Monday, May 9, 2016

Some more questions from a reader of the blog

What is favela to you?
-- The favela to me is FAMILY! I have lived in other places but I return to what is comfortable. I can be myself here without judgement. The favela represents survivors of a system that has excluded them from society. Unfortunately there is a stigma to living in favela. But there are many in this community that are trying to change this image. A favela is far from what the media says. The favela is a creative way of living. The favela is always changing for the better. Its not the poorly built houses, but the people that make this a nice place to live.
What is Rocinha to you?
-- Rocinha is a amazing place with so much potential. I am so proud to live here as part of this amazing community. There are so many talented people here that the world needs to know about. People need to come and visit this city of about 300,000 people. They will be amazed at how different this place is compared to what tv wants you to believe. Rocinha is not perfect but its always improving itself. I hope to continue being able to be part of intiatives to help improve this place.
How many people do you think live in Rocinha?
-- I think about 300,000 live here. The government census says about 80,000 but we who live here know there’s more than that. The problem is the census is taken only once every 10 years.
What do you consider your role to be in the community? It seems like you are doing a lot for the community over there.-- I am nobody special, just somebody who wants to contribute for the community. If there is a way that I can help, why not. Some people call me “embaixador” or embassador of the favela. I receive many emails from people wanting to volunteer or help projects here and I have many contacts. My role in the community is difficult to say. I live here and I work as a guide showing and educating people about my favela. I also have a social project, a Dj school where we teach residents the art of dj’ing. I want people to come and see the warm friendly people here.
What do you think are the reasons for the favelas having such a strong sense of community? 
-- I think because we are a marginalized population of people. So to combat against this prejudice, we stick together and support the common good of our favela. People help each other here unlike many other places. A friend of mine moved to Rocinha a few years ago from another state in Brasil and was welcomed. His neighbors offered him clothing and furniture for his small apartment that he moved into. This is normal here.
What has the government done for the favelas? Both the good and the bad things? 
– Not very much. The government only involves themselves in favelas if it benefits them. Especially during years where elections come up, then they do things so they can get votes. For example, in Rocinha during the voting year of 2010 the government did build some buildings to help the favela. We had a medical clinic, a daycare, a sports complex and some lowrise apartments that were built, so yes this does help the community. I think the two most important things the favela needs is better quality of education so our youth have opportunity to go to University and basic sanitation. We do pay taxes so we deserve the basic services that any non favela community receives.
What have the drug lords done for the favelas? Both the good and the bad things? If I remember correct, you mentioned something about the drug lords helping the community? 
–- This is a very sensitive issue. I do not support drug trafficking. The reality is that in most countries around the world, drugs exist unfortunately. In Rocinha its no different, the bad is when there are shootings with the dealers and the police. They do support certain activities in the favela by sponsoring athletes or parties. They also built a football field for the kids. Again, I don’t support the selling of drugs.
What is your attitude towards the government and the police? Why?
-- The problem is the average Brazilian knows the system is corrupt. So there’s a big lack of trust and confidence in the police or leadership. I understand that communities need policing. All we in favelas want is policing with respect to human rights. Unfortunately favelados are marginalized and much prejudice against us is common. The police needs better training and communication skills with people.  Once this happens then there will be better relations between the communities and the police.
What do you think and want the government to do about the favelas? 
– I don’t think the government really cares about the favelas unless it’s a voting year. They just let us do our own thing. I don’t think Rocinha will be removed as its too big. I think the government shouldn’t remove the favelas but help them upgrade the infrastructure and improve public services. Favelas are the option for a lack in housing available to those who earn little money.

What do you want the favelas’ and Rocinha’s future to look like? 
– I want to see better sanitation initiatives in the favelas and better education for our youth. There needs to be opportunities that can improve people’s lives. Things like trade schools would greatly benefit a community like ours. The sad thing is currently with the education system, the chances of ever leaving the favela if you are born here, are very small. There is not a lot of upward mobility. 

If you have questions you can send them to me at: 

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Housing Preferences of people within Rocinha

This house is located in the area of Vila Verde which is in one of the 26 neighborhoods inside Rocinha. Notice the outside is unfinished cement.

This house is in Rocinha just off the main street of Estrada da Gavea.

