People often ask me why I love Rocinha. There are many reasons to love this place so I am going to write. But I am also going to write what I don't like. With these blog posts I hope to help educate people who want to learn about favela life.
Things I like:
The friendly people and animals- any day walking in the favela, I meet people who greet you and want to stop and talk. When I am not working, I always stop and talk to people. I enjoy being part of something bigger than me. When I lived outside of Brasil, I never met people as friendly as those here. The community overall has a good vibe or feeling to it. Even with challenges people have, its not a miserable place. Also most of the dogs and cats are friendly. I have a route that I walk almost every day and I see the same cats who greet me and want attention. I love it and they love it too! Many street animals get little or no attention.
Everything is close by- So, true. Within 5 minutes walking distance there a internet cafe, three hair cutting shops, 3 variety stores with a good selection of food, one is open until 10:00pm the other is directly across from my house is open until 2:00am. Theres a mini market across from my street that is open from 6:00am until 2:00am. Bus stops are close by. Fresh baked bread you can find less than 3 minutes from my house at two bakeries. Two butcher shops if you want fresh meat, poultry or fish.
Alex da Peixaria has the best place to buy all types of fish in Rocinha.
The over 6500 businesses- You do not need to leave the favela for anything, theres everything you would ever need here inside. The newest thing to come to Rocinha is the growth of Sushi shops. We have about 10 places now that serve Sushi from the top to the bottom of the favela. Electronics, furniture, clothing, bars, restaurants, real estate offices, you name it, we have it!
The decent transport- as mentioned before we have two bus routes that operate from 4:30am until about 3:00am. Its not perfect, but in regards to my job rarely have I ever had problems with transport. There is the 539-Copacabana, 538-Botafogo. Service could be better especially during rush hour but its not terrible. The vans run circular route through Rocinha, to Gavea, Leblon then coming back to Rocinha passing by Vidigal. The motos run 24 hours and are fast and efficient transport within the favela, but if you want to go outside Rocinha, they can also take you wherever you want to go for a set price.
The very reasonable rent and utilities- I pay 500 reais a month for a large one bedroom apartment. I like my place as it has good ventilation and my neighbors are great. I have two large windows facing the main street and one smaller window in the bathroom. My electricity is 50-80 reais a month. Internet costs 50 reais a month. The building is quiet and people respect each other. Where I live is close to everything. I also rented my apartment on a handshake and no contract, no background or credit check and no deposit. Try doing that in the US or any other western country, impossible. There is a sense of trust here. If you don't pay your rent here, word will get out and you will not be able to find a place here.
Finding a place to stay or rent- There are a few real estate type places that offer listings of places to rent or buy. I used a service like this to rent the apartment that I live in now. One place that is well known is called Passagarda and they are on the main street in Rocinha.
So many choices for restaurants- My favorite places are the "Por Kilo" places which is like buffet style in choice but you pay by weight. Trapia is my favorite of all of them. Theres a place near my house called "Bom Apetite" where I get all the veggies and pasta I can eat with a good size portion of fish all for 11 reais which is also good food for a great price. And Sushi Roma is the best place for Sushi. There are many other great places too but these are my 3 favorites.
The street parties in the Via Apia- Every weekend theres always something going on. Brazilians love social events and parties and they spread out through the community. Anyone is welcome. Private parties are not held on the streets. If people want a private party they can rent a space to make their own event.
The love of FLAMENGO!!- What more needs to be said about Rocinha's love for the Flamengo Football team? Rocinha has its own fan club called
Raça Rubro Negra - 17ª Região Rocinha . They have weekly events where people in the community gather at several different bars or restaurants to watch the game on big screen televisions with family and friends. Lots of eating and drinking goes on but in a festive mood as people support Flamengo.
Living with my 3 cats that I found as kittens on the streets here-
I love my 3 furballs that I found as kittens in different parts of Rocinha. Many people here have cats, dogs or birds. I prefer cats! My cats are now indoor cats because I live on the main street. I don't want them to get hit by a car.
A 24 hours bar/restaurant across the street from my house- If I get late night hungry, theres always rotisirie chicken that is awesome. On the weekends, there is a live band always playing. There is also a market open until 2:00am.
Being a 15 minutes walk to the beach- The beach is a peaceful escape for many who live in this packed in urban jungle. It's the one place where nobody can judge you based on your social class.
Street fairs on the Weekends- I enjoy walking through the community and talking with just about anyone being able to work here, not having to leave the community for my job there are always place to go where you can hang out with friends.
5 gyms where you can work out- Lets see there's Rocinha Fitness at 199, Shape in Fundacao, Best Gym in Boiadeiro, X-Sport in the Via Apia and R1 Fitness in Trampolim. People enjoy working out and the prices are very reasonable. I just wish they had a 24 hours fitness like they had in the US when I lived there. The gyms here also are not open on Sundays and close at 2pm on Saturdays. All the gyms are clean, equipment is good and have personal trainers available.
