Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Comparing US Ghettos to Favelas

These are MY observations and opinions about what I see are the differences between American ghettos and the Brazilian Favelas. I am not a expert. This is my opinions from being in both places, what I see are the differences between the two places.

I remember reading a somebodys post on a internet website about them wanting to visit a favela. There were people who responded negatively and one response in particular made me think. The responder had wrote “You would not go into a poor neighborhood in your own country, so, why would you want to do this in Brazil?”

For foreigners, I think attraction to favelas is different because of the way the media portrays these communities. It first starts in how Brazil is promoted by tourism and films. City of God brought the favela issue to the front and this brought more attention to the favela. Carnival and Samba also created curiosity about the favelas. Foreigners were not raised with the prejudice against the favelas like Brazilians have been. Its sad becase much of Brazilian identity is from that of the favelas. Carnival, Samba, Feijoada, many of brazil’s top football players, and Capoeira all come from favelas.

Ghetto’s, favelas, whatever we call them are underserved areas of poor people. How poor? You would have to decide on your own what levels of poverty exist there. I can tell you in living in the favela here, yes, we are poor but we are not as poor as the slums in India or Africa.

My Observations about USA Ghettos and culture in the United States

Ghettos can be the inner city black neighborhoods or the midwestern predominantly white trailer parks. Ghettos are poorer neighborhoods.

In the US there will always be this thing about the individual. They are always talking about individual rights etc..American ghettos show this first hand in the way some of the people speak “I gotta get whats mine!” I heard this many times. Rarely did I ever hear the word “we” as part of speech. The US is about the “me” or “I”. There is little or no community bonding in the ghettos.

The problem starts when the country tries to brainwash people into believing they have a right at the “American Dream”. Whats the American Dream? A house, car, good job, nice neighborhood, picket fence with back yard, 2 kids? What? This is what the country feeds to the people. You gotta buy a house with a 30-40 year mortgage?? What??? 30-40 years with a ball & chain?? How do you know if you will live that long?? The US is a big corporation consumerist place. If you do NOT have the lastest technology, there is something wrong with you. This is the problem. The system of economics makes the people feel inadequate if they do not buy. And people buy into this. This dream is only afforded to the very few. Now in the US it is so expensive to live that both mother and father are working so much to provide these “things” that they call quality of life. Instead of having a smaller house and living within their paychecks, they need to buy some huge house, fancy car and put themselves in debt for the next 10 years. why? For what? Who are they trying to impress? For all that working they do, who suffers? The children suffer becase their parents never have the time to give them the attention they need to develop as compassionate human beings. Instead the children become drone like becase their “parents” are now the video game, tv, computer or nanny. There is a lack of personal connection between parents and child which results in the cycle of the child becoming the same as the parents. Why have children if you do not have the time to give to them?

My interpretation of the American Dream is people who are slaves to their jobs. I could never live this way. Working 8-10 hours a day 5-6 days a week with 2-3 weeks vacation a year? What? Where is the quality of life? But people do this just to have that Landrover or 30 inch flat screen tv????

I do not understand this? There is nothing wrong with wanting nice things but at what cost to time and happiness? What happens with this is sacrifice of the family.

For people in ghettos the same brainwashing exists. Everybody wants nicer “things”. The key word here is “THINGS”. How about strong family values or a good education? What happened to those? Everything is about material things. So with that comes a culture of feeling like they need to have the nicest clothes, jewelry, cars etc.In many ghettos, there are cycles of families living off the government on public assistance/welfare in public housing projects. This welfare and public housing is provided to the poor by the government. This sets up people to be complacent and lazy. When the government gives you housing and 500 or more a month, why work? People get comfortable with this and eventually get trapped in it. All your needs are taken care of so why go out and find work?

In these housing projects, there is electricity, water and proper sewage.so, people do not have to worry about their toilet not flushing. Most of the inner city housing projects in places like New York and Chicago tend to be high rise buildings where the basic needs are met. In a high rise every person has their own separate compartment. It may not be pretty but its adequate. There is very little embracing of community with the way buildings separate people. And sad to say, that most housing projects get destroyed by the residents who need this housing. This I do not understand. Why would a person destroy a place they need?

With poverty, drugs, like most impoverished areas, are the way some feel they can “get ahead”. I think the government of the US dumped drugs into the black neighborhoods to destroy their communities. Back in the 1960’s and 70’s the black power movement was strong and developing many powerful leaders and role models for their communities. After the drugs came in, the community died. Money and power became more important than family and community values. Now in these neighborhoods, blacks are killing blacks. There is not so much the race war. Its about power, drugs, women, fancy clothes, expensive cars and who can get the most. This is the capitalist way but at what cost to these communities? With drugs, brings addicts, crime, prostitution and other social problems. Instead of growing up to be the next astronaut or fireman, kids want to be the king drug dealer. They learn what they see, kids are not stupid. And some of the rap music reinforces this negative cycle.

There are gangs which control drugs but they are in certain small areas of neighborhoods. If the guy on the next corner is selling more drugs, the other guy further down the road eventually wants to take the guys corner becase its about money. He doesn’t care if the guy is black or where he’s from. He just wants more money and will kill that guy to take his corner. This is how the gangs expand. And they instill fear in those neighborhoods by killing anyone who gets in their way. Some of the gangs are organized and connected to mafia like groups and some are more small time dealers. Everybody buys their stuff from somewhere and the connections run deep.

