What is favela to you?
-- The favela to me is FAMILY! I have lived in other places but I return to what is comfortable. I can be myself here without judgement. The favela represents survivors of a system that has excluded them from society. Unfortunately there is a stigma to living in favela. But there are many in this community that are trying to change this image. A favela is far from what the media says. The favela is a creative way of living. The favela is always changing for the better. Its not the poorly built houses, but the people that make this a nice place to live.
What is Rocinha to you?
-- Rocinha is a amazing place with so much potential. I am so proud to live here as part of this amazing community. There are so many talented people here that the world needs to know about. People need to come and visit this city of about 300,000 people. They will be amazed at how different this place is compared to what tv wants you to believe. Rocinha is not perfect but its always improving itself. I hope to continue being able to be part of intiatives to help improve this place.
How many people do you think live in Rocinha?
-- I think about 300,000 live here. The government census says about 80,000 but we who live here know there’s more than that. The problem is the census is taken only once every 10 years.
What do you consider your role to be in the community? It seems like you are doing a lot for the community over there.-- I am nobody special, just somebody who wants to contribute for the community. If there is a way that I can help, why not. Some people call me “embaixador” or embassador of the favela. I receive many emails from people wanting to volunteer or help projects here and I have many contacts. My role in the community is difficult to say. I live here and I work as a guide showing and educating people about my favela. I also have a social project, a Dj school where we teach residents the art of dj’ing. I want people to come and see the warm friendly people here.
What do you think are the reasons for the favelas having such a strong sense of community?
-- I think because we are a marginalized population of people. So to combat against this prejudice, we stick together and support the common good of our favela. People help each other here unlike many other places. A friend of mine moved to Rocinha a few years ago from another state in Brasil and was welcomed. His neighbors offered him clothing and furniture for his small apartment that he moved into. This is normal here.
What has the government done for the favelas? Both the good and the bad things?
– Not very much. The government only involves themselves in favelas if it benefits them. Especially during years where elections come up, then they do things so they can get votes. For example, in Rocinha during the voting year of 2010 the government did build some buildings to help the favela. We had a medical clinic, a daycare, a sports complex and some lowrise apartments that were built, so yes this does help the community. I think the two most important things the favela needs is better quality of education so our youth have opportunity to go to University and basic sanitation. We do pay taxes so we deserve the basic services that any non favela community receives.
What have the drug lords done for the favelas? Both the good and the bad things? If I remember correct, you mentioned something about the drug lords helping the community?
–- This is a very sensitive issue. I do not support drug trafficking. The reality is that in most countries around the world, drugs exist unfortunately. In Rocinha its no different, the bad is when there are shootings with the dealers and the police. They do support certain activities in the favela by sponsoring athletes or parties. They also built a football field for the kids. Again, I don’t support the selling of drugs.
What is your attitude towards the government and the police? Why?
-- The problem is the average Brazilian knows the system is corrupt. So there’s a big lack of trust and confidence in the police or leadership. I understand that communities need policing. All we in favelas want is policing with respect to human rights. Unfortunately favelados are marginalized and much prejudice against us is common. The police needs better training and communication skills with people. Once this happens then there will be better relations between the communities and the police.
What do you think and want the government to do about the favelas?
– I don’t think the government really cares about the favelas unless it’s a voting year. They just let us do our own thing. I don’t think Rocinha will be removed as its too big. I think the government shouldn’t remove the favelas but help them upgrade the infrastructure and improve public services. Favelas are the option for a lack in housing available to those who earn little money.
What do you want the favelas’ and Rocinha’s future to look like?
– I want to see better sanitation initiatives in the favelas and better education for our youth. There needs to be opportunities that can improve people’s lives. Things like trade schools would greatly benefit a community like ours. The sad thing is currently with the education system, the chances of ever leaving the favela if you are born here, are very small. There is not a lot of upward mobility.
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