Thursday, November 5, 2009

Sou Favelado Blog

So one of my friends Anwar (foto of him to the left) has decided to write about his experience of living in Rio's favelas. He just started his Blog today and will add more information as time goes on. He is still learning how to navigate his Blog.

I think it is VERY IMPORTANT for him to let people know about his experiences in Parada de Lucas, Chapeu Mangueira and other favelas that he had chance to stay and work in. He has embraced favela culture 100% and has made many friends there.

He plans to move back to Rio sometime near the beginning of the new year. His plans are to move to Vidigal favela on the other side of the hill from Rocinha. He plans to work in some capacity with filmaking, possibly with "Nos do Morro", a non profit that helps favela kids in the arts. If you are not from Brazil and have stayed or lived in a favela he wants to hear from you..

his Blog is:

Make sure to tell him Zezinho sent you!


Tuesday, October 27, 2009

How Outsiders can have a profitable business inside the favela

I have received many emails about this subject. There are many foreigners who see the favela as a oportunity to earn a lot of money but it is not that easy. I have friends in many part of the world who want to do this. The only real way to do this without much politicing is to LIVE here in the comunity.

With the whole favela tour business going on, some of the residents are now realizing what is going on. The majority if not all the tour operators live outside of the comunity, yet they make their money HERE off the backs of we who live here. Some give back a small amount into the comunity, but not enough to really change things or make a big diference in the lives of favela people. People in the favela are seeing outsiders now trying to take advantage at the expense of people who live here.

I will tell foreigners this, before deciding on opening up a comercial enterprise, it is best to come visit the comunity for one month and see if you like it here. Visiting the place is very diferent from living in the favela. You need to see how life works here and how people interact. After your one month then you can make the choise of you think is right to open a business here in Rocinha (or any other favela).

The mention of a hostel has come up several times by people I know. I have been thinking of this too becase I have so many friends all over the world who want come and stay in the favela. A hostel would work, but really depends on where it is located in the comunity as there are certain areas I would not want visitors to stay in Rocinha. The visitors as well, you would have to trust, would need be on their best behavior, which means NO ILLEGAL ACTIVITY..people from the outside do not know but the police will target foreigners leaving favela comunites assuming they bought drugs there. When you live there it is ok to enjoy the culture and people, but stay away from bad influences.

The kind of business matters to becase, to be honest Rocinha, does not need another bar opening up. We already have enough of them..A night club maybe, but a bar, no! This is why living in the comunity for a month you can do research and find out what the comunity wants or needs. If you want a business that is sucessful, find out what will to the people about their needs and wants!

The first thing to think of is how will your business be a benefit to the comunity. Remember as a foreigner, the favela is not your home. We are to a degree very protective of our own. This comes from a history of having to do everything ourselves and not relying on the goverment to give us anything. So, of course we will look out after our own interests to benefit our comunity first. This does not mean it cannot be done. But you will be scrutinized as to your intentions in the favela.

What advise I tell these people is be prepared to contribute something to the comunity. The favela doesnt take well to people using the comunity without contributing "something" back to help the favela. So, when you think about your idea, keep in the back of your mind how you can make money but also give a small portion of your profits to a NGO or scholarship fund for kids etc..If you do this, forever you will be welcomed as a member of the comunity. If you only think of YOURSELF, you will not last long here in Rocinha.

I live here and am born and raise here and I contribute. Not a lot becase right now I do not earn a lot and people know me and my intentions. But for me right now, helping other favelados is a big plus for me showing that I do not think only about myself.

I could go into more details here but I think people understand what I am talking about.

My Rant
Another form of Exploitation

*** A note about tours, yes I make tours but anyone who knows me or has seen my website know exactly what I do.
I often receive emails like this:

"I am doing a project to study (fill in the blank) and I am interested to learn more about the community. I am not interested in a tour but would like to come to your favela and meet and talk to the people about (fill in the blank). I want to see what the life is like there"

I realize that there is much interest about favelas, first because of the glorifying TV or Films that show all the violence, drugs and bad things. Movies like "City of God" make favelas seem like hell. The second being that the favelas are independant of formal goverment control. And of course how favela comunities exist and have been able to create their own comunities is a curiosity for foreigners.