I always found it strange how in some of the US cities, whites would live in one area and other races would be in separate areas. In the southern states there is so much more racism against African Americans. They still have extreme groups who try to spread propaganda against immigrants and races who are not white as well. And violence against minorities still exists today. The only American city that I found had good integration, was San Francisco. That city still had areas like Hunter’s Point and Bayview which tended to be African American neighborhoods, but there were many areas where all races lived together with little or no problems.

People in ghettos are part of the problem with the drugs and violence. In order to have a drug dealing problem in your neighborhood, you first have to accept drugs in your neighborhood. Too many people turned their backs to this all becase of money and now look who’s in control. The parents are responsible to raise kids to stay out of that trouble. Parents are responsible to educate their sons and daughters about not getting pregnant at 15. Babies having babies and letting their kids run wild. But when they get shot, its all denial about how their kids was caught up in some bad shit. It all starts with parenting. If you raise your son/daughter to value school and education and follow through with discipline, why would he want to become a drug dealer. Every drug dealer has a mother or father. Kids learn from examples. The ghettos have lost their neighborhoods to thugs. And the people in those neighborhoods are responsible and to blame.

Americans have access to everything, if they have the money. The living standard is good. Food is plentiful. Water, eletricty and sewage work 99% of the time. Technology is some of the best in the world. Yet, when I was living there, people would complain about everything. It was as if the stress of trying to live up to a society expectation was a burden on some people. I saw many scenes of parents aggressively yelling or even hitting children in public. I started to see a country and people who were angry and on edge about their lives. It was as if it was impossible to keep up to expectations.

In the US they have everything, yet they are still not happy. I started to question, what is happiness in the US?

The FAVELAS (Rocinha)

Our origins in the favelas come from ex-slaves. We favelados started with nothing. We never had expectations. Our lives were about survival. But our communities are far different from the US ghettos. Our communities started with people migrating to different parts of Brazil to find work. We worked together to build our communities with very little resources.

The only thing we have in common with ghettos is that they are poor areas, but the way we in favelas function, it’s a world apart. Our favelas are very different from ghettos. I am glad I grew up here and not in a American ghetto.

The favelas are also called slums or shantytowns becase of the way the people constructed their houses. In the beginning we had no running water or electricity, no infrastructure. We would find land and we would build becase we had no choice. We built houses on the hills becase this was the land available to us. We used whatever materials we had or could get. Jobs paid very little and not enough for to afford rent in the “formal” city. So the government for the longest time turned their back while the poor would build their shacks on the hill. In the beginning there was not much confrontation becase the favelados represented a large work force for the middle and upper classes. Who else is going to clean your house or sweep the streets? As favelas grew the state started having concerns. When you live in conditions where there is no sanitation, eletricty, water or anything else, problems start. We had problems with garbage removal and becase of this rats and diseases spread. The government ignored our problems but always complained about us. In my favela Rocinha people started to organize and in 1961 we developed our own form of government to represent us to the outside world. We called it a residents association becase our leaders represent the people who live in our favela. They help educate us about our rights and protect our interests in the place we live. It is not perfect but they do more than the Rio government has ever done.

We are seen as marginalized becase we live in areas where the government does not or rarely provides services. Marginalization also has to do with the media and how we as people are portrayed to the non favela world. Most favelados do not have much education but then again we do not have opportunity to receive quality education becase the tax money is not there. But how can a person pay taxes when they are living on less than $700R (aprox.$400US) a month? The rich can send their kids to private schools which ensure them opportunity to get into university. This is foreign to the favelado. Our public schools fail to give us that opportunity no matter how smart you are.

In the favela, everybody works. We have no public housing/housing projects, welfare, food stamps or social programs. You don’t work, you don’t live. We care about our community regardless of the problems. In the favela it is a community effort for survival and nobody is better than anybody else. We are all equal, we are all favelados. Are favela is far from perfect but for us, it works.

When people construct their homes, there are always people willing to help. My neighbors helped my father build his house. There are groups of men in the community who know how to build houses so there is not shortage of help. The only thing that separates our houses in the favela from those on the outside, is money. This is the way it is. I remember a story my father told me when I was 8 years old. He was leaving the house and I asked him where he was going. He told me that he had to help a guy fix his roof. I asked him why? And he replied, becase someday son, you may need help with your roof. So, it shows that the people try to build a bond in their community. When the outside world ostrasizes the favela, the people in the favela bond together for support.

The difficult thing about favela life is that everybody lives so close together. There is very little privacy. If you are not careful, people can get in your business. My father always taught me to be nice to people but we don’t need tell everything about us to everyone. The house I live in has good privacy becase the walls are thick made of cement and bricks. I do not hear much noise from my neighbors. But when we lived in the shack, we heard everything.

