laidback attitude of Brazilians, is the reason why villas in
Futebol and Fútbol
Hours upon arriving in
When observing the surprisingly indifferent carioca reaction in the bars and on the streets, as well as reading newspaper headlines the next day, I could tell that this rivalry continues to mean more to Argentines than it does to Brazilians.
A few hours after
While I was pleasantly surprised to observe the relative calm and order of the favelas, I was utterly disappointed by the relative calm and order at the futebol match.
I might as well enjoyed the Maracanã on my own (with a Brahma, of course):
Once the world’s largest stadium, having held over 200,000 fans for the 1950 World Cup Final, and can now can hold around 80,000, the Maracanã was only a third full! The tour guide explained that the Fluminense fans are a wealthier bunch and not all that passionate. They don’t make the trip to the Maracanã since they would rather watch the games in the comfort of their upper class homes. Below is the Fluminense stadium section:
Vasco’s torcida (hardcore fans) managed to make a decent showing (pictured below), but still paled in comparison to the craziness of
Exemplifying that this wasn’t an off-night for the torcidas, were two stadium regulations which would never be permitted in
First, fans were allowed to buy beer during the match. In
As I began to draw these conclusions regarding the relative calm of
In the midst of the jogo bonito, the laidback beer drinking, and the melodic chanting and cheering at a Botafogo-Fluminense match that same week, a torcedero was killed.
At that point, I realized that a lot more joins Rio and