***Interesting to note, is that for ALL the research people have done about favelas, little has been done to change conditions there. I wonder why that is? Many books have been written about the people, Social problems, lack of healthcare, education, architecture, anthropology etc..but still the favela has not made drastic changes..

Now its a good thing that people want to help educate and learn about our comunities, but again you need realize people here are poor and NEED money just like you. People in favelas will never have the chance like you, the foreigner, to get on a plane and visit your country. In favelas 95% of the population has never travelled outside their state never mind travelled on a plane. You are blessed that you live in a country with out "Favelas", you may have poor areas, but nothing compared to favelas, and I am talking about North American and the majority of Europe. Unforunately there is no upward mobility for favelados unless you are a famose futebol player or singer. In Reality 99% of favela residents who live here will never be able to leave here and will die here.

What I am getting at here is, you have the available resources to come visit Brazil, you WANT something from a POOR area, to complete YOUR projet, but what are you willing to do to help the comunity you are TAKING from? I have given many people free tours of the comunity, but the majority have given something to the comunity. Most come to volunteer, others donate clothing or school supplies to NGO's and I support this 100%. Our comunities need help and so many people think it is ok to take advantage.

But for the University student from the modern western world (where running water and eletricity are certainly not a problem to receive), who expects me to drop everything for them, including pass up work (which I need) to service them, I am tired of this. I feel I am being taken advantage of. I live in the favela, becase I can not afford to move out. You the foreign student, although you may not be rich, somehow got the money to get airfare, hotel, hostel or place to stay "outside of a favela" (if you were staying inside the favela, I would be more sympatetic), you have plenty of food, clean cloths etc...and you can not afford 60$reais (about 30$US) to come learn about the comunity, meet with the locals ect for 5 hours???? It would be diferent if I was NOT a guide here in the comunity but had a totally diferent job doing something else. But some of you are expecting me to do MY JOB for FREE. Just like YOU, I NEED to work to eat too! So, PLEASE respect my right to earn a honest living...

Ok here is example for those of you who still may not understand. I have a friend who works doing websites. This is his JOB! All day he makes websites. When he comes home from work, the last thing he wants to think about is websites. Do you think it fair for me to expect him to make a website for free for me, just becase we are Friends??? I do not expect him to do for free becase this is his JOB and I RESPECT his way he makes his living..It would be selfish of me to expect this of him..and unfair. He has value and his work has value. So, If i respect him, I need pay him for his work.

So, for all of you out there who expect to want information by coming/visiting to the comunity, if you want it, PLEASE contribute to the comunity in some way, volunteer, give something back, and people in the comunity will be more than happy to help you with your projet. But to come in and expect everybody to service YOUR wants, is not the way to go.
Think of this when you email me that like you, I have a job and if I do not work, I do not eat or pay my rent. It is that simple!

Somebody who emails me wanting information about my comunity, I have NO problem responding, becase I can respond "When I have time", but to take the time to show somebody around, bring them in the favela, then escort them out etc..this is very time consumming. This is why I am a guide becase if I am earning money doing this, I can provide for my family and provide a great service to my guests. If my work is valued, I am happy. Like everybody on the planet, I am trying to contribute my small part to help my comunity of Rocinha!

ok I think I said enough!

Rant over. I feel better now..


Tchau, tchau, maiow!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Bruno Borges: Classism and Prejudice courtesy of the Brazilian middle class!

I vote this guy...idiot of the day!

Read this passage below written by Bruno Borges a 26 year old resident of Rio and his opinion of favela residents. His comments were posted on website which is a website that supposedly supports anti discrimination written material! We were discussing foreigners and their wanting to visit favela comunities.

I am going to pick apart what he say and why I have a problem with his statements. His comments are in bold smaller print.

Bruno: "I'd say that: it's not a rule that anyone who lives in a Favela is a criminal, rather most criminals live in Favelas. Why? Because the way they are. Disorganized, out of control and geographically well positioned."