Many people who do not live in favelas in Brazil think the favela is one big shit hole full of vagrants, thieves, and drug gangs. I think every place has bad people. We have people like this but the favela is much more than a few bad people. Most of the people who live here are honest hardworking types who only want their opportunity. The word “favelado” to me has only one meaning, a person from the favela. Just becase one is poor does not make them a criminal. This attitude of stereotyping favelados as marginal is similar to American ghettos residents being thought in the same way. Not every African American kid growing up in the ghetto is a drug dealer.

When I was a teenager growing up in the favela, life was very different. The favela did not have as much organization and we had more people who did bad things here. There was more petty crimes and abuse. Around 1983 came the drugs into the community and with that came the organized gang. There was a good and bad side to this but the community changed drastically after this point. In Rocinha, our first drug lord “Dennis” changed the way of negative social behaviors in the favela. The “traficantes” (drug dealers), not only sold drugs but acted as a internal police for the community. They protected the community from outside police and rival gang invasions and established social codes inside the favela. Dennis and his gang laid down the laws. There would be NO stealing, robbing, raping or killing. If you did any of these things, you would be punished severely. There were several reasons for this. First the gang was in control and wanted to establish stability in the community. The second was to show that the favela was a safe place for outsiders to come to buy their drugs. They only sell marijuana and cocaine. They have no interest in meth, crack, heroin, crank or any of that designer drug stuff. So if your looking for ecstacy (E) or mushrooms, you find that in the nightclubs outside the favelas.

Today in Rocinha, its one gang that sells here, only one and they work like a business. They work like a mafia type enterprise. They are a very organized cohesive group. If there is a problem within the gang, it is dealt with internally. The gang wants no problem with residents here. In exchange for selling inside the community the gang does provide some need help to people and will sponsor community events. They are certainly far from angels, but if you are not a threat to their business, they do not care who you are.

Today, the same social codes exist and unlike a US ghetto, I can safely walk through my favela anytime, day or night without fear of having crime done against me. In a ghetto in the US, I could be killed just for being the wrong color. There are no controlled social codes in the American ghetto. Its only the strong survive, again, all about the individual, certainly not about community.

Becase of our simple and different way of life, Brazilian society has referred to us marginals. Our community is not seen as the same as outside neighborhoods. Also, becase of the drug traffic and other bad things that go along with it, the “formal” city fears us. To admit to living in a favela is a stigma. I am at the age where I do not care and I will not lie about where I am from. I am proud of the people and my community here in ROCINHA.

Where else can I feel totally free and walk the streets safely at 3 in the morning with total freedom? Where can I walk in my community where I get greeted 10-15 times a day by my neighborhood people? All I need to do is walk out my door and find a party, no need to “crash” the party as there is no such thing. Today I decided I wanted peace so I stayed inside and relaxed. In Rocinha, you will never be lonely.

People socialize all the time here and there is always people out in the streets. When I show people my community they are amazed at how people are so friendly. I always tell them that just as you are curious about the favela, they are also curious about you. The media spreads so much lies about favelas that the outside world only knows this. When you have no more information about a place, you don’t have much choice on what you can think. We, who live in the favela knows that all the media talks of is negative things. So, we who live there often wonder if we live in such a bad place, why would people want to come. But we also know that people out there educate themselves and want to see for themselves. It is common to hear upper class Brazilians say to foreigners, “why would you want to go THERE?” Our lives are simple here, but we know how to enjoy life too.

Our street parties include everyone, nobody is excluded. We can have a party for any reason, samba, funk, football, birthday or just people who want to get together. If you decide to want to come for a visit, I am always available to show people a good time here that you will never forget. I do not know if the American ghettos have street parties anymore. In our club called “Emocoes”, we can have 3,000 people in there dancing and not one fight breaks out. Can that be said in any US ghetto club?

As I see it after all I have written, I hope you can see too that American ghettos are nothing like Brazilian favelas. We are both economically challenged but the people and the way they interact have nothing in common.

Facebook: "DeeJay Zezinho"
Orkut: "Favelado do Sucesso"
tel: 21-8221-5572

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Shon Starr Tours

I had the opportunity to meet with Shon Starr, when he came to Brazil. He has been to Brazil before and he contacted me to see the favela of Rocinha, where I live. It was the normal initial contact of a person who wanted to see the community. I met him and his girlfriend Arielle at the Copcabana Palace at 9 am and we took the favela transportation to the top of the hill.

We eventually descended to see many things being a samba show, my friends awesome 360 degrees view of the favela, and to my roof where after a few hours we were able to sit have a drink, and talk with each other about our lives and goals with our work.

I found out that Shon was a Dj and had similar tastes in music and other things. When he told me about his tour company and website, I thought this was great because Brazil. Tourism is booming and will only get better with the coming of the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games . I wanted to know more about his entrepreneurship so this is why I wanted to write this story about him. I find his company to be cutting edge and thing people need to know about him.

Where were you born and raised?

I was born and raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I also spent about 5 years living in Nevada and California.
Tell me a little about your background (interests like art, sports, schooling etc)? I'm kind of a modern day renaissance man into everything from music to construction. I can make beats and rehab an entire house. I'm really into motorcycle riding though and own a couple of bikes, but my #1 passion is traveling, having visited over 13 countries and 100 cities.

