Thursday, October 21, 2010

More Prejudice and Misinformation about Favelas

My good friend Jim Shattuck writes a blog about his life in Brazil and one person wrote below their opinions about a post Jim wrote about favela tours. I respect the idea that there are those who do not like favela tours. That is not the problem here.

I think it is important that readers know what is going on about favelas. I decided to respond to what this guy wrote. As a favela resident I am tired of being socially excluded, stigmatized and marginalized by people who do not know me or about the place I live. I am speaking up for all the people of the favelas as their voice need to be heard.

Ray’s post is in italics and mine is in bold font.

Jim’s website is below:

Ray Adkins writes:
 I totally respect your opinion and I admire your initiative, you will be doing more for Brazil in the short time you are there than most do their entire lives.

You make it sound like we in favelas have no hope. How wrong you are. Things are improving for favela residents.
It maybe slow in coming but we see it here in Rocinha with the PAC Project.

My personal opinion about favelas is that I am against the tours and I am also against ignoring them as if they didn't existed.

What he continues to write below has nothing to do about favela tours or the project we are trying to make here for the community. So you are also “against ignoring them as if they didn’t exist”. So how does a person learn or understand about favelas if they come to brazil and do not have access? What do you propose for favelas not to be ignored? Many people contrary to what people think, come on tours to understand the favelas and then return to volunteer or implement a project.

Ray, why is it that all you write is all negative things? Are you just trying to discourage people from helping? Whats your point? So, Ray do you have a solution? You can say tear all the favelas down but that is approximately 35% percent of Rio’s population. Or about 2.5 million people. Ray do you really think that the Brazilian government, as corrupt as it is has a true interest to help ALL the poor people in Rio? Especially by building housing for us people, I think not! (I am talking about Rio because I live here, Sao Paulo is another thing).

I find it interesting how people have opinions but based on what information? Where does the information come from media? people? Personal experience? It is difficult for me to read what this guy has written below because although there are some truths to what he says, there is also a lot of exagerrations or outright lies? Where do people get this stuff?

I would much rather hear somebodys opinion about something that is based on their personal experience rather than what they read or hear. By what this guy writes its obviously not from personal experience.

I think favelas are the most humiliating form of living besides being a homeless person, favelas are dangerous places because they are mostly built on the sides of mountains without any proper infra-structure and when there is a strong rain storm people living in favelas are under risk of being buried alive along with their children or they are built on the banks of polluted rivers and are subject to constant flooding.

Ok so YOU think they are humiliating forms of living. As somebody who lives in a favela, I actually like living here and do not feel humiliated by living here. That is something within YOU to say this. I am very proud to live here in Rocinha. We who live in favelas only want equal opportunity for jobs and to be treated with respect, nothing more. There are definitely challenges and problems but I find there is more a community spirit and people here actually CARE about each other compared to other places I lived in the world. I will never say favelas are paradise or perfect but then again paradise and perfection do not exist. But this is my life and I am happy in my current situation. I live in a house with four walls, a roof, electricity, water, a toilet that operates, and it is confortable.

So if I all in a sudden became rich and was to move out of the favela. What would I have? More stuff? A nicer place? Maybe…but would I be as happy as I am now? Probly not, becase I was not raised with upper class people. I have nothing in common with them. I have no interest in designer clothes, shoes, fancy cars..I am more interested in being part of a community that cares about me where I feel I have a valued place. Favela or not Rocinha is my home. I will not abandon her for money.
Being homeless is just that. Living on the streets is just that. Favelas are nothing like that. Favelas are tight knit communities where people work together and support each other.

It is true that in Rio most of the favelas are built on hillsides but not all are dangerous nor do we lack infrastructure. We have our own. The only thing that separates us from the formal city is money. We have had to create our own infrastructure where the government fail to help.

The reason favelas exist is becase of the lack of housing for the poor working class. Unlike other places we do not have the WELFARE system, the DOLE, food stamps, section 8 or whatever… that people can use, abuse and be lazy. People in favelas live there becase there is no other option.


Favelas far away in the north or west zones have more problems and challenges compared to where I live.
In Rocinha 95% of the homes are made of brick and cement and are built solidly into the earth. We have two areas Macega and Roupa Suja high up the hill with about 40 shacks that are in the process of going to be removed.

