Friday, October 8, 2010

Interesting facts of favela life Part 1

The top fotos are of the transportation here with both buses and Mototaxis available to take you anywhere.
The bottom fotos are of the neighborhoods (L) the Via Apia and (R) is the Largo do Boiadeiro located close to the bottom of the favela. Both neighborhoods are have all sorts of stores to satisfy anybodys shopping desires.

Many have emailed me and asked about things here in the favela. So, I decided to give a little explanation about these things.

Land- is something very scarce. Most of the land is taken. What trees and grass is left is green but on the steep hillsides. Its is dangerous to build there and people are told the risks of building on a steep incline. The start of the favela was at the bottom and it grew up the hills through time. Rocinha was originally settled by three families of Portugues, Italian and French origins. Laboriaux is the highest point in the favela which was settled by the French. Largo do Boiadeiro or Caminho do Boiadeiro was settled by the Portugues and the Via Apia was settled by the Italians. We used to have farms and people grew their vegetables here which is why it is called “Rocinha”. Rocinha means “little farm”. People would come to buy their vegetables here back in the 1930’s until about the 50’s. After the second huge migration of people, the area started to turn more urban as there was more building of houses. Rocinha now has a population of about 300,000 people.

Most people don’t really care about land so much. We value our houses more. We now have rights to our houses and do not have fears to be removed. So now you see many people continuously making home improvements. You could visit here tomorrow and return six months later and you will see changes here.

The majority of people who live here originally come from the North East of Brazil. My family was from Fortaleza but never made it back to their roots in Ceara. I hear of more people wanting to return there, after they save enough money. So, to some, the favela is a temporary place where they can live and work. But eventually they hope to be able to return to their roots someday. My roots are here and I am not leaving. The government started building a wall around the favela to prevent expansion. Favelas grew becase of people wanting and needing to build their homes. The wall is supposedly to protect the environment. Some think of it as another way the system is trying to inforce the social exclusion.

Houses- In most favelas the outside of the house and the way it looks is not so important as what is in the inside. Many houses look bad from the outside but once inside you would be surprised to see nice tiled floors and modern furniture with television set and DVD players. Recently I have seen many people installing satellite dishes. I do not have a tv so, this is not available for me. We have a cable tv company here called tvROC (tv Rocinha).

In Rocinha there are approximately 54,000 houses set in 64,000 meters of space. The majority of houses here in Rocinha are made with brick and cement. We still do have shacks here, mostly in the areas of Macega and Roupa Suja. The government wants to remove them because the houses are not sturdy built into the rock. Everytime it rains there, some shacks are destroyed. Or we have mudslides. Everybody desires to have their own house and we take pride in where we live. I would like to own a house someday. Inside our houses are very simple. We do not have drywall. Everything is brick. Most houses have windows. The windows are metal framed with glass on the inside. It is common to see houses without windows too. Most people have electricity and running water. In Brazil, tiles are popular because of them being cheap and easy to clean. The cheapest places to live is closer to the top of the hill. The more expensive houses and apartments are at the bottom of the hill. Foreigners have bought houses here. The average price for a 2 bedroom house is about $30-35,000 reais. At the bottom of the hill is double. We have two real estate offices here in Rocinha where you can go to buy a place. There is also one rental office. People often sell their homes privately, without the help of the RE office. Since there is no space around the houses, people build multiple floors.

Neighborhoods- (Cachopa, Roupa Suja, Capado) we have 25 different neighborhoods and sub neighborhoods here. These names help for us to know where we live. I live in area 7. But before I lived in Paula Brito. But I was born up on Rua 1. It is common for many people to move to other areas in the favela. The poorests areas are Macega, Roupa Suja, Cesario and the Valao. Some of the houses in theses areas do not have electricity or running water.

The names of the neighborhoods are significant to people who they are named after or because of a certain history of the place. The area of Roupa Suja was named after a area where women would come down the hill to wash their clothes and they would meet together doing their work and talking about the goings on in the favela. In other words, they would gossip while washing the clothes, hence the name Roupa Suja (dirty clothes or dirty laundry). Cachopa means pretty girl. I am not sure who the pretty girl was but she was from that area of the favela. Capado which is located high up the hill got its name from the woman who castrated her cheating husband one night after catching him in bed with another woman. The Valao is the area that has the open sewer system running through it. The word “vala” means ditch and “Valao” means big ditch.
Every area of the favela has a different vibe or feel to it. The Via Apia and Largo do Boiadeiro are heavily commercial and its always noisy there. In Paula Brito or Portao Vermelho its very quiet and not much going on there.