Any kind of Sports- Here in Rocinha the most popular of course is football. But there are other sports too. The most common seen here are Jiu Jitsu, Judo, Muay Thai, Surfing, Swimming, Rollerblading, BMX and Skateboarding.
Community Mail System- Grupo Cartao Amigo or Zig Zag that can deliver mail directly to your door or act like a mail box etc.
Music- You can hear all styles of music throughout the favela. American music is just as popular as the local choices of funk, brazilian hip hop, forro, Pagode and even house music.
Creative Lives- People living creatively with little or nothing but being very resourceful. Many people recycle here. Many kids make their own toys and playing street games.
Children and Youth- Most children play outside playing hide and seek, riding bikes or playing football. Older kids like to go to the beach, skateboard, surf, play sports, play music or do some kind of art.
Attitudes- People not judging you for the clothes you wear or how you look
You don't have to pretend to be someone your not. Everybody seems to get along and show mutual respect to each other.
Schools & Creches- We have 4 public schools that are in Rocinha. There are also 4 municipal daycares and many private ones for parents who work and have young children. There are a few after school programs for kids that need help with their homework. Tatiana Henrique runs a program near my house.
Health Care- We have a UPA 24 hours clinic. The service is good. I have been to the health clinic two times and been happy with the treatment.
Things I dont like:
The poor sanitation- The city needs to help people here to operate a better system. People here also need to participate in recycling and putting garbage in its proper place. There are designated areas and some places have containers to put trash. Everyone needs to contribute in helping to make the community cleaner. Parents need to educate their children too.
Some areas have open sewers- Again this is an infrastructure problem. The city needs to somehow help the favela create a better way or offer to help cover the open sewers. This like sanitation is not healthy for the locals. Breathing the air continuously from the open sewers cannot be good for ones health. These areas also attract rats.
That the government does little to help the favela- The government helps only in the way it wants. Or when there is an election year they offer to create or fix something here but usually its not of great importance. Building a "pasarella" or footbridge that cost 16 million reais is a waste, especially considering that it should have cost more like 2-3 million. Recently they just shut down the C4 library for lack of funds. Yet the politicians always seem to be getting raises in their salaries. Why build something if its not going to be put to use?
Lack of quality education available for our youth-
The public school system here is awful. How can kids get a good education here with 4 hours of school a day? Or days where teachers don't show up? Our public school system in Rio (not just Rocinha) does not prepare our youth for university. And for older youth and adults, we need more job training programs. Brazil does not invest in its people. Very few in favela go to university. Most here are preoccupied with getting a job and earning money to help their families.
We need courses that can provide every student with the opportunity to prepare to take the exams to get into university.
Traffic Jams- Rocinha's streets are very narrow and between the buses, moto taxi's, pedestrians and commercial delivery trucks, this place can be chaotic. This foto is rush hour in Rocinha.
Drug dealers- Like any community, it's unfortunate that this exists but its a reality that when you have people who buy drugs you have people who sell them. This is common in most big cities around the world. Within the favelas there will always be this conflict between police and the dealers. This causes tension and abuses by police against residents, many who are not involved in drugs. The problem is when the police and dealers have shootout and stray bullets find innocent victims. Youth who get involved in these activities need alternatives like job training programs.
Pregnant young girls- This is a serious problem in many poor communities where young girls don't have access to activities to fill up their time. Images of sex and relationships are all over television and especially in "novellas" or soap operas. Young girls see these images and imitate adult behaviour without understanding the consequences. Macho society in Brazil promotes male dominance and women are seen to be "conquered" by young men. Lack of education and responsibility prevails and there are many young girls as young as 12-13 are giving birth to children. Lack of parenting or absent mothers and fathers don't help this situation. Birth control and condoms are available but many don't use it. Like most youth they think, it won't happen to them.
Homeless cats and dogs- Although most are taken care of, still sad to see this, people not castrating their pets. Many people will give food to the street animals. My friend has started an organization to build a shelter for these animals. Ruth Silva is trying to change this with her project Flor e Xavier. She is trying to set up a formal registered NGO where she can solicit donations to help her with her animals. She currently has 54 cats and 7 dogs.
People and Jealousy- I see here that if you are successful, people can get jealous of you and gossip. I know, I have been the victim of gossip. Friends have told me so. I look at gossip this way, if people are talking about me, I must be important.
Sometimes I will test the trust of somebody by telling them something about me that is not true. If the information comes back to me, then I know I can't trust this person. Many people also assume that if you make some comment in general (especially on facebook), they will take it personally then comment back to you in a wrong way. I have had this happen several times. People will think I am talking about them (even though I don't mention names or specifics), when what I am saying has nothing to do with them. I question people who react this way because this reaction is of a guilty person. Many adults here are immature and act like high schoolers. I think it has to do with everybody living so close together or people who have nothing better to do than gossip.
I think this is about all I can think of now. If I think of other things positive or negative, I will update this post.