The same house as above only this photo shows the entrance to the house. 
The house is 4 floors tall.

This yellow house for sale is located on street number 3 in Rocinha.  

This is a house for sale 3 floors and is located on street number 2 in Rocinha.

These shacks are located high up the hill close to the Mountain of Two Brothers. Macega is one of the poorest areas in Rocinha and many live in houses like these.

This is my apartment building where I live on the 3rd floor. I grew up in a house made of wood and mixed materials like the ones above. This building is about 20 years old and the owners also own the construction store that you see in the right of the photo where the white trucks is. 

I just received this list of questions sent to me by a student who came to visit Rocinha and he is doing a school project. 

Housing is something I often get asked about as people have these ideas about favelas and our houses. Every favela is different. How people find housing and build houses is similar but Rocinha is a place of 300,000 people so housing can differ even here. In Rocinha we have poor and middle class type of people but we all live together. 

1.     Are people who live within Rocinha more interested in the interior or the exterior look of the house? Why?
--I think the more value is what is inside. People in favelas are very practical. You live inside the house, not outside. Being clean and having sanitary living space is important families. There is a saying that you can live in a shack, but keep your shack clean! This is true. In many favelas when they first started many who did have money didn't want to show it for fear of offending people who had less. Also the government was more likely to leave favelados alone if there structure didn't look like much. See the photos below of the difference in Interiors of these two houses. Both are in Rocinha and are up for sale. Here is an example of a house with nice ceramic interiors. This house is for sale. It is located half way up the hill. 

HOUSE #1 - 1 bedroom, Livingroom, Kitchen & Bathroom, Location: Dioneia, Rocinha, asking price 45,000 reais 

This living room looks nice including the ceiling. I would want to check the walls. If I was buying a house I look at how well the electricity is set up and if there is mold on the walls. I lived in a house previously that had mold. It was not a good experience.

From this photo its hard to see if the works on the floors is done well. I would want to see the ceiling too. 

The front door made of wood, at the entry of the living room. Nice floor but the wall needs to be improved, remodelled.

Toilet area, notice the ceramic tiling on the floor and the walls. Its important to have ventilation so mold doesn't build up. This is why its imperative that most homes have windows in the bathrooms.  The glass in the windows is not clear, so privacy is ensured.

The shower area is nice. The one thing about Brazilian homes both in and outside favelas is the use of electric shower. 

Having a rooftop area is a benefit if you want to hang clothes, grow your own vegetables, entertain friends or have bbq's.

HOUSE #2 - 2 Bedroom, Living Room, Kitchen, Bathroom and Varanda. Location: Portao Vermelho (3/4 way up the hill) 150,000 reais.

Right away you will notice the difference between this house and House #1. I think it shows the house better when there is furniture inside. But you can tell that there was a lot of time and work into making this a nice house.

Nice living room area with sliding door that opens to a varanda or balcony. This is very rare in Rocinha and favelas. This would be like a middle class house outside the favela. 

The living room is bigger size than what is normally seem in favelas. Having a dining room table with space like this is not common. The furniture is of higher quality than what most have in Rocinha. A glass dining room table with with wood chairs also very expensive. 

This is not a big kitchen but it has enough space to move around. This kind of space reminds me of what you would see in an apartment in North America or Europe. The refrigerator is of good size, much larger than what I have. The stove is normal size for Rocinha. Notice the gold colored gas cans under the sink. There is no electricity or gas heating in homes.  But it never gets cold enough for the need of heat in the house. The gas is used for the stove. As nice as this house is theres just one thing I notice that is out of place. For such a nice house, the light fixture hanging from the ceiling is suspect.

The kitchen is well kept and they have every modern convenience with microwave and directly behind the microwave is washing machine for clothes. Most people in Rocinha do not have washing machines. We wash our clothes by hand.

This is a nice basic bedroom. Built in closets are very rarely seen in Rocinha. Again the light fixture is interesting considering all the money spent on this house. 

The same bedroom with covers on the bed and a hammock in the foreground. 

A basic varanda that they probably use to hang clothes. 

This is the view from the varanda overlooking the favela!

2.     Do people change their homes for growth? E.g Build another floor?
--Many times people do expand their homes to accommodate family growth. This depends on money though and how much family members can help in the addition of a room or an extra floor. Many family members contribute money but also labor to build their own homes. Some will sell their rooftops so they can use the money to improve the inside of their own house.