Why did you decide to take my favela tour (and not another favela tour company) considering you had been here before?

Yes I had been to Rocinha before with some friends, but it was a quick visit and there was so much more that I wanted to see and learn about Rocinha. I had heard your name mentioned a few times for Favela tours and while doing some unrelated research on favelas in Rio I came across a video of you on Youtube talking about how your tours give you a much greater well rounded experience than what the other tour companies operating in Rocinha offer. So that really interested me especially since that's how I have always ran my nightclubs, done my promotions, and even deejayed my parties. I have always wanted to make what I do an experience and give people more and something different. This is also one of the main missions of Shon Starr Tours.

Were there things you saw in the favela that you could relate too?

Definitely! Even though there are many differences on the surface of how people live. When you get down to the basics we are all pretty much the same. Whether you're a trafficker, police, teacher, or even a tour guide most of us just want to live a nice life and have all of our basic needs met such as food, clothing, shelter, love, companionship, acknowledgement, etc. I saw this all over the favela and see it all over the world.

Your experience in the favela, how was it the same or different from poor neighborhoods in the United States?

One of the biggest differences was that it seemed like the residents of Rocinha have a lot more influence and control in their community than poor neighborhoods here in the US. It seemed to have very little outside influence. Poor neighborhoods here in the US are not as self sufficient as they are in Rocinha. There was one point in time when neighborhoods in the US were like this with many residents taking ownership and control of their community, but after segregation ended that drastically changed. Also in most poor neighborhoods here in the US you have a normal to heavy police presence. It still amazes me that with almost 300,000 people living on top of each other there is still law and order with absolutely no Police presence.

Tell me a little about the work (jobs) you have done in the past?

Every since I was a kid I had dreams of being in the nightclub business and owning my own club one day. I started out promoting and dj'ing my own teen parties at 14 years old and was spinning my first real nightclub gig even before I could drink at 16. I put a lot of time on the Philadelphia nightlife scene as a DJ/Promoter, eventually getting into management . After a few years I decided to take my act on the road and see what else the world had to offer and I ended up on the west coast in Nevada as a very successful General Manager running some well-known nightclubs for Caesars Palace Casino and celebrity Dennis Hof of HBO Bunny Ranch/Cat House fame. After a great run out west I came back home and took over running nightlife promotions for the Camel Tobacco Brand.

While taking a vacation in the Spring of 2009 in Costa Rica something magical happened during a hike in the Costa Rican jungle. I jumped off a 5-story bridge into a raging river and during that crazy jump I had a revelation that my purpose in life was now going to change. I knew right then and there that it would be my job to show people this adventure and thrill that I had just experienced and how beautiful the world really is. So I got back home and did a whole bunch of research, took some classes on tourism and travel, and then decided to launch Shon Starr Tours. But the world is big and I needed to focus on one place that I could learn like the back of my hand and become an expert on. So after visiting Rio de Janeiro in the Summer of 2009 I knew this was the place. I felt at home in Brazil and knew immediately that this was the place. After Rio won the 2016 Olympic bid that was the icing on the cake that sealed the deal for me. So I resigned from my comfy job with Camel Tobacco in February of 2010 and came to Rio to launch Shon Starr Tours and here I am.

Do you feel your past experiences in your other jobs will help with your new venture?

Absolutely! One of my nicknames in the nightlife world was the "Prince of Promotions" and I plan on bringing that same energy and success to my tour company. It's going to be a fun adventure not only for my clients, but also for myself. I don't care about being the biggest, but I will put my butt on the line and guarantee that I will be one of the best if not the best.

What first attracted you to come to Brazil?

I always like to say the beauty and the booty is what attracted me here. Brazil has the complete package. Hands down it has some of the most beautiful natural scenery, culture, music, people and also women on the planet.

What separates you from others in the tour industry?

I like to think of myself as the "special agent" of travel. I'm the guy you call when you want something adventurous, fun, and lot different than your usual plain jane trips. My focus is not only on being a great tour company, but being a great entertainment company as well. Meaning that along with the best tours you are also guaranteed a great memorable experience. I'm probably the one guy who could actually make a trip on a deserted island off the coast of Alaska fun and unforgettable. I mostly cater to private groups and VIP individuals and I don't just sit by the phone waiting for someone to say hey I would like to book a trip to Rio, can you help me? I create the party here too promoting at least one fun themed trip a month from the U.S. to Rio de Janeiro. On these themed trips I take between 10-12 special guests here to Rio for a week long party filled with plenty of culture, sight seeing, adventure, and partying. It's a real great opportunity to experience Rio in a group environment especially for those who would ordinarily travel alone.

What groups are you trying to attract with your tours?

I specialize in mid to high end Mancations, Girlcations, and Couplecations. I also will be promoting special Cougarcations for those energetic older women who still have it going on and are looking for some adventure.

What do you see in the future for your company Shon Starr Tours?

I'm very excited about this venture. I have a great team behind me and we plan on bringing some real exciting things to the tourism and travel industry. I'm a hustler, workaholic and perfectionist too so the future looks very bright. I actually see myself eventually being one of the most famous individual tour and travel promoters in the world and being a very instrumental player in promoting travel to Brazil.