Street life-this refers to action going on in the street. Rocinha is a busy place and with only 1 main road, there’s a lot to see. There are many shops, bars and hang out places. Our houses are not big so its nice to go outside and talk with neighbors. In the “becos” or alleyways, people sit on stairs or just stand. Talk varies from gossip to family matters. When I get bored from being inside too long, I just walk down the street and its guaranteed that I will meet people I know. Its hard to be lonely here. People in the streets are friendly and do greet each other. At the bottom of the hill, there are street vendors and all sorts of people hanging out. The street food there is great too! You will see and hear cars with loud stereo systems. There is a “sound car” that drives through the neighborhood making announcements of whats going on in the favela. Capoeira demonstrations are a common sight. And during Carnaval we will have parades through out streets. From Thursday night to Sunday, parties are everywhere and people have churrascos on their rooftops.

Roads- roads are a luxury in any favela. Most favelas have dirt roads. We in Rocinha have one main street and 3 smaller streets. The streets are made of cement. I did see some repairs in the road last week that looked like black tar. Our main street is called Estrada da Gavea which runs from the bottom area of Sao Conrado cutting up the hill to the others side and neighborhood of Gavea. This street receives cars, buses, mototaxis, vans and now with all the construction, big trucks. Bicycles are not common but some do ride. There is a guy at the top of the hill in Rua 1 or first street (which is a alley way not a street), that has a horse. I see him out riding about once a month. My friend skateboards down the hill. He does it becase he does not have the use of his legs. The skateboard has been his transportation since he was 8. To get up the hill, he catches a mototaxi.

Garbage- this is my only complaint about favela life. There are areas sectioned off as garbage dumping places. But I still see people throwing trash on the ground. There needs to be more garbage cans so we can improve our trash problem. And the city needs to come in Rocinha more often and collect the garbage. I wish they would eliminate plastic bags and go to brown paper bags or the “bring your own” when people go shopping.

Transportation- I feel fortunate to live in a place that has transportation 24 hours. We have three bus routes that go to Leblon, Leme and Botofogo. The mototaxis serve primarily the favela but they can take you outside the favela to other areas for a higher price. Costs inside the favela are $2 reais but to go outside the cost is $2.35 for the bus and 2.20 for the vans. I mostly use the vans as they are the most convenient for me. At the bottom of the hill just outside of Rocinha is now a taxi stand for people who need to go longer distances. My friend uses the taxi to go to the airport.

Internet- we have over 80 Lanhouses or internet cafes. People can also have cable internet put in their houses. Recently the government put free WiFi here in Rocinha but its only available for those who have computers. About 20% of the population has computers in their homes. Even less have laptops. I am lucky to have a laptop and I can acess the WiFi on my roof but its not always a strong signal. Right now I am posting this at Leblon Shopping becase the internet connection is stronger and I can post fotos.

Furniture- it is reasonably priced but you will not find grade A quality either. Shops like Ikea don’t exist. The sofa I have is not the most confortable but it seats 3 people. I miss the couch or soft that you sink into. Or if you had to sleep on it, you would not wake up with a sore back. The mattresses on my bed are firm, well made and good for my back. Because we live in a tropical environment, bugs are common. After having mattresses destroyed by bed bugs and every other critter, I decided that after buying new mattresses that I would keep the plastic on them. Its strange sleeping on top of plastic covering but at least I know they will last a long time. I put a sheet over the plastic but still it takes time to adjust to the sound of plastic everytime you move. Computer chairs are very expensive here. 150 reais for a chair is crazy. But I found a used computer desk for 30 reais which is cheap.

Cell phones- almost everyone I know, has one. The way people here can afford cell phones is by buying minutes. I do not know anyone on a monthly rate. My cell phone, I am like everybody else and buy minutes. Talking on the fone is expensive. Text messaging is cheaper even though I hate it. I have seen a few blackberries and the rare iPhone. People have crazy ringtones like cats meowing or loud alarms going off. I heard one guy has his sound like firecrackers going off. He gets strange looks on the bus.

Television- the two most watched programs are Telenovelas and football. Practically everyone has a tv in the favela EXCEPT ME!!! I have seen simpel black and white tv's and huge flat screens. Most people are hooked up to cable tv or satellite dish service Skytv or Via. I do not like tv so much.

Music- you will hear all styles of music here. The most common music styles I hear everyday are Funk, Hip Hop and Pagode. Walking through the becos you hear more of a variety than on the street. Most popular is Lady Gaga, Justin Beiber and Beyonce for pop music from the US. I have even heard some heavy metal. And I have seen a few “Goths” walking the streets of the favela. They are no different from what you would see in the US, pale faces, long black hair and all black clothing.