Last April about 200 people died from the heavy rains and most were in two favelas, Morro dos Prazers in Santa Teresa and Morro do Bumba in Niteroi. Prazers hill has always had problems with mudslides unfortunately and Bumba was the favela that was built on top of a garbage dump. With these two areas I agree with what the writer says. I do not know much about Sao Paulo favelas as I do not live there and feel it incorrect to write about something that I haven’t experienced personally.

I think favelas are dangerous because people living in them make illegal electrical connections to steal electricity and live under constant risk of electric shocks and devastating fires, which have happened lately in Sao Paulo favelas and have been widely reported on the media.

In some favelas this is true but in Rocinha where I live we have a company called LIGHT that is a joint venture of Brazilian and Canadian. We have a power grid at the bottom of the hill and most people DO PAY for their electricity. There will always be those who cheat whether it be steal electricity, cable or internet. When I lived in the USA I knew many people cheating the system. Its is not right, but people do it. All I can tell you is that I DO PAY a monthly electric bill. As for fires we have are usually due to stupid people burning garbage. Again I can not speak about Sao Paulo.

I think favelas are dangerous because they live off the grid,on stolen and invaded property, pay no taxes, have little or no social services such as Fire Departments, Police and Ambulance services due to difficult access due to it's lack of planning for streets or any access what so ever.

In Rocinha we have our own firemen (Rambo da Rocinha being one) and since the building of the new hospital UPA, we do now have ambulances that go through our community. We have one main street and three smaller streets at the bottom of the favela. But Ray is correct that many favelas have dirst roads and not paved streets.

You need to understand the history of how favelas came to be and the laws about open not private land. Its obvious Ray that you are not from Brazil. Laws are different in other countries, you know? Some favelas do live off the grid and the land at the turn of the century was given to the people as the government did not follow through on their promise. The promise was that for those soldiers who fought in the Canudos War (1893-1897) on the side of the government, in the northeast of Brazil. The soldiers would receive in exchange jobs and housing. The soldiers were able to find jobs, but the government lied to the people and did not provide or help them with housing. Instead the government told the ex-soldiers that they could build their houses on the hills. The first official favela was Morro da Providencia (1898) which still exists today. So, this was how the favelas began being named after the thorny plant that grew on the hillsides.

There is also a law pertaining to open non private land that if a person can put up a house overnight and it is considered stable, they cannot be removed. This is foreign to people in other countries because of boundaries and laws, but this is how it works here. This is one reason the favelas grew. Lack of affordable housing for poor working class. If they want favelas to go away, the city needs to have a higher minimum wage, people have to pay their help more, so the poor have options other than favelas. But, please who are we kidding, favelados serve a purpose for low paid labor and the upper classes certainly do not want to pay us more..

I would love to see Rio run one week without “favelados” (favela residents like ME)..the city would shut down and collapse. Without us the city could not operate. Who would clean the streets, clean and services hotels and restarantes? Who would drive the buses the metro or taxis?

As for taxes again you do not know Brazilian law. If you earn under 1200 reais a month, you do not need pay taxes. In Rocinha the average salary is from 600-900 reais a month. Something many do not consider is that when we buy things, there is a fixed tax built into the price so we do pay taxes in that respect. But we receive nothing in return.

They living off the grid of society and the lack of easy access also allows drug traffic and other criminal organizations to hide and thrive inside favelas and with the complete lack of social order and little reach from organized society, favela residents have no choice but to fear and protect criminals under the so called "Lei do Silencio" "Silence Law", in other words, you should not be a "rat" like the mafia would say it, you should never be a witness to any crime, you should always be quiet.

Yes, we do have the drug dealers but they do not mess with “trabalhadores” or workers. They do not control my life or anyone elses. And I certainly do not live in fear of them. They do their thing and I do mine.

The reason I do not snitch is becase I never have liked or trusted the police. Nobody in Rio likes the police or trusts them. They are undertrained, trigger happy corrupt ASSHOLES. Even the rich do not like them becase they always try to extort bribes. Maybe is Sao Paulo it is diferent but this is the way it is in Rio. When I leave the favela the police abuse me, put me on the wall search me and treat me like a dog. I am a honest hardworking person just trying to live a peaceful life. We who have lived in Rio and understood the military dictatorship still have trust issues with the system. It is very corrupt here. Lula has helped the poor more than most presidents but the corruption is still engrained especially in the police forces. So, who do you chose? The traffickers who leave me alone, who live in the community and do contribute to things here or do I trust the police, who don’t live here and abuse me everytime I step outside the favela?