3.     What are the materials the houses are made from?
--Since 1985 we have been able to change from wood house to brick and rebar reinforced structures. Before 1985 the military dictatorship and government did not allow us to develop our houses. But the houses are very basic. Below is an example of the bricks you see used to make our favela houses. Almost all houses are square rectangle shaped. If you live in Macega, one of the poorest areas of Rocinha, materials can be a mix of wood, bricks with tin roofs.

The structure of the house is reinforced with rebar and cement. The holes in the bricks allow for these yellow tubes to be placed through them that contain the electricity wiring system of hook up. There are qualified electricians in Rocinha that you can contract that can hook yo up to the grid.

Above is a guy mixing the cement on the ground that will be used to add more bricks to the structure being built. Basic tools are used to build. And friends or family members help each other to build the houses. There are construction workers who live in the favela that you can also hire by job or use as day labor. If you look to the right on the photo you notice the other guys feel on top of the wood structure. The bucket is used to put the cement in after the other guy mixes it. Wood is used as supports, like ladders for the workers to get height so they can build high for the rooftop. 

This house in the photo above is located in Rocinha and is under construction.`The structure is basic and after people use the bricks to build the skeleton of the house, cement is put over the bricks to reinforce the house. The holes in the bricks are used for when the electricians come to put in the electricity system. 

This is a house under construction in Rocinha.

4.     Who will lives in the house? Family? Extended family? Friends?
--The people that live in the houses are family members, friends or the houses are rented out to earn extra income.

5.     How do old people travel around Rocinha? Is it difficult for them?
--Yes, this is a big problem. As people age and their mobility is affected, family members then have to help them get around. There was a NGO called "Primeiro Passos" that used to help with bringing the elderly shopping and to doctors appointment but I am not sure if they still exist. The one good thing that I do see in the favela is health workers from the clinic making house calls. So, this definately helps the elderly.

6.     What is the most important room in the house? Why?
--The living room as it tends to be the largest room in the house. But if you have a rooftop then it will cover the whole house so theres more space to entertain. Residents share roof top space too.

7.     Do people want a bedroom space or is a bed just for sleeping and not so important?
-- I think first necessity is just to have a bed to sleep on is most important. Privacy can be difficult with people living is such tight spaces. I use my bedroom as my personal space and the living room has been turned into our dj school. But I live alone so my needs are very different from others.

8.     Is storage space important?
--To have places to put things, yes. This also depends on the family size, how many kids, the area one lives in. 

9.     Are kitchens important, do they need to be big?
--No, they don't need to be big. We only care that you can fit a fridge, stove and other things so you can cook. Maybe a storage closet where to put the cooking utensils, pots, pans and plates etc.

10. Where do people eat in their homes? Dining table, couch?
--I think we eat anywhere you can sit down. This depends on space and how big the house is. I have a very small kitchen space and no tables or chairs there so I sit in the "living room" that is connected to the kitchen space. Many of my friends eat in their living rooms. We dont have dinning rooms like you would see in developing countries. Our houses are very small.

11. Do people grow their own vegetables? Would you want to?
--Some people do. Having a roof top is like having a back yard. And some people do grow vegetables and other plants on their roof tops. Someday if I buy a house, I would like to make my own garden and grow food that I can eat. If I have a big enough garden then I can share my food. 

12. Do people want lots of windows? Or is security a concern?
--Living in a tropical humid place can be a problem. Lack of ventilation in some areas can make you sick. If it rains and the rain stays on the ground, it causes two problems, mold and breeding spot for mosquitos. So damp humid areas also cause people to get colds and illnesses like tuberculosis. So having windows and flowing air through the house is important for health. The last i lived there for one year, then I had to I lived in had mold on the wall which was very difficult to eliminate and I got sick often. Ventilation is very important in a humid climate.

13. Would you say a road can be used as a social space?
--Definately. In favela culture the street is an open space where we all meet hang out and escape the small compartments we call homes. If you want to meet many friends, its always better outside. Most of the time, the weather is great for hanging outside. 

14. What electronics/technology do people value? TVs? Stereos?
--I think having a tv is number 1 because it offers cheap form of entertainment for the whole family. People might also have a small radio but not many have stereo systems like in other parts of the world. 