Do you have plans to eventually move to Brazil?

Of course! Working on that now. Brazil is an amazing country and I love it. I'm a Rolling Stone though so I will never have one place that I call home, but Brazil will definitely be one of my homes.

Is there anything more you would like to say?

I was just like to say thanks to all the beautiful people of Brazil for all of their help, support and for creating such a great, fun, and exciting country. Yes Brazil has it's problems and has a way to go, like a lot of countries including the U.S. with things like poverty and a more equal distribution of wealth, but there is so much potential for great this country and I look forward to showing it off to the world.

Please tell us where we can see your website and any other websites/blogs you have?

I have my wild and crazy travel blog/website :
The Adventures of Shon Starr at http://www.shonstarr.com and my team and I also have the Brazil Geeks website at http://www.brazilgeeks.com giving you all the latest and greatest info and photos on Brazil.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Brazilian Police and their Cruel Tactics

Fundraising Party Cancelled!

I think everybody in the world knows about the immense flooding that took place here in Rio de Janeiro in the beginning of April. A total of about 250 lives were lost and 95% of those lives were favela residents.

The most lives were lost in Niteroi in places like Morro do Bumba, where the community was build on a garbage dump. But the Favela of Prazeres in the area of Santa Teresa in Rio de Janeiro, also lost about 30 people.

There has been a lot of donations and organizations formed to aid those people who have been displaced from their homes. My friend DJ Tee Cardaci lives very close to the Favela Prazeres and has many contacts there. Tee has had the opportunity to visit me several times here in Rocinha and he is a great guy.

He somehow through his connections, was able to hook up with dj’s who had planned a fundraiser for Prazeres. The plan was the party to be on Thursday night 29 April. There would be dj’s Tee, Marlboro and Sany Pitbull. And entertainer B’Negao. The thought of this party was to raise money to help those families living in the community that lost their homes or needed help.
All the money was to go to people in need. The Dj's are the best in Brazil.

I was in Santa Marta on Thursday and some of the guys there were going to go to the party. I would have loved to go, but there is a problem. Rocinha and Prazeres are controlled by two different drug factions. Rocinha is controlled by the ADA (Amigos dos Amigos) and Prazeres the CV (Comando Vermelho). I would be risking my life by going there. Even though I am not involved in any way with the drug factions, the guys who control Prazeres might think that I am somehow a threat. Sad, but true. It would be nice if the gangs could leave residents out of their personal wars.

I still think that the party is a great idea to bring exposure to the suffering of those in the favelas. And to help people who otherwise would receive nothing.

So, after returning from Santa Marta, I went to the internet to my Facebook page and read “PRAZERES COM MUITO ORGULHO” which means Prazeres with much pride. So, I thinking, great this party is on and many people will benefit from this. I may be from another “rival” favela, but I have in my nature wanting to see people helped who need it no matter where they are from. About 40 minutes later I read, “Party is cancelled due to problems beyond our control”. So, I am thinking wtf???

Today I get back on the internet after my tour and read that BOPE (Rio’s type of SWAT team) went into the favela to shut down the party. They kidnapped the head drug lord there and demanded a ransom. The police knew that it was the drug lords party and that there would be a lot of money around, which is why they did this. So much for cops just “catching the bad guy”. The story goes is that Eduardo Paes the governor of Rio does not want to see this favela helped and would like too see it removed. So it is as if the governor does not want to see these people helped. Especially by outsiders which the majority who would have gone to this party would have been. Shame on the government for doing this. Yet the government does not want to help people who need it the most right now, why not allow outsiders to help?

If I get more information, I will report it.


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Monday, May 3, 2010

Some interesting things about me

Get to know ME

Ok this is something that I think will provide interesting responses and you will get to know a bit about me..

1. If you could build your house anywhere, where would it be?
ROCINHA of corse near the top of the hill with a view and I need to have a roof so I can make some parties.

2. What's your favorite article of clothing?
t-shirts and hoodies.

3. What's your favorite physical feature of the opposite sex?
Smile and eyes

4. What's the last CD that you bought?
Furacao 2000 Brazilian funk

5. Where's your favorite place to be?
On my roof in Rocinha, sitting looking at the view to the beach,
Thinking about how lucky I am to live in such a nice place.

6. Where's your least favorite place to be?
The bathroom

7. What's your favorite place to be massaged?
My back

8. What's most important, strong in mind or strong in body?
Strong in mind

10. What's your favorite TV show?
CSI, Dexter, Weeds, Detective shows

11. What's your favorite kitchen appliance?
Blender, I like to make shakes and juices

12. What's your favorite childhood memory?
Fishing with my dad at the beach

13. What makes you laugh?
Silly cats, animals and kids that do silly things

14. What makes you really angry?
Betrayal and people who lie and steal

15. If you could play any instrument what would it be?
Guitar or piano

16. Scariest moment of your life?
As a 10 year old seeing my older brother shot

17. Do you believe in afterlife?
Not sure of this

18. What is your Favorite season?
All of them

19. What is your least Favorite household chore?
Cleaning the bathroom

20. If you could have one super power, what would it be?
To be able to be invisible

21. If you have a tattoo, what is it?
Favela all over my body in homage to the great people who live here in

22. Who was your first real love?
Not telling.

23. What song do you wish you had written?
REACH by Gloria Estefan

24. Do you prefer cats or dogs?
Cats rule, dogs drool..Cats of course.

25. What's in the trunk of your car?
A car, whats that? Never had a car, sorry

26. What is your favorite day?
Friday or holidays

27. Using only one word, describe yourself:

28. What's your favourite word?
Peludo or in English: fuzzy

29. What is your favorite color?

30. what is your lucky number?