Its very complicated. The drug lords work in conjunction with the government and police. The traffickers of course are NOT angels and do horrible things but the police do worse. We all know the traffickers evil side but with the police they are supposed to be the good guy, but they are not!!! When I lived in the USA I would not hesitate to ask a policeman for directions or talk to them but here, why? So they can harass me or try to get money from me?

Contrary to what you think Ray, there is actually more social order here. People do not steal, rob, rape, kill, molest kids…we do not have these problems. Our kids can run freely in our streets without a problem (unless of course the police come in). The traffickers act like police within the community and punish those who break these rules. Becase I am honest, I have no problems with the rules. And certainly do NOT live in fear!!! I feel free here as I can walk the streets at any hour and not be hassled by anyone. I would NEVER walk in Copacabana late at night. Funny to think that the places you think of being most dangerous can be safer than the formal city. The ONLY time the favela is dangerous is when the police try to enter. Do you know the traffickers PAY THE POLICE to stay out of the favela? That is how deep the corruption goes.

Favelas in Rio have fake streets and fake store fronts and home fronts to deceive and sometimes even trap police and unwanted intruders, many residents know about it but are not allowed to talk under fear.

In Rocinha and Vidigal two favelas that I have lived this is not true! Please Ray tell me, where does this place exist?

Society should put their efforts in getting rid of all favelas, destroying all the dangerous homes hanging from a cliff and build decent apartment communities for these people in safe areas where they will have access to legal and safe electrical service, where they will live on a street with regular police presence and Fire and Ambulance service available to them as well as other community services available to the rest of Rio, who pays taxes and enjoy them, where they won't be under constant risk of being buried alive by a mountain side or a raging river.

Good luck, getting rid of all favelas, nice idea? Do you really think the government wants to do this? Boy, would it be great if everybody could be equal and live happily ever after..sorry but you are living in dreamland!! Mother nature is cruel no matter where you live..some favelas yes have problems as you have mentioned but living in the flatlands people have problems too.

So they want to live in the center of it all, even by risking their lives and there is plenty of people who think favelas are a romantic part of the scene and there is nothing wrong with living that way.

Romantic..please can you explain to me how a favela is romantic? Who thinks like this..favelas are just places where people live..what do you mean "Living that way?" I live like you, only I may not have many material think I live in a bad way? You need to come here and see for yourself..

..that along with the complacency of many and the ones who just ignore it...nothing or little will ever happen to improve the poor living situation of this humiliated part of society in Rio.

So, Ray, what is your plan? You talk a lot with your “opinions” but what is your plan of action? You are the one that says "Humiliated", but I am no shamed to live in a favela..

Not to mention that many "middle and upper class" cariocas need the favelas to buy their daily drug of choice near their it sounds like nothing will ever be done to change that if you wait on the Cariocas who benefit from the presence of the favelas.

Drugs are a WORLD problem, not just a problem in the favelas. Those upper class not only buy their drugs but also get the use of cheap labor from the favelas. Why would they want to lose this? I do not like drugs but all I can do is be a good representative of my community and help show the kids that there are other options than entering the drug trade.

Maybe they should just paint all the favela houses in white, it would look just like those coastal Greek towns on the side of mountains.
I know this is not a popular opinion but I thought there should be nothing wrong if it is expressed with respect and honesty.

Paint on the houses would be nice, I agree!!! Respect would be if you could actually speak from experience rather than media or hearing stuff from people (and are those people from favelas or just neighbors?). If you actually lived in a favela, you would have been more specific or mentioned names of places. Remember real people live in favelas and the last time I asked about 85% in Rocinha are happy, like me and do not want to move. Services are nice but what really brings me happiness is a community where I am loved, cared for, needed and wanted, not the invisible world of some penthouse apartment in Leblon. My spirit would die if I had to live there. Everybody values different things and at age 48 I am happy right where I am. I love Rocinha and Rocinha loves me too!!!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Interesting facts of favela life Part 1

The top fotos are of the transportation here with both buses and Mototaxis available to take you anywhere.
The bottom fotos are of the neighborhoods (L) the Via Apia and (R) is the Largo do Boiadeiro located close to the bottom of the favela. Both neighborhoods are have all sorts of stores to satisfy anybodys shopping desires.

