Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Life in the Favela Pt.2

With all the lifes challenges, I still LOVE living here. We can choose to see the bad or good. I prefer to see the good and positive that lives here. I have always said “It’s not the poorly built houses, but the people that make this place special”. Life is good.

Living here has challenges and I want to put out a special get better wish to my friend Robert and Lilia who have been sick due to Dengue. Get beetr soon!!!

I wanted to continue from Part 1 as some of you want to know more. I have been very fortunate to have people who after reading my blog, come here to see for themselves. I am back now and hope to be able to give updates one a week now that I have formal internet in my house.

Why favelas exist
Favelas exist because of the lack of affordable housing for the poor working class. We do not have public housing or a welfare system that aids poorer people, so favelas are the only option. If Rio wishes for the favelas to go away, they need affordable housing or they need to raise the minimum wage so people have the option to move out of the favelas. I know that I could not afford to live outside a favela. Favelas are not bad places, just places where regular people live who make little money. The majority of people who live here in Rocinha, have no interest in leaving. I am one of those content with my life here. Instead of leaving, I would like to help improve life for people who live here. Leaving? Where would I go? What friends or connections would I have to a new place? Many things to think about.

Work, jobs, job opportunities
Most of the jobs favela resident do are simple type work where education or higher education is not needed. Favela residents are construction workers, domestics, bus drivers, cashiers, hotel and restaurant workers. The job you get decides on many factors, like education, where you live and your race. Brazil does not like to admit this but there is racism here. Rarely do you see Afro-Brazilians in high professional type jobs. The biggest stigma is coming from or living in a favela. I am considered white and to Brazilians considered one who probably has opportunity but becase I live in a favela, my status or class drops. I think more people suffer discrimination because of living in a favela. Because favela residents receive poor education, they are not able to pass the difficult entrance exam (called the Vestibular) to get into university. Only the rich or people who can afford tutors can gain entry for university. There is the odd scholarship but it is rare for favela resident to get into university. The guy on the beach selling you water or renting you the beach chair most likely lives in a favela.

Shopping and Commerce
In Rocinha, we have over 6,000 businesses. I love living here because I do not have to leave here for anything. Why? When I can buy everything here? We have three banks here, Bradesco, Itau and Caixa. They are now building a Banco do Brasil as well here. The prices are very cheap or reasonably priced. Every Saturday the nightclub Emocoes (Emotions) located close to the entrance of the favela, opens up a shopping market. It is mostly clothes and shoes but other things can be bought there as well. On Sunday we have the Feira Nordestina located in Largo do Boiadeiro. This is a true Brazilian cultural fair as you can but fruits, vegetables, meat and everything, even a screw driver! There are also the “Repentistas” who sing or “insult” each other through song. But it’s all in fun. I often receive tourists who would prefer shop in Rocinha not only because the prices are cheaper but also because the want to support the favela economy. Most of the commerce is located down at the bottom of the hill.

We have a water resource high deep in the forest of a area called “Laboriaux”. It is a fresh water spring that people can drink the water from. When the water is pumped from there through the pipes to people homes in the favela, minerals build up in the pipes and the water is not good to drink. Most people here drink bottled water. Where I live, I get water pumped into my tank once a week, so conservation of water is important. Water is free and the government built a pumping station at the top of Rua 1 for the residents. I think it is important responsibility to conserve water.

Most people pay for electricity but of course you will always have those people who have “gatos” or illegal hook ups to the grid. When I was a kid, it was all illegal but now we have a formal company called “LIGHT” which is a Brazilian/Canadian company which provides formal electricity to about 85% of the residents. I receive a bill every month and I pay between 20 to 50 reais a month depending on how much energy I use.

In Brazil we have a law that if you make under 1200 reais a month you do not pay taxes. Most people who live in Rocinha earn between 600 to 900 reais a month, so they don’t pay income taxes. We do pay taxes on good and services though as this tax is built into the price.

I think most people know that public education in Brazil is poor and even worse for the cities 1.8 million favela residents. Education or real education is for the middle and upper classes. We are educated to the point we can function but it is not common to see professional people coming out of favelas. This is sad becase intelligence has nothing to do with where a person lives. But that intelligence has to be nutured and fed to grow and prosper. Many bright favela people will never amount to anything more than a common service worker becase they do not have access to quality education. And becase the minimum salary is low many kids have to leave school and work to help support their families. It is common in Rocinha to see a 12 or 13 year old kid giving you back change in a store. These kids should be in school but many see the lack of opportunities becase the education prepares them for a bleak future, so why waste the time with this. There are some scholarships, but they are rare. I have a friend who was lucky. He is a architect but he and his friends in order to get better job opportunities are renting a place outside the favela. He can not even tell outsiders the truth about where he lives. This is sad. It is common that many employers will not hire favela people.

***If any of you readers want information about a specific thing regarding to favela life or Rocinha, please email me what you would like to read here. My email is: