foto by Zac Fabiano
I often receive students who are writing papers for university. This is a email I just received. I think its easier if I put it here.
Dear lifeinrocinha,.... I just found your blog on Rocinha and I must say I was very impressed. It is nicely done and very informative. I am very thankful to you for writing it in English, because I can't speak Portuguese. (I read your blog entry on this topic and thought I'll tell you how helpful that was!) At my school we have to write an essay of about 2500-4000 words and I chose the favelas as my topic. My research question is "How do major sports events such as the FIFA World Cup and the Olympics affect the favelas?". But I lack first hand information: I can't fly over to Brazil from where I live to personally interview the favelados. So I was wondering if you could answer a few of my questions, if you don't mind. I am sure you are very busy, but I would really be grateful if you could find the time to answer the following questions:
1. What are the current emotions in Rocinha (how do the people/you feel about the Olympics and the World Cup being hosted in Brazil)? -I think the general idea is most people here in Rocinha really don't care about the mega events (World Cup and Olympic Games). Most people here in the favela earn between 600-1000 reais a month, and with ticket prices averaging about 60 reais, there's really no way a person from here can afford to go. Its not just the ticket prices but also transport to get to and from the game and then if you want to buy drinks or food, there is more cost. So for one person it can cost including the ticket about 90 reais. I know I wont be going to any games as I like most favelados, will be working. We will watch the games here in our favela and cheer our team on but life continues and we need to work to survive. These games are for tourists, middle class and rich people. They are not for us! Our contribution to these mega events is that many of the construction workers building the stadiums are from favelas.
2. How do the preparations for the World Cup/Olympics affect your daily life? Do they harm the favelas? And if so: how? -The mega events on their own really doesn't affect my life. I know that in my favela there are some new projects being build. They are trying to improve some situations here. In Rocinha they plan to build this overhead cable car thing called a "teleferico" but most people here don't want it. We want basic sanitation and to have the many open sewers covered in the community. We also want better education and health services for our residents. Another thing that has affected every part of the city including the favela is increase in prices for things like rent and housing prices. There is a lot of speculation now. My old house where I used to rent, now the present owner wants to sell it for 100,000 reais, yet he bought the house for 40,000. Food is still very reasonably priced here but we have new stores from the outside moving in. Subway Sandwiches just arrived two months ago. Just waiting on when Domino's Pizza will arrive. I am not sure if this is good or bad?
I think everybody can agree that Rio de Janeiro doesn't have a great reputation when it comes to crime statistics. Because of this reputation the government of Rio has really had to take a close look at how to improve their reputation to attract foreign and local investment and attract tourists to come to these events. The favelas have always been in the media eye but for the wrong reason. When people say the word "favela", images of violence, murder and drug trafficking comes to mind. The media rarely talks about the 98% honest hard working people who live here who just earn little money. They focus on the negative.
With that, the government decided to create these special police units called UPP's (Pacifying Police Units) and install them in certain favelas. The purpose of these police is to take control over the area and flush out the drug dealers from the area. These UPP's would only be present in favelas close to tourist areas or locations holding the mega events. Right now approximately 38 favelas have been "pacified". To the outside world, this idea is refreshing as it presents the city as being safer. But to me, its all window dressing and the reality is quite different. The drug dealers still exist and are selling their drugs with corrupt police still getting their bribes to turn the other way. In Rocinha we have had more shootings and conflicts since the UPP's have been here. There have been 42 shootings inside the favela since the police have been here. Most of these police are young recruits who have probably never been inside a favela. These young police always have their hands on their guns "ready" for anything, while we walk by wondering what the big deal is. We in favelas support the laws and policing. What we don't support is corrupt police that say one thing and do another. The police say they want to get rid of drugs, yet business goes on a usual and they allow it. We don't like verbal threats, physical abuse and killings of residents (Amarildo de Souza case) because we may get in a argument or two over how police don't know how to treat us. Do you know that in the last 10 years over 200 residents in Rocinha have gone missing? Just up and disappeared? I just ignore the police and don't make eye contact with them. What OUR favela (and other favelas) need is LESS guns (police) and more education. Our young adults need trade schools if they cant enter university. We in favelas, make up approximately 1.9-2 million of the population of Rio, almost 30%. We are the service workers in the city. With out us, the city would not operate. We deserve better!
3. Are there any protests, because the favelados are being forced to move out of their houses? Is this also happening in Rocinha? -In Rocinha there have been no removals and I hope it stays that way. But other favelas that are close to where mega events are taking place are at risk for being removed. The protests in Rocinha have been more about Amarildo de Souza who has been missing since July 14th. There are police that have been charged with his torture and murder. He was a construction worker, family man, father of 6 children, and not involved in any illegal activity even though the police and media tried to say he was involved in selling drugs.
4. What is being done to help the favelados? Do they get relocated somewhere or are they just thrown out of their homes? -I'm not exactly sure, but apparently the government if they remove people, they offer them housing in another area of the city. People from favelas at risk of this have also protested and involve Amnesty International and other organization to help fight any removals.
5. Anything else you want to add? -I just want to see the stigma of favelas go away and see the city as together supporting each other. I love my favela very much and I don't plan on moving. Unfortunately, we have a long way to go..
Update: just now I found this article about two shootings that took place today. One was at 10:30am this morning the top of the hill in a area called Rua 1 (First street), the other around 3pm not far from my house in Cachopa. Further in the article they talk about gunfire in the favela last Wednesday after the Flamengo football win. Here is the link. Cut and paste the link and put it in your browser. Its in Portugues but if you cut and paste google translate, you can get the idea! So much for "Pacification"