Many have emailed me and asked about things here in the favela. So, I decided to give a little explanation about these things.

Land- is something very scarce. Most of the land is taken. What trees and grass is left is green but on the steep hillsides. Its is dangerous to build there and people are told the risks of building on a steep incline. The start of the favela was at the bottom and it grew up the hills through time. Rocinha was originally settled by three families of Portugues, Italian and French origins. Laboriaux is the highest point in the favela which was settled by the French. Largo do Boiadeiro or Caminho do Boiadeiro was settled by the Portugues and the Via Apia was settled by the Italians. We used to have farms and people grew their vegetables here which is why it is called “Rocinha”. Rocinha means “little farm”. People would come to buy their vegetables here back in the 1930’s until about the 50’s. After the second huge migration of people, the area started to turn more urban as there was more building of houses. Rocinha now has a population of about 300,000 people.

Most people don’t really care about land so much. We value our houses more. We now have rights to our houses and do not have fears to be removed. So now you see many people continuously making home improvements. You could visit here tomorrow and return six months later and you will see changes here.

The majority of people who live here originally come from the North East of Brazil. My family was from Fortaleza but never made it back to their roots in Ceara. I hear of more people wanting to return there, after they save enough money. So, to some, the favela is a temporary place where they can live and work. But eventually they hope to be able to return to their roots someday. My roots are here and I am not leaving. The government started building a wall around the favela to prevent expansion. Favelas grew becase of people wanting and needing to build their homes. The wall is supposedly to protect the environment. Some think of it as another way the system is trying to inforce the social exclusion.

Houses- In most favelas the outside of the house and the way it looks is not so important as what is in the inside. Many houses look bad from the outside but once inside you would be surprised to see nice tiled floors and modern furniture with television set and DVD players. Recently I have seen many people installing satellite dishes. I do not have a tv so, this is not available for me. We have a cable tv company here called tvROC (tv Rocinha).

In Rocinha there are approximately 54,000 houses set in 64,000 meters of space. The majority of houses here in Rocinha are made with brick and cement. We still do have shacks here, mostly in the areas of Macega and Roupa Suja. The government wants to remove them because the houses are not sturdy built into the rock. Everytime it rains there, some shacks are destroyed. Or we have mudslides. Everybody desires to have their own house and we take pride in where we live. I would like to own a house someday. Inside our houses are very simple. We do not have drywall. Everything is brick. Most houses have windows. The windows are metal framed with glass on the inside. It is common to see houses without windows too. Most people have electricity and running water. In Brazil, tiles are popular because of them being cheap and easy to clean. The cheapest places to live is closer to the top of the hill. The more expensive houses and apartments are at the bottom of the hill. Foreigners have bought houses here. The average price for a 2 bedroom house is about $30-35,000 reais. At the bottom of the hill is double. We have two real estate offices here in Rocinha where you can go to buy a place. There is also one rental office. People often sell their homes privately, without the help of the RE office. Since there is no space around the houses, people build multiple floors.

Neighborhoods- (Cachopa, Roupa Suja, Capado) we have 25 different neighborhoods and sub neighborhoods here. These names help for us to know where we live. I live in area 7. But before I lived in Paula Brito. But I was born up on Rua 1. It is common for many people to move to other areas in the favela. The poorests areas are Macega, Roupa Suja, Cesario and the Valao. Some of the houses in theses areas do not have electricity or running water.

The names of the neighborhoods are significant to people who they are named after or because of a certain history of the place. The area of Roupa Suja was named after a area where women would come down the hill to wash their clothes and they would meet together doing their work and talking about the goings on in the favela. In other words, they would gossip while washing the clothes, hence the name Roupa Suja (dirty clothes or dirty laundry). Cachopa means pretty girl. I am not sure who the pretty girl was but she was from that area of the favela. Capado which is located high up the hill got its name from the woman who castrated her cheating husband one night after catching him in bed with another woman. The Valao is the area that has the open sewer system running through it. The word “vala” means ditch and “Valao” means big ditch.
Every area of the favela has a different vibe or feel to it. The Via Apia and Largo do Boiadeiro are heavily commercial and its always noisy there. In Paula Brito or Portao Vermelho its very quiet and not much going on there.

Street life-this refers to action going on in the street. Rocinha is a busy place and with only 1 main road, there’s a lot to see. There are many shops, bars and hang out places. Our houses are not big so its nice to go outside and talk with neighbors. In the “becos” or alleyways, people sit on stairs or just stand. Talk varies from gossip to family matters. When I get bored from being inside too long, I just walk down the street and its guaranteed that I will meet people I know. Its hard to be lonely here. People in the streets are friendly and do greet each other. At the bottom of the hill, there are street vendors and all sorts of people hanging out. The street food there is great too! You will see and hear cars with loud stereo systems. There is a “sound car” that drives through the neighborhood making announcements of whats going on in the favela. Capoeira demonstrations are a common sight. And during Carnaval we will have parades through out streets. From Thursday night to Sunday, parties are everywhere and people have churrascos on their rooftops.

Roads- roads are a luxury in any favela. Most favelas have dirt roads. We in Rocinha have one main street and 3 smaller streets. The streets are made of cement. I did see some repairs in the road last week that looked like black tar. Our main street is called Estrada da Gavea which runs from the bottom area of Sao Conrado cutting up the hill to the others side and neighborhood of Gavea. This street receives cars, buses, mototaxis, vans and now with all the construction, big trucks. Bicycles are not common but some do ride. There is a guy at the top of the hill in Rua 1 or first street (which is a alley way not a street), that has a horse. I see him out riding about once a month. My friend skateboards down the hill. He does it becase he does not have the use of his legs. The skateboard has been his transportation since he was 8. To get up the hill, he catches a mototaxi.

Garbage- this is my only complaint about favela life. There are areas sectioned off as garbage dumping places. But I still see people throwing trash on the ground. There needs to be more garbage cans so we can improve our trash problem. And the city needs to come in Rocinha more often and collect the garbage. I wish they would eliminate plastic bags and go to brown paper bags or the “bring your own” when people go shopping.

Transportation- I feel fortunate to live in a place that has transportation 24 hours. We have three bus routes that go to Leblon, Leme and Botofogo. The mototaxis serve primarily the favela but they can take you outside the favela to other areas for a higher price. Costs inside the favela are $2 reais but to go outside the cost is $2.35 for the bus and 2.20 for the vans. I mostly use the vans as they are the most convenient for me. At the bottom of the hill just outside of Rocinha is now a taxi stand for people who need to go longer distances. My friend uses the taxi to go to the airport.

Internet- we have over 80 Lanhouses or internet cafes. People can also have cable internet put in their houses. Recently the government put free WiFi here in Rocinha but its only available for those who have computers. About 20% of the population has computers in their homes. Even less have laptops. I am lucky to have a laptop and I can acess the WiFi on my roof but its not always a strong signal. Right now I am posting this at Leblon Shopping becase the internet connection is stronger and I can post fotos.

Furniture- it is reasonably priced but you will not find grade A quality either. Shops like Ikea don’t exist. The sofa I have is not the most confortable but it seats 3 people. I miss the couch or soft that you sink into. Or if you had to sleep on it, you would not wake up with a sore back. The mattresses on my bed are firm, well made and good for my back. Because we live in a tropical environment, bugs are common. After having mattresses destroyed by bed bugs and every other critter, I decided that after buying new mattresses that I would keep the plastic on them. Its strange sleeping on top of plastic covering but at least I know they will last a long time. I put a sheet over the plastic but still it takes time to adjust to the sound of plastic everytime you move. Computer chairs are very expensive here. 150 reais for a chair is crazy. But I found a used computer desk for 30 reais which is cheap.

Cell phones- almost everyone I know, has one. The way people here can afford cell phones is by buying minutes. I do not know anyone on a monthly rate. My cell phone, I am like everybody else and buy minutes. Talking on the fone is expensive. Text messaging is cheaper even though I hate it. I have seen a few blackberries and the rare iPhone. People have crazy ringtones like cats meowing or loud alarms going off. I heard one guy has his sound like firecrackers going off. He gets strange looks on the bus.

Television- the two most watched programs are Telenovelas and football. Practically everyone has a tv in the favela EXCEPT ME!!! I have seen simpel black and white tv's and huge flat screens. Most people are hooked up to cable tv or satellite dish service Skytv or Via. I do not like tv so much.

Music- you will hear all styles of music here. The most common music styles I hear everyday are Funk, Hip Hop and Pagode. Walking through the becos you hear more of a variety than on the street. Most popular is Lady Gaga, Justin Beiber and Beyonce for pop music from the US. I have even heard some heavy metal. And I have seen a few “Goths” walking the streets of the favela. They are no different from what you would see in the US, pale faces, long black hair and all black clothing.

