Friday, January 2, 2015

You know you live in the Favela when...

Its summer time and the kite flyers are out 
Its amazing they don't fall off these walls

I was recently helping my friend find a new house to move to in another favela located in the middle of Copacobana. It had been awhile since I had seen the person, so I agreed to meet them, completely forgetting about my own moving nightmare. Remember that favelas are on mountains, not little hills, but towering mountains, so said search for a new place resulted in an extensive leg workout. My workout began when, I descended my own mountain and walked halfway across Copacabana to meet up with my boy. We then proceeded to walk up a million flights of stairs to get to the main level of another mountain. My friend was dismayed (thats putting it lightly my friend was friggin' pissed) to find out that several of the people renting rooms were unavailable or had already found tenants. No matter what a person tell you, rooms are always first come first serve. Whoever shows up with cash money first, wins.

So we looked at some rental signs, made some phone calls, and then for some godforsaken reason, my friend led me up to the tippy tippy top of the favela. I mean the very top... just to make that clear.

We ended up on a narrow, never ending flight of stairs until the houses started to recede into the trees (It should be noted that this place was way cleaner then my own neighborhood, Cantagalo. People here throw trash everywhere.). At the top the stairs ended and there was a small dirt path that rain along the edge of the mountain, dividing the trees and the few house that were scattered throughout the trees. .Off a couple of feet to the left where about 5 people gathered around a huge frying dish outside of what looked like a small bar or maybe a store. I couldn't imagine how shitty it must be to have to walk all the way up here to get home.

Instead of taking their trash out people throw 
trash over the edges of the streets. 

We were looking for a room that was for rent, but the owner was nowhere to be found and it turned out my friend was out of credit on his phone. Go figure. We attempted to wander down the dirt path but then my friend turns to me and says, "no, way forget it, there is no way I would live here!".

As we were descending the stairway to heaven my friend, and fellow gringo might I add, made another comment about how the police would never show up there if anything where to happen.

I thought that was really funny.
Before when we reached our final destination, two things had passed through my mind:

1. I had never walked through so many side streets in my own favela without running into drug dealers.

2. Its rumored that the drug dealers hide the drugs and weapons in the tops of the favelas where there start to recede into forest (i.e. in places like we were).

So yeah the thought of finding police in a place like this was very funny to me. The only thing I could picture the police doing up there would be raiding suspected dealers or collecting their allotted bribes. Come to think of it, I guess I always assumed the only role police play in the favelas is to go after the dealers. Before I could think about what I was saying I told him, "In the favela, you switch cops for the thugs, the cops won't help you here. "

I thought that was kind of funny too, because seriously, what leads a person to automatically think like that? I mean I know a lot of nice cops, but I still have an inherent distrust of them in general.

Corner Boys
Maybe if I laced their blunts with paper thin shreds of poetry
they'd get high enough to reach redemption

You know you live in the favela when....

I'm walking home through the dark narrow allies that pass as "streets" in my neighborhood and I'm startled by a bump in the night. It turns out said bump is a crackhead brandishing a freshly bought crack rock and he waves on me saying, "Hey don't worry its all good"!!

I'm actually relieved because I believe him.
But why?

Well, Mr. Crakudo just purchased some crack rocks from the armed dealers about 10 feet away (you don't always see the guns, but you should always assume they're there). If they were working that meant that there should be another look out just two feet behind me as well. I didn't see him when I passed by, but he was there, possibly on a roof. The crackhead ambled away towards the exit of the favela and I headed on home, using my cellphone light to avoid dog feces (there are a lot of stray dogs). Under the watchful eyes of the dealers, the only illegal enterprise that was going to go down, was their own. This left me free to roam safely without fear of getting robbed of my Ipod.

You think the whole thing would be a little terrifying, but the thing is, after a year of living there, you get used to armed dealers. They aren't as bad as they are portrayed in the media (although I imagine they aren't as good as they would lead you to think either). Some of them stop working and then they start showing up at one of the 3 BJJ academies or the Nobre Arte boxing school located in the favela. You see them on the streets parking cars and they ask about the kids tournaments, some of them asking about their own sons. You see them around everyday, at your friends house or at birthday parties drinking beer and cutting cake with everyone else. And then one day, you don't see them for awhile because sometimes they get locked up, or they have kids, they go back to work... or they die.

Cops on the other had are an anomaly in the favela. They roam the streets heavily armed and have little contact with the inhabitants. According to this wikipedia chart, pacification in the PPG occured in 2009. Meaning that BOPE, or the Military death squad, rolled in and killed the drug dealers, leaving way for cops to set up a police station.

Note: They actually included "vietna" or Vietnam on the areas under this UPP. Vietnam is an area at the top of Pavao that is notoriously violent.
December 23, 20095ª UPPPavão-PavãozinhoCopacabanaIpanema (UPP area includes Pavão-Pavãozinho, Cantagalo e Vietnã)
This is a view of Pavao/ Pavaoziho from Galo 
At the top right is Vietnam where most of the gun shots
come from. 

The problem with pacification is that the the police were being reactive and not proactive. Since pacification they have done nothing to assuage the peoples hatred for armed forces. Inhabitants treat them as if they were invisible and some shops will even refuse them service. Kid grow up learning to hate police and distrust those in authority, instead of learning to read and write. 

Once you get down from the favela, its only 3 blocks away 
from Ipanema beach. 

One day I was going to working around 8AM and as I walk out of my building I heard a girl screaming. She is sitting on the stoop with a joint paper in her hand arguing with the two cops that are doing their morning arounds (equipped with 2M5s and 2 hands guns). I stopped for a wee bit of entertainment. What I gathered from her speed-up, angry Portuguese was something along the lines of, "I've been smoking since I was a kid and ain't no cop gonna make me stop now". They continued to scream back and forth a little and then he waved on his m5 toting partner who was about 10 feet back, and they continued on their way.

I was amazed she didn't get searched because she most likely was actually about to roll a joint...

Get HiP:
Angela Davis: The Racist State of America Persists

The American Justice System is Not Broken

Darwinism at its finest
Streets drop off into trash filled vegetation. 
Kids come flying down these tiny streets on skateboards
and bikes. Avoiding people and holes with amazing dexterity! 

People build houses wherever they want. 
And then they build some more on top

Def Poetry: Words kiss similes so deeply 

"I'm sorry but this gun makes me feel manly 
In this concrete jungle were monkeys became kings"
"Now I'm just afraid to raise a black son"

The System 
Prentice Powell