Yet he fails to mention that the "so called criminals" are tightly joined at the hip with the corrupt police forces and politicians that control the very city he lives! We all agree that the drug dealing criminals certainly make favelas dangerous places to be if you do not know somebody there or being there for some purpose. Nobody likes the drug situation, but as I have said so many times..if there were not buyers, the sellers (traficante) would not exist! So, my blame is put on the users. I am not perfect, but I am not into drugs of any kind, even if I have headache.. And regarding drugs, so I wonder what Bruno thinks of the drugs that are peddled in the nightclubs outside of the favelas. I had a guy try to sell me Acid and "E" (ecstacy) outside a club in Botafogo and this guy was not "some guy from the favela."

Bruno: "I do not suggest people to go to a Favela because poor people live in there and because I think this would look like going to a zoo - even this thoughts come to my mind - but yes, I do not suggest simply because, there are criminals living in there, and at any day, any time, a war between dealers and cops, or dealers and dealers, can suddenly start. And from this situation, there's nothing you can do except hide and pray for not being hit by a bullet."

It's obvious that this guy has no idea what he talks about. He assumes only POOR people live there. Yes, the majority may be poor, but more middle class are moving to favelas becase rents in their own comunities are too much. Also how do we define "poor"? There is Africa "I havent eaten in a week and have no clothes" poor, then there is how we in favelas live. Yes, it is poor but nobody is "starving"! And what... nobody should go there, just because there is poor people. Bruno, then what do you think of the varios non profits that go there to help the people. They should not go there either?

He also mentions that "there are criminals living in there", does he really think favelas are the only places criminals live?? You know Bruno, I live there and I am NOT a criminal..Of course there are criminals that live there just as there are criminals who live outside of favelas too! It is a bigger subject matter in trying to determine why "people become criminals?" That is a question that is left to sociologists, but I can tell you that, in general, when people are not given "equal" oportunity in education, job oportunities, healthcare etc..many do become criminals. Is it right? Of course, NOT, but it is reality. If I am some 18 year old from a poor comunity who is not given equal oportunity in the job force, eventually I may turn to crime to survive. I in no way condone crime of any kind,but I am not living in the shoes of somebody who makes that choice,
so I cannot judge.

Although "invasions of cops or dealers do happen", how about the "arrastao" or the robberies and such that happen all the time in Copa or other tourist areas in Rio. And Rio is not the only place that has this problem. My best friend was pickpocketed in Rome, Italy. One of my martial arts students was beat up and robbed in Paris by three guys, so this kind of crimes can and do happen everywhere. Sad but true.

Bruno: "Please, don't get me wrong here as it follows.
The Amazon is a cool place. Lots of people live in there. Lots of tourists go there too. But I would not suggest a walk in the middle of the jungle, as it is not safe just as a Favela isn't. The "tour" sounds like the same. A guide takes you to dangerous areas, risky areas, but they tell you they will protect you, will overlook for you. But this is not always true. Warm situations turns people into savages, and their first instinct is to regard for themselves. What does this means? Watch your back."

So now he go on his writing about comparing the Amazon Jungle to the favela. This is where I have a BIG problem. Becase he is comparing people of the favela to animals. I have never heard of ANY tourist visiting a favela being killed or hurt in any way. So, again he has no idea what he is talking about!

Bruno: "The people who live in the Amazon are like the average people who live in a Favela. Cool people, honest, but as in a Favela, the jungle has a higher concentration of dangerous animals that won't miss an opportunity to hit your back if they think they need to. Animals will attack if they must, if they feel alarmed and if they feel ... hungry."

Sounds passive agressive to me..he says the people are cool, honest but then goes on to again mention the comparison of people to animals in a jungle. I find this offensive. HELLO! BRUNO...I LIVE IN A FAVELA and I am NOT an ANIMAL!!! Its obvious this guy has never travelled and seen anything more than his protected middle class life.