15.  Are pets important?
--Most people have cats or dogs as pets. Most people here do like animals. I think more people have cats as they are easy to take care of and clean. Cats also catch mice and eat insects. I have three cats and they love chasing, catching and eating anything that flies around in my apartment. Unlike cats in the western world cats normally are not afraid of people as they get used to the crowded conditions here. People if they have dogs, tend to be smaller. The problem in Rocinha is many owners of dogs when taking out their dogs for walks, they do not clean up after them. So many times you need to watch where you walk.

16. Where do people dry their clothes?
--If you have a apartment or house and have access to a roof top then you dry them there. If not, then you usually buy a rack that is either suspended from the wall or ceiling or have a standing rack where you hang clothes to dry. I hand wash my clothes as I do not own a washer or dryer.

I wanted to save the best for last. You have seen photos of houses now I want to show you my apartment.  I live in a medium sized apartment, by favela standards.

This is what you first see when you open the door to my apartment. My cat "Joao" is there to greet you if you come to visit. My place is very basic with painted cement walls and tiling on all of the floor space. 

This is supposed to be the "living room", but I use it as our Dj School. I like open space where ventilation is good. I live on the third floor of the building. The apartment temperatures in summer can get very warm but I have 2 fans that help circulate air. These are 2 of the students from the Dj School practicing. When equipment is not being used, its covered. Notice the equipment on the right is covered with plastic. I went to the construction store and bought this heavy plastic which is the same thickness of a shower curtain. 

Another view of the living room with my other cat "Joy" hanging out.  

This standing closet that is  in the living room is used for the Dj School Spin
Rocinha. Head phones, cables, books, CD's and other Dj equipment is kept inside the closet. I like to have everything put away so things are easy to find

These "Bau's" as they are called are great for seating and for storage. I use them to store linens. I have a bunk bed in my bedroom so when I have guests, its nice to have sheets, pillows and blankets for them.  These are in the Dj School and we use them for when guests come to see our project. I like these because they have 2 purposes, seating and storage.

Here is one of my cats "Joao" inspecting the linens inside the Bau.

This is the bathroom area. The small light green bucket is used for toilet paper disposal. The maroon big bucket is where I store the cat food. Hanging on the wall is this thing you normally put shoes in. But I use it for many things including a handy place for toilet paper. I have a problem with one of my cats that seems to like to rip apart toilet paper if its on the roll on the wall, but here the toilet paper survives. 

The shower area. The red broom on the I use to clean and sweep inside the shower after I use it. The blue bucket I use to hand wash small clothing like socks, underwear and shorts. You can see there's no electricity hook up. I don't mind if the water is cold.  

This is cat litter stored in a large bucket. I buy it in bulk, then open the packing and dump all the bags inside of the bucket. When things are covered it prevents problems with insects. The biggest problem is ants or any other bugs getting into things including clothing. So everything needs to be put away or covered.

Cat food stored inside a bucket. The food is put inside a heavy plastic bag then inside the bucket. Again to protect from bugs and also the cats won't get into it.

After I wash my clothes, I hang them to dry on the rack is secured to the wall. The blue thing that is under the clothes it storage for football equipment and any donations that I receive. 

My bedroom is quite big. Its about 4 meters by 3 meters of space. My single bed is on the left and at the foot of my bed I have another "bau" to store clothing. I have a bunk bed to the right that guest can use when they come to visit me. The free standing closet at the end of the bunk bed is for guests to put their stuff. To keep the space open and easy to clean, they put their suitcase under the bunk bed.

These are 2 free standing closets that are in the bedroom that I use for my clothes.

This is my "night table" that contains my agenda book, tv controls and any other necessities. Its also good because on top I have my tv cable box and internet wifi router.

My very small kitchen are which is connected to the Dj School. I am still doing organizing and cleaning in the kitchen area. The floor under the fridge and the standing closet needs to be cleaned.  

Notice that I have plastic containers. The kitchen needs to kept clean or bugs will arrive, especially ants!

Food items I keep in glass containers. Prevents the cats from getting curious and no roaches or ants!

So I hope you enjoyed getting to know about housing in Rocinha! 

I really enjoy my apartment and love sharing it with these furry creatures!