Thursday, October 10, 2013

Interview with Andy Barros

- Can you tell me your name, where you are from? Andy Silva. I'm from San Francisco, and have lived in the US for pretty much all my life. Right now I live in Switzerland.

- Why did you come to Brasil? My father is originally from Brazil, and I wanted to learn more about how he grew up. I also wanted to learn a bit of Portuguese.

- When you arrived where did you live? I stayed in a small apartment available for volunteers at Two Brothers Foundation, owned by Seu Jose in Cachopa.

- How did you find out about favelas? I had heard tidbits about Brazil's favelas before, but most of what I learned about favelas was from talking with Zezinho.

- Why did you decide to move into a favela (Rocinha)? I wanted to do community work, and Rocinha is known for its abundance of community organizations. The one I picked, Two Brothers Foundation, was located in Rocinha, so I decided to move close by.

- Before moving here what did you know about favelas? I knew that they were poor, and known for their presence of drug gangs. I had heard that favelas could be very dangerous places.

- Since living here, have you impressions of favelas changed much? Yes. It's true that favelas are poor and have a large presence of drug gangs, but they're not as violent as the media (and sometimes other Brazilians) claim them to be. There is violence and drugs in the favelas, but if you play it cool and don't go looking for trouble you can stay relatively safe.

- What do you like about living in the favela? I like that the people are friendly and that they generally create a very close-knit community. I like the music and dances in the favelas, and the relaxed atmosphere.

- What don’t you like? I don't like the presence of alcohol, other drugs, and weapons. As innocent as alcohol may seem, the commercial areas of favelas like Rocinha are lined with bars. I also don't like the violence and abuse present in many families.

- If you had a magic wand and could change anything, what would you change about the favela? I think if I could provide on thing to the residents, it would be education. In what form, I do not know, but with education comes opportunity, which may grant the residents the freedom to change the favela in ways they see fit.

- Has your experience been worthwhile? Most definitely. I had a great experience living and working in Rocinha, and would recommend it to anyone.

- What advice would you give someone who wanted to move/stay here? Come to Rocinha, or any other favela, with an open mind. Be modest in the presence of cultures foreign to you. Understand that if you come from a wealthier country, that Brazilians may hold many stereotypes of your culture, as you may hold of theirs. Don't reinforce their stereotypes, and don't allow them to reinforce yours.

- Would you come back to live here again? Yes! Particularly if I had a great community project to work on.

Thank you Andy!