Bruno: "As in a Favela, animals from the jungle can surprisingly act weird. People from the Amazon will warn you about how dangerous can be to walk around in the middle of the jungle. They will tell you to not go just to "take pictures" and "to know how does it feels". They will ask you: "do you REALLY NEED to go there?!".

More of his rant of favela=animals in jungle stuff and how "People" can act weird..bla bla bla..

Bruno: "For me, who wasn't born in the middle of the jungle, I'd think twice, or even more times, before going there just to "walk around and get to know the place". I don't need, I don't want to know a Favela. My curiosity in favour of that is the same as about the Amazon jungle. None."

Ok here he is just saying his opinion of not having a desire to go there, ok, no prob there. But the fact that he still is using the word jungle when we all know he is referring to the favela does show his discrimination against the favela and its residents. So by his not wanting to "know a favela", he will never be open to changing his idea that there are good people there too. His mind will be stuck forever thinking the same way..sad! Maybe is he got to know some of the people there, he would then realize that the people there are not ALL criminals. I consider myself a good person who lives a honest life, I do not drink alcohol and never use drugs. So, I take his remark in not wanting to "know a favela", that he would have no interest in knowing me.

Bruno: "Just for a thought: ask a Yankee who was born in Manhattan, if he would take you to walk around the Brooklyn, or Bronx."

Here he mentions not only the word "Yankee", which is offensive to any American, but includes
places he has never been as an example of prejudice too. I wonder what the people of the Bronx or Brooklyn would think of this guy prejudice against their neighborhood? I have been to the Bronx and Brooklyn and I am sure there are areas that are more sketchy than others, I never felt fears when I was there.

Bruno: "To conclude my opinion, I'd like to ask people who live in a Favela, specially for those who were born at: if you were born at somewhere else, would you really take someone to a Favela Tour?
Zezinho, I honestly think you are happy living in there, and I'm glad you feel that way. For all the people that think like you, I feel happy. And I respect that. I truly do. Again, don't get me wrong here. If you think you got the wrong idea, please reread this whole text over and over. But just consider others' opinion as most of us consider yours."

Dude, you wrote offensive, bigoted, prejudiced comments about people and places that you have even said that you have never been and have no interest in knowing! This is the place I live and you just made it sound like I am in a jungle which I feel I am NOT. And that everybody around me is like somebody waiting to kill somebody..Then you try to be all passive with me after equating my neighborhood to being a jungle full of wild animals just waiting to attack.

This guy is an ignorant and as long as this attitude persists, racism, prejudice and bigotry will continue to keep Brazil a third world country!

I think the thing that is more upsetting to me is not so much this guys attitude (I think amoung the Brazilian Middle class this is so common) but that Couchsurfing would allow this kind of prejudice to be posted publically especially in this day and age.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

New Website and Rocinha happenings!

I have finally completed the much work and getting all the people together in Rocinha to release this idea..

The website: or

I am determined and committed to making sure people in the favela get their oportunity. There is so much potential with all of us working together.

The website has about 30 pages so please take a look. Very important is to read our Mission statement and our Vision for the future in Rocinha.

When I return to Rio, I will be talking with a guy who live in another favela and how I can help him to help his comunity! I told him I have ideas but I can not do it for you. He can use my ideas no problem becase he is a "favelado com muito orgulho". Like me, he is very proud of his roots. I trust him and know he sincerely wants to make a positive diference in his comunity.

On my site there is several sections. The first one is about the tours I offer to my guests/friends. If you come here in Rocinha you will be treated to much more than a tour. This is the largest section as I have sections that explain the history of favelas, Rocinha, Samba and Funk music. Also there are diferent types of visits people experience in Rocinha.

I have a testimonial area where previos visitors talk about their personal experence in the comunity. I have even added a forum. So you can join and post whatever you like. If you have visited a favela before or Rocinha, I would like to know your story.

The second section is for those people who may want to come and stay in the favela..I will help you find accomodation, give you a tour of the neighborhood and give you ideas of what activities you can do here.

Section three is the cultural programs or Favela Adventures where guests can stay in the comunity and study a number of activities. Right now we have 7 activities. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Capoeira, Judo, Muay-Thai & Western Boxing, Surfing, Bodyboarding and portuguese language. As time goes on there are other activities, I will add.

Section four is the non profit I started with two other Americans Arthur Hamilton and Andy Silva in California. The purpose of the non profit is to raise money to build a comunity center for Arts and Culture programs in Rocinha. We welcome anyone who has interest to volunteer.

Section five, I have dedicated to my friend Tio Lino who has donated 29 years of his life to teaching kids art in Rocinha. He is born and raised resident and works tirelessly to help kids out of trouble.

So please take some time and check out my website and tell me what you think? :)

If there is anything you want to know about life here in Rocinha, send your questions to me at:



Friday, August 21, 2009


Lately I have been receiving contacts from people who seem to talk a good game but not back it up! I am tired of talk. Places like Rocinha need lots of help in diferent areas.

Anybody who knows me, knows how much I really care and love Rocinha. There is so much unused potential in this comunity which is why I feel necessary to try to find this talents and show them to the outside world. I was given this ability and I need to focus on this.

So, I receive emails from people who want to know my ideas. I then tell them and next thing I know, they take my ideas and use them for their own profit. Again without giving back something to me or the favela.

So this company in Europe first contacted me in may about setting up some activity, but not inside the favela but outside. I did the wrong thing in telling him he should try to offer this type of programs in the favela (which I think is good). When I spoke with him he wanted assurances from me as he felt the favela was not safe, ok, understandable. But I explained to him that as a resident, i can do things here that outsiders can not. He seemed so against it so, I let it go as he will do his programs elsewhere.

I receive a email from him a few days a ago. So, before responding, I checked his website. He had found his people to do his programs but the thing that upset me is that he used my ideas.
If I had not in the first place ever mentioned the favela ideas, I would not be writing this right now. So, in his email a few days ago, again he is asking me about my ideas. Well, I feel used and exploited. On his website it is obvious that he is in it to make money. Which is not bad thing. But my focus is very diferent.

My programs the main focus is to give as many jobs to favela residents ONLY! And of course build the much needed comunity center in Rocinha. Also everyone knows how I feel about favela tours, that the residents who live in the favela should be conducting the tours, not outsiders who lie or reinforce negative stereotypes! Or companies who put lots of money in their own pocket and give nothing back to the comunities that they make their living off of.

Favelas need to take back their neighborhoods and stop the exploitation from the outsiders!

Anyhow, I am kind of upset right now. I think I need to stop there!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Rambo da Rocinha

Every neighborhood or city has their characters of people the are recognizeable. Rocinha has many people that stand out in the comunity as being different. People consider me a character too because I am the only person in the neighborhood who has the favela tatooed all over their body. So, I am easy recognizeable. The purpose of this post is to let you know about one of my favorites. Rambo da Rocinha!

When you see first him, you think he belongs in a war movie or a jungle. But he lives here in Rocinha. He goes by the name "Rambo". It is common in Brazil for people to have nick names. Mine is Zezinho based of my middle name "Josivaldo". Ronaldinho, famos footballer need I say more..I think you get it..

Many times I had seen him walking through Rocinha but never had time to stop and introduce myself to him. I had heard all sorts of stories about him living in a cave and all..He is always smiling and very friendly. So, this day I made the effort to say hello to him! :)

So, Rambo, whose real name is Marcio, is originally from Minas Gerais. He has lived in Rocinha now for 25 years and loves his life here. I would say that he is probably about 47 years old but keeps in good shape with all his physical work he does.

Rambo walks through the comunity wearing army fatigues for pants and a green army type shirt, with ropes around his neck, and knife in his belt. The only thing missing is a gun. But, I do not think he needs one. He wears this old green hat, like a baseball type cap.

I first met him when I was renting a kitchette (studio type place) in the ponto 7 area of Rocinha, not far from Rua 2 (2nd street). I woke one day to hear loud noises not far from my front door. It is common to hear much noise in the favela becase there is always somebody improving there house and constructions happening. But this noise was like a chainsaw, so I went to the door and saw Rambo high in a tree with ropes around him, probably safety lines so he does not fall. He was cutting branches off a tree in the middle of the favela.

I opened my door and saw him in front of me but of a distance of about 20 meters up in the tree cutting branches. I waved, and then got my camera becase I had heard many stories of Rambo and seen him walking in the streets but never saw him "working" until now. When he saw my camera he posed, no problem.

When he took a break, he came and knocked on my door. I opened it and let him in. I introduced myself and he did the same and we got to thinking ablout old times. We talked about the "old" Rocinha and how it was, about the first "dono do morro" Denis who was loved by all for instituting "A lei da favela" (the law in the favela) here in Rocinha. We had many old stories and memories of happenings in the comunity that we shared. We chatted for about an hour then he had to return to his work.

After that talk it was like, I would see him everyday. So, a couple days after our first meeting I asked him what he does. His work is a mixture of many things, tree cutter, fireman, security for big events in the comunity, trafic control and other odd jobs helping people. A friend of mine told me about how he reduced a huge trafic jam in the favela.

I have also seen the gentler side of Rambo. He loves critters too!! Many times he has snakes or other tropical animals. I have seen him cuddle kittens and even a baby goat. The thing that means the most is the guy helps people and cares for the animals too. I have put some fotos of him here.


Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Yes, I admit it: I LOVE cats!

Fotos from top center Rua 4 cat, Rua 4 my favorite beco! bottom left to right: Bey, Avril covering her face, and Pitty


I live in a place that is so full of "critters". I love them all but I have my favorites. When I grew up we always had cats becase if you had a cat, you never had rats! Quando voce tem gato, voce nao tem rato! So true!!!

Becase of the tight living spaces favelas have and not adquate services, sometimes depending on the area there are mice and rats..The biggest rat I saw was about 25 cm long which is big and probably that thing weighed about 2 kgs. But it was not near me so I am ok with that..As long as they do not come in my house, no problems.

When I was a child, we had a orange tabby. This cat was my buddy and followed everwheres I went and slept with me. I really miss him, but I have had other cats since him. All were wonderful critters.

I do not have anything against dogs, just prefer cats. I think the things I like more about cats is, they are quiet, they clean themselves, they purr, their fur is soft, they talk to you in their different types of miaows, and they do silly things. But most what I like is that they can be ying or yang..They can be the soft cuddly thing or the agressive hunter in the wild! I also like they have a certain independance too.

Where I am living now, there are two furballs, Pitty and Avril. There was Bey, my favorite but one day she just never came home. I hope wherever she is that she is safe and loved. She used to come in my window late at night and jump on my bed and curl up next to me. In the morning she would gently bite me on the face to wake me up so I would feed her. I really miss her. Pitty and Bey used have these major battles in the kitchen. I think they were jelaous of each other. Pitty being the senior cat and all, thought that the kitchen was hers! Avril just avoided and did what she liked an never challenged Pitty.

So, everyday, I was down my beco (alley), I encounter several "friends", there is a friendly black cat 10 doors down the beco that I will see many once a week. At the end of beco Travessa Real there is this furry cream colored kitty who as soon as I talk comes running. She has a deformed back righ leg and has troubles getting around, but is able to get her pets from me and others. I noticed she has two friends who live with her. Two black and white shorthairs who now arrive when I come close to her. They both headbutt the cream one out of the way so they can get to me. Such fun to have these cats fight over me..funny..

As I make my way down to the hill, I decide to always take Rua 4 (4th Street), about half way down, there is a cat that I would love to steal and take home with me. She is a medium hair Calico. I have included fotos of her. I arrive at the barzinho (small bar) and she comes running. This is a outside bar where there is a counter that stretches into the beco. People can stand outside and grab a cerveja!

So, I go by and she comes running. I give her some head scratches and she purrs really loud. Her favorite thing is to keep her back paws on the bar as she put her front paws on my shoulders and kneeds her claws into my shirt (no problem, it does not hurt), all while licking my face or hair. Very cute!!! Almost every day I see this friendly cat and I leave with a smile on my face. I am thankful of such simple things and how they can make me happy. I am very lucky!

