Sunday, February 1, 2015

Bloodbaths and Social Projects

My first week back at the social project after the Christmas/ New years festivities ended with a 9 year old breaking down the logistics of blood baths for me.

"There's a dead body and then, when they take it away, it leaves a ton a blood."

If I found the information unsettling, I can only blame myself. I had, after all, I had taken it upon myself to question the kid about the recent shooting that happened in my neighborhood.

He had come back after training to retrieve his forgotten house keys and I ran into him as I was leaving the project to head to the beach before bed. He was wearing shorts and some worn flip flops that were a little big on him. He choose to leave his shirt home that day but he was rocking a cell phone clipped to his thigh that made his pants sag down. He was only 9, but his attire and his attitude made him appear much older. He walked around Ipanema as if he owned it, twirling his key between his fingers and greeting people that worked on the streets as he walked by.

"So, have you ever seen one before?", I inquired.
This prompted a small explanation about how to climb over and/or skirt a blood bath. Keeping in mind that the narrow and uneven streets of the favela provide prime conditions for the pooling of water and/or blood. Given enough rain, some streets can turn into small rivers... or waterfalls. I have friends that live in places that have been deemed unsafe due to the potential for dangerous exposure to water or falling debris.

Police shootings and bloodbaths are things of movies to me, so it was somewhat disturbing to have a little kid talk about them as if he was telling me about doing his homework. We stumbled across the topic of bloodbaths because there was a shooting at the beginning of the week in our neighborhood. I heard a lot of rumors concerning the shooting death of  a cop, a dealer, and/or some kids.

So in order to clear up some doubts and kill some time while we were walking I decided to ask the little kid... cause I mean, kids and drunks always tell the truth...

it's just generally hard to understand...

This is the bonde car that takes residents higher up into the favela
The last station, station 6, is a place known as Vietnam

From what I gathered, a dealer, known as Playboy, was buying snacks by the Bonde Station (this is a cable car that goes up into the higher regions of the Pavao). The news said the dealer started shooting and that two people were hospitalized in the crossfire. My little friend refuted this, however, saying the cop shot first because of the law. His comment about the law was very interesting because I believe he was referring to the favela law and something pertaining to the rules of shooting at cops. I assume this rule would be something along the lines of not killing cops as to avoid war... or re-pacification... or basically BOPE coming in here and killing everything that goes bump in the night. Kids are good a regurgitating hard facts, but getting them to elaborate on detailed concepts like favela law is pushing it. So I ended my line of questioning and he switched the topic back to jiu jitsu.

I was correct, however, in assuming that he would know what was up. No matter who shot first the results remain the same: the dealer, Playboy, and two kids were killed in the shooting. The cop was not killed, although he may have been injured.

Although Cantagalo is a pacified favela, incidents like this one are not uncommon. There is a serious lack of infrastructure inside of the favela's to keep kids occupied and off the streets. They don't have playgrounds here and their soccer courts are concrete squares littered with trash and shit from stray animals. The educational system is a joke in this country so kids have a ridiculous amount of time to roam the streets. Thats were social projects come into play...

This would be me getting searched by the police 
with all of the kids from the social project behind me. 
I was PISSED!!! 

Cantagalo is actually replete with social projects. In addition to Terere’s project (that is actually at the bottom of the favela in Ipanema), there is a checkmat gym and another unaffiliated Jiu jitsu gym on the hill. They also have a huge building called Crianca esperanca that houses several social programs including the Nobre Arte boxing gym. 

The main social project I have been working with, Terere Kids Project, has grown substantially in the last year. Every month we receive donations via PayPal that I use to pay for kids competition fees. Competitions here can be kind of pricey! More importantly, we have been getting access to more kimonos! A kimono is key to training Brazilian jiu jitsu, however, they do tend to be quite expensive! With help from a friend I Ain't No Saint we have been able to get more gis!

Lets stop here and comment that this is the man’s legal name. Iaint Nosaint. The “T” is silent giving the Iaint a pronunciation similar to that of the name “Ian”.  I was particularly excited to meet this individual because silent letters are a pet peeve of mine! Kat Williams once asked, “When, I mean seriously, WHEN will you ever use a silent letter in your personal life”.

Rio 2014 would be the answer to the question!

So yeah getting back to the point. I Ain’t No Saint may not be saintly but he is a philanthropist and has donated quite a substantial amount of money to the kids of Cantagalo favela. Not only to ensure that our little ones look fresh in their new Cascagrossa Kimonos, he also dishes out skrilla on a monthly basis to keep Moicano, one of our sponsored athletes, killing people on the mats with his damn berimbolo.

Kimonos sent from to the project via USA

We were recently able to acquire 20 kids kimonos from Cascagrossa to give out to little ones that want to start training or just try out a class. So now, when I walk through the streets, everyone is always asking me about training jiu jitsu or how to get kimonos. In addition to the kids kimonos, the project relies heavily on used kimonos donations for the bigger kids as well. Guests from Connection Rio hostel in Barra da Tijuca have been very helpful in supplying A1 kimonos for the older kids. 

People often ask me why I don't move closer to Nova Uniao. Cantagalo is not the nicest favela in Rio but it is home, and I don’t want to leave my kids. Its nice to know that you have an impact on the community that you live in (no matter how small that impact may be). Galo may have its negative aspects; it’s not the cleanest favela for example. Well, actually, it’s more like the dirtiest favela I’ve seen, with the most openly blatant trafficking. It is, however, not too violent compared to other places like Rocinha or Complexo Alemao and the people here are incredibly nice. Despite having to hop over shit and around dealers, I feel at home here, and I don’t want to lose that. 

So Bloodbaths or not. Galo is home.

Favela Jiu Jitsu
The new Terere DVD set is coming out soon! You can preorder on the Budo Videos website. Definitely worth the money especially since I did all of the translating!!!!

Check out the preview for another look at the Cantagalo favela

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