I like a little humor too..

I was sent these in a email and I thought some of you might like them..

The Zen of Sarcasm

1.Do not walk behind me, for I may not lead. Do not walk ahead of me, for I may not follow. Do not walk beside me either. Just pretty much leave me alone.
2.The journey of a thousand miles begins with a broken fan belt and leaky tire.
3. It's always darkest before dawn. So if you're going to steal your neighbor's newspaper, that's the time to do it.
4. Don't be irreplaceable. If you can't be replaced, you can't be promoted.
5. Always remember that you're unique. Just like everyone else.
6. Never test the depth of the water with both feet.
7. If you think nobody cares if you're alive, try missing a couple of car payments.
8. Before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes. That way, when you criticize them, you're a mile away and you have their shoes.
9. If at first you don't succeed, skydiving is probably not for you.
10. Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach him how to fish, and he will sit in a boat and drink beer all day.
11. If you lend someone $20 and never see that person again, it was probably a wise investment.
12. If you tell the truth, you don't have to remember anything.
13. Some days you're the bug; some days you're the windshield.
14. Everyone seems normal until you get to know them.
15. The quickest way to double your money is to fold it in half and put it back in your pocket.
16. A closed mouth gathers no foot.
17. Duct tape is like 'The Force'. It has a light side and a dark side, and it holds the universe together.
18. There are two theories to arguing with women. Neither one works.
19. Generally speaking, you aren't learning much when your lips are moving.
20.Experience is something you don't get until just after you need it.
21. Never miss a good chance to shut up.

22. Never, under any circumstances, take a sleeping pill and a laxative on the same night.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Homeless World Cup: Team Canada

My New Friends from Canada

The past week has been interesting. Copacabana hosted the Homeless World Cup from September 19th-26th. There were representatives from 54 different countries both men and women, playing a form of 4 on 4 football on artificial surface on a elevated platform. All this, on the beach within walking distance of the famous Copacabana Palace Hotel. Players from these countries were sponsored by various organizations or did their own forms of fundraising to make the trip to Rio. Nike was a main tournament sponsor, giving the players football shoes, shirts and shorts.

My friend Jim, who lives in Niteroi sent me a message about this tournament and I decided to volunteer to help out. For five days, I volunteered working the security gates at the venue checking badges to make sure the right people entered their perspective areas. My favorite part was to meet the athletes, see them play and hear their stories of how they are dealing with adversity. I have never been homeless, but I did live in a shelter for a while due to economic problems.

The purpose of this tournament is to bring awareness to homeless populations worldwide. The idea was started by Mel Young in a bar talking with friends. What better way to bring people together than the international appeal of football (or soccer). The criteria for the players is that within the last year they had to be homeless. They are only allowed to play in one Homeless World Cup tournament. Their slogan is “A ball can change the world”

The first team I met was from Finland and a player by the name of Patrick Kulmala. This mans story was sad. He was a former drug addict and because of his excessive use, lost his left arm. He still got out there and played with heart. When he returns to Finland he will have a job waiting for him and the support of his family to continue his recovery.

I had the opportunity to live in Canada for a while so when I saw the Canadian team, I wanted to talk to them. Other than my life here in Rio, if I had the chance, I would move to Canada. I love everything about Canada, the people, the beauty of the mountains in Vancouver, the multi-culturalism, the hockey, you name it…

It was difficult not to be drawn to Team Canada as their enthusiasm was amazing. The first player who I made contact with was Peter Chow as I saw an article written about him on the Homeless World Cup website ( Team Canada had this spirit that everybody notice. They did not have the talent like Brazil or Chile but were so happy to be here in Rio taking part. Before each game they would do this synchronized dance in a circle to get the crowd going.

I made contact with Wendy and Kailin, two of the organizers with the team. They were interested in visiting the favela. Saturday after playing two games, I took the group to the favela. The idea was to play some hockey and soccer and interact with the people in the community. We found some kids at the Quadra Rua 1. It’s a big building that holds samba practices, baile funk parties and football games for the people in the favela. We rounded up some kids and got an informal game going. The kids eventually mixed in with the Canadians so favela kids were playing with them, not against them. For kids of the favela, most of them have never met people from Canada. We need to have more things like this here where our favela can meet and interact with other cultures.