I do not have any of my own cats right now, but I will soon, when I buy a new house here. I want 2 so they can keep each other busy.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Tio Lino: Somebody who I admire in Rocinha

Tio a student and me hanging out!

Tio Lino and some of his students!

One of my best friends in Rocinha is Lino dos Santos Filho. He is a 63 years old retired guy who was born and raised in Rocinha. He is one of the changemakers in the comunity.

So, the story goes back some years ago he was teaching art to the kids in the Valao, which is one of the poorer areas of the favela. His goal was through art and expression that children could find an outlet from all the negative things in their life.

One day while walking outside the favela, he saw a building on fire and heard some noises. He went to check it out and there was a person inside this building who could not get out. So, Lino went in the building and dragged the guy out. Another person who came a little later was able to call for the ambulance to take the injured guy to the hospital. Lino left thinking that his job was done. Some years later the person who happened to be a doctor, who he saved was able to get in contact with Lino and they exchanged letters.

After a while, sad news came to Lino that the doctor had passed away. The family of the doctor came looking for Lino to thank him for his good deed. They eventually met and the family bought a house for Lino outside of the favela in Jacarepagua, which is about one hour bus ride from Rocinha. Lino lives in Jacarepagua but every day, except Sunday he is in Rocinha. From 10 in the morning to 10 at night his life is Rocinha! I thought I was the only one who loves Rocinha..

To this day "Tio" Lino is still teaching his art classes to the kids in the Valao. He has "saved" about 60 kids from joining the drug gangs or a life of negativity. People in the Valao respect Tio Lino and for some he is like a father figure.

To me, this guy is one of the real heros of the neighborhood. About 3 days a week, after my work, I go to his art studio to help out. I do not go to teach, but just to be there if any of the kids need help. The other day, one kid just wanted me to walk him home. No problem, what many of these kids need is just somebody who will listen to them and not judge.
Recently the kids are always asking about my tattoos. Understood that kids are curios about what they mean. So, now they all want tattoos. Of course they can not have a real tattoo until they are 18, so now the popular thing is they have my paint a design on them. And I do! It is in water color paints so their parents do not get angry with me. They are happy as I am able to do a small thing that means so much to them.

When I have visitors, I bring them by the studio to show the influence he has in creating a positive environment for the kids. Outsiders need to know that people like Tio Lino exist in favelas.

The other day I saw Tio scold a kid who was carrying a toy gun. He would not let that kid enter his art studio with that toy. I saw him point at that kid and say "you can not come in here with that!" The boy looked confused and went on his way. Later Tio explained to me that kids in favelas need to learn that seeing armed men in the comunity is not normal and should not be accepted like it is. On the wall of the studio his saying is "Troque uma arma por um pincel" which means "Exchange a gun for a paintbrush".

In febuary a documentry filmaker is coming to Rocinha to film about my life here in Rocinha, but I have decided that I do not want this film to be about me but people in the favela, like Tio Lino who are making a difference! I have a list of about 15 people in the comunity who I know very well who are really making an impact here in Rocinha.

Having people like Tio as my friend, makes my work all the more valuable.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Awesome Aussies!

Ok, I have to admit I love bringing people to Rocinha. I know that most people on the outside see favelas as misery and poverty and all things bad. Yes we have good and bad here like any place. But, I prefer to show people the side they rarely hear about, the good things going on here.

foto #1 Courtney, Tania and me on top of Carlinos' Roof Rua 1

foto #2 Eat out in Rocinha group

On Friday July 3, I had the oportunity to bring a group of 13 people here just for a short visit to "Eat out In Rocinha". The idea is to break down images that favelas are no go zones full of evil stuff. So I put a advertisement on website and invited all there to Rocinha to get a taste of the food we have here. I really want to change the image that the press gives about us who live in favelas. My group was a mix of all types of people which I love becase this is what is represented in Rocinha too.

