Wednesday, November 12, 2014

A sad week in Rocinha

Life in Rocinha with police presence. This photo was taken in the lower part of Rocinha, a area called Via Apia not far from the entrance to the community.
I get asked all sorts or questions in regards to living in the favela. Life is very complicated here and not as easy to explain. I like living here for the many good things but theres a bad side too. Favelas are marginalized communities and how the outside world views them is very different from the reality inside here. We have good and bad, just like any place.
People often talk about the violence and its causes. There are many, poverty, inequality in society, lack of opportunities, quality education and poor health care. Rocinha is one of the biggest favelas located in the South Zone of Rio de Janeiro. Last Sunday our favela experienced one whole week of violence marked by intense shootings between police and drug dealers inside the community.
On Monday November 11th around 5:30am,  there was a shootout for about 2.5 hours that left 3 people killed. I knew one of the people killed by a stray bullet and he was not involved in drug trafficking or crime. He was a 27 years old father of two young children who was a worker who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. I often wonder, when will this situation change for us here in these communities? I cannot accept the fact that society has refused our people the right to advance ourselves. This is true in that very few residents born in a favela ever end up moving out. I can not accept the fact that the slum dweller only has rights to be born to serve society in constructing the city and taking care of other peoples (rich & middle class) children and only to serve like one step up from slavery. Many may disagree but how can a person live on 750-1000 reais a month. Even living in a favela its not easy. We will not have peace here as long as we live in this misery and lack of opportunities to have a better life.
The "Pacification" of the favelas is not working. In Rocinha, every time there is a shooting, I write it down in my agenda book. Since January 2014 we have had about 38 shootings here. This doesn't include the shootings that happened that I did not hear myself. When the drug dealers were "in control", we would have maybe one or two shootings a year. Now its more like 2-3 shootings a week. Don't misunderstand as I am not trying to say that drug dealers are good, because they are not. All I can say is the truth and that is Rocinha is far more dangerous now than before the police came in here. Its awful because people are stuck in their houses and cannot go to work and children can not go to school. What kind of life is this? 
Now that the police are stationed inside the favela at certain areas, there's more possibility of being problems. The police walk through the community and now when they encounter drug dealers there are shootouts. This pacification idea needs to be changed. The problem is since favelas were formed, the previous military dictatorship, there has always been a mistrust of police and the government. This has to do with widespread corruption. And the poor are blamed for many social problems. Nobody chooses to be poor. The majority of favela residents are honest hardworking people who just make less money. Imagine being stigmatized just because you earn less money? But where does this originate? It comes from businesses that don't want to pay workers a decent wage. The rich and middle class talk about fear and dislike of favelas and its residents but only at the convenience of them does the favela serve it slave like long as they have their access to their drugs, maids and doormen etc..then the favela is ok, otherwise we are ignored and despised. We are not the problem. The government and society has failed the people in the favelas! I live here and see so much potential and talent going to waste, all because of prejudice.
How can we change this? We need to speak out more about what our community needs are. We need to transform this idea of the favela being "a fabrica do marginal" or a factory of criminals. We need to get the residents together with good actions that can improve the quality of life with better public services.
Living in Rocinha has many challenges for our people. Elderly and disabled people can have much difficulty in walking here with improvised stairways and alleys that are not flat.
Children growing up in small houses that lack proper ventilation that they can get sick from mold created by the humidity. These same children going to public schools that lack proper materials or preparation for graduation. Lack of proper curicculum to develop our children in the hopes that they can go to university. How can a child go to school for 4 hours a day and get a proper education? Because of poverty, most kids will drop out of school around 15 to go to work to help support their families. Both parents working in jobs where they work 10-12 hours a day and spending less time with their families. I have the idea that many societies have this structure that the majority of the population is kept ignorant so that the elites can rule. If you keep the masses stupid, they are more easy to control. And best to keep them distracted by getting them to buy stuff they don't need and encouraging them to watch television, the best brainwashing tool ever invented. if poor people had the same opportunities of the middle classes they can then improve their own lives, but as long as businesses pay little wages, the poor have no choice. How can one improve their life if they don't have access to education so they can get better paying jobs?
Back to the government in the name of our community of about 300,000 people,we NEED to transform this idea where our favelas are at war. The schools and all educational and cultural projects need to be a priority. We need quality education that can prepare our youth the same opportunity to go on to university. Our children deserve this as we are part of the future of the country too. In Rocinha we have many social cultural projects that receive no help from any government organizations. Just last year the city government removed a school next to the Sport Complex that gave courses for those residents wanting to go on to university. This school was soon shut down and replaced by a police station. To me, that means the city sees police as more valuable then our people having access to bettering our lives through education. We need less guns (police) and more education.
Monday morning around 5:30 am police forces from the PM, CORE and BOPE and two helicopters ran an operation here to find drug dealers. Theres was intense shooting that woke me up. You could here grenades, machine gun fire and pistols being shot. It sounded like a war. The drug trade only continues in our favelas because the involvement of some corrupt police. These police know when are where the drugs are being sold. I live here and know where the guys sell their drugs and I'm sure the UPP's that are stationed inside here know too. The police put on this big show of force that interrupts our lives. How can we earn money and pay our way if we can not go to work because of a shootout in our favela? Often times these police kill many innocents as well. This is all a game the system plays to show the world that they are doing something  about the drug dealers. The question to ask is why do these young men sell drugs? Because for them, who have no other opportunity, they don't have a choice. Anywhere you go, as long as you have buyers of drugs there will be sellers. And this is worldwide and not only in favelas! Just take a walk on Ipanema beach as the sun goes down and you can see the rich smoking their marijuana without police abuse. But do the same in the favela and you could be killed by police!

This photo is the police and a resident carrying the body of my friend Mikael Patrick, 27 who was killed by a police bullet in the "Valao", which is a area at the bottom of Rocinha. He will be missed!

These are casings from bullets fired by the police. This was just one area of the favela but the shootings took place in about 5 different areas of the community.
I wonder, where do all the bullets go?

When will this stop? We are not against policing. What we want is a respectful police force that doesn't abuse us and treat us like we are all criminals, thats all!

Here is a video taken from a resident of Rocinha. Its a long video but you can get the idea of what its like here when there is an operation.

In Rocinha, all we want is peace and safety for all  residents!