31. What do you expect to be doing 10 yrs from now? 20
yrs. from now? In otherwords, what are your goals?
Have a awesome art school here in the favela. Our company will dominate the favela tourism industry here in Rocinha and I will have 10-15 guides all from here earning a decent wage, all the while giving great service to our visitors from all over the world.

32. What characteristics you most admire?
Loyalty, compassion, honesty, courage

33. Type of music?
Many styles I like but prefer old (1990’s) Brazilian funk.

34. Favorite food?

35. Beer or Wine?
Neither, I don’t drink


Commonly Asked Questions

Many of you who read my blog and others often write me e-mails asking questions about life here in the favela. I am going to put some questions here and answer then so all of you can read. I will do my best to answer honestly and in as much details I know.

Some of the questions are direct and I need to think a long time about how to answer becase I need to put my mind in the outsiders way of thinking.

Why do people visit the favelas?

I can only talk about my favela as I have only lived in Rocinha. I think people see movies like City of God or Tropa Elite and have curiosity to see if favelas have this kind of troubles. But in reality we all know that if Rocinha was dangerous, why would there be tours here? I need to make clear that there are times when the favela is dangerous especially when the police come in. Not every favela is the same. I think Complexo do Alemao, Complexo do Mare and Morro dos Macacos are far more potential for danger as the police tend to make more actions those places. We had a police operation just last month and before that there was one in august. They are not invading our favela every month.

To get to basics, I think many people come becase we have much art and culture here to see. Some of the best football players are from favelas. Samba, Funk, and Pagode are music that is originated in favelas. We have great Capoeira and other activities here that I think people have interest to see. For me the favela is about the warm friendly people who live here. I think people also want to see how the favela and the people who live there survive without government involvement in the comunity. We have had to do for ourselves. The favela is about comunity. Its about “we”, not “me”.

Many of the people who have come to visit me come to learn about the living conditions, architecture, anthropology and other studies. They have a sincere interest in wanting to know about the comunity so they can in some way help. I enjoy these people becase they have an interest to get to know the favela on a deeper level. They do not want to tour, take fotos and then brag to their friends that they were “in a favela.” We also have some great views of the city being that we are locate high up on the hills.

It is sad if people come on tours to hopefully see the guys with guns and the drug trade. I do not promote this kind of negative tourism. It is a reality of life here that we have this negative thing but I think people need to see beyond this and enjoy the favela for the 98% of the good things that exist here. I hope more people come to see the true spirit of the people here. I live here becase of the people not the poor built housing.

Is living there really dangerous? The news makes out favelas to be like “war zones” and dangerous for anybody to go there?

I think this really depends on the favela that somebody lives in. Rocinha is huge and takes up 64,000 square meters. The density of this place is unbelievable and this place never sleeps. With a population of about 300.000 people we are going to have bad people who live here. Rocinha is the largest favela and is famous and infamous becase of its size and the amount of drug money that comes through this place. (aprox 10 million a month)

I do not think it is dangerous to live here. The traficantes act as police within the favela and keep a watch on negative social behaviours. I have never been robbed or had anyone stole anything from me. I can leave my door open and not worry about people coming in with bad intentions. There is no rape or killing here. If you are caught doing any of these things the traficantes are like the judge and jury and if proven you did these things, there are severe punishments.

I am not praising the traficantes, it is about economics for them. Its about MONEY. If the favela inside is safe, people from the outside will feel safe to come in and buy their product. If the favela inside was dangerous, sales would drop or not exist. The majority of the people who buy drugs are from the outside.

The favela becomes a dangerous place when the police come in to make a operation. Its obvious to all of us who live here that the traficantes pay the police to stay outside of the comunity. When the police make a operation here they know who and what they are looking for. The police think the residents support the traficantes and treat everybody as if they are in the gang. It is hard not to support someone who has brought some infrastructure to the favela. The government failed to bring basic services, and where the government failed, the traficantes stepped in to bring these much need things to the favela. Things like transportation, gas, and helping those most in need, the traficantes acted like a government.
It is difficult thing to talk about becase many innocent people have been killed or suffered here at the hands of the “authorities” talking about the Brazilian government. Think about this for a minute.
Let me ask you this, who would you trust?
The guy who lives in your neighborhood, helps provide in some ways for the comunity, provides protection for the favela, and he doesn’t mess with anybody, but he happen to be a traficante? Or
The guy who is NOT from the favela who treats every resident like a criminal and sometimes abuses them?
Tough decision yes? I tend to give more trust to the guy who is from my favela who leaves me to live my life and doesn’t bother with anyone.