I met everybody at the Samba School Academicos da Rocinha, just outside of the favela at 1 in the afternoon. Everybody arrived and we all walked over the pasarella where everybody can get a good view of the comunity. Some fotos were taken and as we walked into the comunity, I was able to explain a bit about Rocinha and the types of food we have here.

We all made out way up to the Pizza Lit restaurant which is celebrating 10 years of history in Rocinha. It is the most famous place that everybody goes and is open until 5 in the morning. We all shared some awesome food and after made our way down to the Valao as some of the guests wanted desert. There is a nice place that has tastey pastries and cakes in the Valao. So, off we went. Most of the guests had either acai or chocolate cake of some kind. After our little tour, I escourted everybody to the buses and Kombis so they could get home safely.

After the "Eat out In Rocinha", I was contacted by one of the guests about wanting to come back for a real visit. Courtney wanted to come back on the 9 of July, so I set aside time to show her around. Courtney is from Australia and is on a six month travels around the world.

She emailed and we met in from of the samba school at 10 in the morning, but this time she brought two of her friends, Gosia and Tania as well both from Australia. They came prepared with water, confortable clothes and tenis shoes. I told them that the tour would be about 5 hours but I never stick to a definate schedule.

All I can say is that I, the "tour guide" had such a great time with these three women. We entered the favela and the first thing they wanted to do was grab some food, so we eat some pastels. We proceeded to take the mototaxis to the Visual in Laboriaux. I could see that they enjoyed the view and felt confortable being with me. Sometimes with other visitors, I can see that they are aprehensive and not sure how to "act" in the comunity.

They took plenty of fotos in the right places and we leisurely made our way down the hill. Courtney had a request that I thought was interesting. Everywhere she travels, she likes to jump rope. Something about this, just made me smile because it is simple rituals like this that breed great ideas (more about this later). I chose Carlinhos' roof (he is a friend of mine) at Rua 1 for her perfect setting to jump rope. I thought the view and location were perfect in the favela. Too bad the whole comunity could not see her jumping rope.

It was all fun until she asked me to join in. I am not the jump rope kind of person but I was ok with it and decided I would go along. The thing is she wanted to film both her and I jumping rope. Well, I suck at jumping rope but still was a good sport about it. I have to admit it was fun.
I was able to also get some fotos of her and Gosia jumping rope on the roof too! They also got fotos of them jumping catching the shots of them in the air.

We made our way down the area where I live in Dioneia. We visited my best friends and my neighbors and hung out talking, and went up on their roof for a difeerent view. My friends really liked the girls and said if they ever come back, to visit! I never saw my guests without smiles on their faces.

After a while they started to get hungry so I had to cut out some parts of the tour that I usually show. We went to Trapia a por kilo place in the Via Apia. It is one of my most favorite places becase the choises of food you can get there are many.

After, we made our way to visit one of my good friend who runs an art studio in the Valao. His name is Tio Lino and he is a retired man who volunteers his time to teach kids to make art using recyclable materials. He is a great guy and has saved many kids from the streets and getting into troubles. The girls were impressed with him and we chatted and Tio showed them the art the kids had made on display in the studio. It was not getting late around 7 pm, and everybody was getting tired.

The tour began at 10 in the morning and was supposed to be only 5 hours but turned out to last 9 after all the visiting with people and hanging out with friends. The idea was born that I know Jump rope is not that expensive and it is something you can do alone. In Rocinha I rarely see anybody jumping rope. I want to start a program for girls where they can learn how to jump rope, maybe even Double Dutch. I think this would be a great self esteem builder for the girls in the comunity, it does not cost a lot and its FUN!

I want to thank Gosia, Tania and Courtney for reminding me why I love my work so much!

I made anothe "Eat out in Rocinha" on july 11 and was surprised when Courtney showed up with a bag full of Art supplies for the kids!. I am so happy becase I know Tio Lino needs this kind of help for the kids. Courtney could not stay and just dropped off the bag to me to deliver. Nothing can express the big smile from Tio's face when I gave him that bag of art supplies. Thank you again Courtney!