There is much similarity in the social exclusion of favela residents and with the First Nations people of Canada. The majority of Team Canada were First Nations people. We share the same treatment in the countries we live. We are generally seen as a people with little or no value and not treated with respect. There are exceptions, but both Canada and Brazil have a ways to go with eliminating prejudice against “our peoples”. I think this is what drew me to enjoying Team Canada more than any other team. I understood and have experienced the same prejudices they have.

After playing some football we went to a friends rooftop that overlooks a 365 degree view of the favela. Many of the guys were amazed. I was so proud to have them there.
They had many questions and even some said they could easily live here in Rocinha.

The majority of these players come from addiction of abusive backgrounds but you would never know it from their professional behavior and respect of the favela. Not one person mentioned drugs or the social ills that plague our community. They were here to see absorb and take it all in. I am sure it made an impact on some of them.

The guys were hungry so we ate at one of my favorite little places at the top of the hill. Bar do Familia is the place I go when I am hungry and want to eat for under $7R a full meal. We fed the army of 12 Canadians for $50R. I got to talk with goalkeeper Kevin King about life here in the favela on a more personal level. I know that in the beginning he felt uncomfortable being in the favela, as for North Americans, the environment can be shocking. I explained to Kevin that he should not feel bad as most people are happy here. Just the fact of the Canadians being here, we feel like we have value. When you come to visit Rocinha, you embrace us as one of your own. Its not about the poorly built housing or lack of infrastructure that makes Rocinha, it’s the people. Yes, the favela has its problems but we have much good things going on here too. We have had to make do with what we have.

After the stomachs were full, I took them through the labrynth of alleyways that make up 95% of the community. Many took pictures and were intrigued with the chaotic building structures. The favela…no complaints, it is what it is!

I wanted them to see my house as I think it is important to be real with people when I show them Rocinha. I live here and have no shame of my small modest home. It works for me. The players and coaches went out on my roof and took many fotos including a small fireworks display that was going on. I tried to convince them the fireworks were for them, but could not b.s. this group.

When they all came inside to my living room, I showed them various clothing and things I had from my time spent in Canada. I still feel that I left a bit of my heart in Vancouver (which is where the team is from) and Toronto. I also had 6 hockey sticks and the plan was to find some kids to get a little 3 on 3, but all the players were tired from playing two soccer games and walking in the favela. So, we had to pass on the hockey, but I know someday, I will get a street hockey thing going here for the kids and I would love to have the Canadians in some way involved!

I think the team enjoyed my interest and love for their country. Before we left my house, several of the team presented me with a gift. The special act of receiving the “Eagle Feather” from the Canadians is something I will NEVER forget!!!! Now, I need for them to give me instructions on how I should display it as I want to show it the ultimate respect it deserves. I have it put away in a safe place until further instructions.

We continued our walk down the hill and at the bottom, my Capoeira friend Mestre Manel of Acorda Capoeira, was having a demonstration. To me, there are similarities in the First Nations Pow Wow gatherings and Capoeira. It’s a gathering of a cultural form of expression of specific peoples. There are rituals that are respected in both. To me, a Pow Wow and a Capoeira “roda” (or circle) are sacred and there are rules. Daniel Errey, one of the Team Canada coaches decided to participate in the “roda” and did very well for himself. I later found out that he had some experience and trained for sometime.

We moved on to the “Pasarella” or footbridge that crosses over to the Rocinha Sports Complex. The players took more fotos from the bottom of the favela looking up the hill of 54,000 houses. The Sports Complex was closed. The last stop was to see the Academicos da Rocinha Samba School. I explained about the history of samba and how it’s the focus point in many favelas in Rio.

At this point after about 6 hours, I could see the guys were tired of walking and wanted to get food and return to the hostels. I went with them in the van back to the Mellow Yellow Hostel in Copacabana, to eat dinner and then some decided to jump the subway train to party a little in Botofogo. I sat and talked until 2 am with the players and coaches and then had to get home as the next day I had the team from Belgium planning to visit the favela.

Team Canada, I know this will not be the last time I see you guys..I want to thank Wendy and Kailin for making this happen..and for coming and enjoying my community and showing yourselves as professional representatives of your country and cultures. I WILL NEVER FORGET YOU GUYS!!!!!!!