I think most people know that in most countries in South America, the police are currupt and not to be trusted. How can people respect authority when the authorities break all the rules. The police are supposed to be the “good guys”. But in the favela the traficantes show more respect to the residents than the police. So the people we are supposed to respect (police) are actually worse than the people who are the “bad guys” (traficantes). There is something really wrong with this. But it is our reality in the favela.

The most dangerous time in Rocinha was in 2004 when the ADA
(Amigos dos Amigos) drug gang took over control of Rocinha from the CV (Comando Vermelho). We had 5 days of war like conditions here and we had no eletricty and could not leave our houses.

The media destroyed the image of the favela a long time ago. It is sad that when favelas are in the news it is mostly about drugs, trafficking or some other negative thing. I think Americans would agree that bad news sells. As I have seen the news there and it is the same thing, automatically if you are poor, you must be a criminal.

How does the level of poverty there compare to some of the countries that you have been to?

I have not traveled as much as people think. I am not a expert on poverty. I have been in North America. I read a lot and watch documentaries as I enjoy learning about other places. I also have met many people from all over the world and ask them about poverty in their countries. From what I seen and know, poverty varies depending on the development of the country and the type of government. From what I have seen in the USA, there is poverty but it is not like what we have here. There are no favelas in the US. There are ghettos where there are public housing complexes but these places have running water, sewers system and eletricity and on top of it the government helps them with something called welfare and food stamps. If you are poor in the US there are also programs you can apply for and the government will help you. We have nothing like that here. Seeing the programs they have nobody should be starving or homeless in the US. This does not mean that there is not suffering, prejudice, marginalization and other social programs there.

Favelas are poor comunities but our comunties are much better living conditions than the slums in India or those in Africa. I have never been to Africa or India but talking with people who are from there, I think I live in a good place. It is far from perfect and has its challenges, but I have a roof over my head, enough food in my stomach and job that I love. I am VERY thankful for the things I have. I am no expert on poverty.

When the police do come in the neighborhood, what do you do?

This depends on where I am. If I am inside the community, I go to my house or a friends house if I am far from my house. If I am outside the community, I wait until they leave then, I return to the favela. In march we had an invasion on the 11th and I was in my house at the time. I could see everything from my window. Three bulletproof helicopters were circling in Cachopa and Dioneia, a area I used to live. I could hear shooting and grenades. The police usually invade early in the morning when there is few people in the streets. But this invasion was at 1 in the afternoon when the streets were full of people and kids were going to school. Not very smart of the police and surprising that no innocents were killed. In the end, the police failed to catch the top guy and they killed 7 traficantes in their 90 minutes war. After 3pm it was like the favela went back to normal life. People did not sit around thinking of what happened. They went back to living life and working. The same with me, after 3:30, I went out and did whatever I did that day. Life goes on.

If you wanted, could you move out of the favela?

Economically I do not have enough money to leave. If I did have enough money, I do not think I would want to leave. Rocinha is my home. I am loved, cared for, wanted and needed here. Why would I want to leave. Despite the challenges of living here, I feel that if I left, I would be abandoning the comunity that has give so much to me. I think people here in Rocinha like it that I came back and this time have decided to stop traveling and stay here. Everytime, I lived outside of Rocinha, I had a poster on my wall of Rocinha and I would every morning and night look at the poster and think about all my friends and family there. I do not have a purpose to leave here.

What kinds of things do you do there where you live?

I will answer first about what I do. When I am not working, I clean the house, wash clothes and make sure I have enough water. When it rains, I collect buckets of water and put them in sealed containers. This water is used only if I do not have water or the “bomba” (well) is empty. I have gone without water before and it is not good to not have a shower or use the bathroom.

I am learning how to use some new music software called Traktor, which is a dj program. I like to read the newspaper, especially like reading about what is going on in the world. Of corse I try to get on the internet once a day to check in with friends on facebook and check e-mails. If I have nothing to do I sleep or walk around the favela and visit with friends. I have many friends who are connected to activities I do and used to do in the past. Judo and Jiu-Jitsu are two things I practiced when I was younger. I started judo in 1984 and stopped in 1993. I changed to jiu jitsu in 1996 as I wanted a change in my activities. I have ALWAYS been associaited with art in some way. Grafitti is looked down on by many people becase of some peoples use of public property. Respect to all the graf people out there. I had no interest to bomb and possibly get caught and go to prison. If somebody wanted a piece, I put it on paper or on a t-shirt. If somebody paid me to paint a wall, I would.

I work with a art school here in the favela which keeps me busy. I like teaching kids and I see some great talent in this place. Tio Lino who is the director of the art school has been volunteering his time teaching the kids here for over 20 years. He is a retired life guard who was born and raised in Rocinha. He is good people and one of the people here who I trust the most.

As for other people, there is much to do. Sports like football, judo, jiu jitsu, boxing, running, swimming, karate, tae kwondo, and we even have a group who plays tennis. But we do not have tennis courts, the kids need to train outside Rocinha for this.

There is a group of women who teach others in the community how to make clothes. They live in one of the poorest areas of the favela but they are being sought by designers in foreign countries becase their work is so good.

There is all types of music here that people can enjoy. From Thursday to Sunday we have all types of parties in the favela. Walking through the streets here, you can hear anything from samba to American rock & roll. I like to take tourists to funk parties here in Rocinha.

My personal goal is to someday open a DJ school here and teach the kids how to play all kinds of music. One, they get to enjoy music but also learn a skill where they can eventually earn money.

Don’t you think favela tours present the community in a bad way, like a zoo tour or some kind of poverty porn?

This really depends on the tour guide and the company. I have written about this before. I will say this 100%, the favela does not like the Jeep tours as there is little or no interaction with the community. We are not animals in a zoo. Sitting in a jeep driving through a community is not the way to learn about the place.

We have about 7 major tour companies that come through here. Some companies are better than others. Some give a portion of what they earn through the tours to non NGO’s and others give nothing. People who have interest of knowing can find out without my putting it in print here.

The main things I have a problem with the tour companies is not one of them lives in the favela and VERY FEW if any have tour guides who are from here. There is Exotic Tours run by Rejean Reis. She has two guides who I know very well. Luiza and Nildo. I have worked with Nildo before. The sad thing is she charges $85 reais for a 2.5 hour tour of the favela. She pays her guides very poorly. I saw Nildo with a group of 7 people last week. That’s 7x85R=595Reais. This is what Exotic Tours makes. And they make 2 tours a day. I asked Nildo what he got paid, he told me $20reais. I think this is exploitation. The outsider taking advantage of the favela. Even if she could pay him 20% of $595R, that would be about $120R. that’s a more respectable amount than $20reais? But she knows that the average worker in the favela earns between 25-40 reais a day. So she think that he is only working 2.5 hours making the tour and this is good enough. I have no respect for this kind of person who takes advantage of our comunity. And what I write about Exotic Tours is direct information from a employee.

This is one of the main reasons I started my small company. The main things are to keep the money in the favela and to keep our economy going. And giving people jobs and paying them a decent wage. I pay my guides better than any company. I have done the research and know what the companies pay people. All I know is my guides are treated with respect and are happy when they work with me.

I do know of one company that likes to glorify the drugs and violence things. They sell more to the younger back packer crowd. I have no respect for this company as some of their guides I heard them exagerrate things to be so dangerous without thinking that if it was so dangerous, you would not be giving tours here. They also extort money from a local art studio by not allowing other tour groups to this studio. If a piece of art sells, they get a comission. Are they not getting enough money from their tours? This is double “fucking” the people in the favela. The tour company restricts the studio from having other tourists come to the studio therefore this is potential money lost. To see a video about this and one of the artists complaining about how this tour company treats them, go here: www.current.tv
And type in “favela tours”. The video you need to watch is listed under the title “Slumming It”. Watch it and see for yourself. Please watch the whole video as the artists speaking about this is close to end of the video.

There is another tour company that I will never understand why they make tours here. The owner is a guy about 35 who comes from a very rich background. In Brazil he could be doing anything as he has the family money and connections. After all, his real last name is Neimeyer (although he does not openly use this name. I wonder why?), yes the famous architecht (Oscar Neimeyer) who has designed many of Brazil’s famous buildings. He is related. Now the question I ask is, why is a guy from a rich background making money showing the favelas?

We have a few independent people WHO LIVE HERE who make tours. I support them more than anybody. Who better to learn about a place from, then somebody who LIVES THERE. People who live here have a interest in wanting to show the reality of life here without talking about the negatives all the time. How about the history or how the people chose this place to settle? I will always first and foremost support the residents here who are making tours. These are the people who should be earning this money. For many of the outsiders it is about greed and making money off the favela.

Unfortunately poverty of different levels exists everywhere. Nobody wants to be poor or suffer. Poverty is not a choice, its due to many things. Where you are born, the economics of your parents, education, who you know to get what you want? Nobody chooses this life, its just the circumstance some of us are born into.

I prefer to show people the good that exists in favelas, the reality of the average person who lives here.

I thought the words “favela” and “favelado” were negative connotations to the places and people who live there. What are your thoughts on this?

This depends on who is using these words. I think older people becase they have suffered more, prefer the word “comunidade” or community to the word favela. Many times you will hear people use the word “morro” or “hill”. In Rio most of the favelas are in the morros or hills. I prefer the word “favela” over the words “slum” or “shantytown”. I think “favela” sounds nicer. As the real meaning of the word “favela” is that is a plant that grew on the hills where the first people settled in Rio de Janeiro.

As for the word “favelado” Its suppose to mean “slum dweller” or a person who lives in the “favela”. Some people have added meaning to this word to add that yes it is a person who lives in a favela, but the person is also dirty, uneducated, a thief and any other bad characteristic a person could be. For me, the word “favelado” there is only ONE meaning and that is a resident of a favela. I am a favelado and have no shame of this.

You mentioned that you spent some time in the US. What are the things you miss most about living in the United States?

This will sound bad, but I miss the food. Especially the junk food like KFC, Arby’s, Wendy’s. I also miss good Chinese food. Since I have been back I have not eaten Chinese but desire to. I miss some friends. In the US most of the time, things work there. Money talks and competition tends to help improve customer service. I think the customer service tends to be better in the US becase the people work for tips becase their regular wage is small.

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