Friday, July 14, 2017

A Friend Returns to Rocinha

Temperley Football Press Officer Dana with football coach Andre Souza

Many times I meet people who have interest in Rocinha. But very few actually fall in love with this place. I know I love it and have my reasons, but for those who haven't spent a lot of time here, I find it interesting. I want to find out what makes Rocinha a place that people return to with such interest.

Dana Hernandez from Banfield, Buenos Aires is one such person. So I decided to interview here to find out more.

Dana can you tell me a little about yourself?
Yes, I am 26 years old and I decided to return to Rocinha to investigate more about this community. I live in Buenos Aires and I work as a Journalist & Freelance Media Specialist. I also work in a woman's jail teaching Philosophy and Literature. But My passion is working with the 
Club Atletico Temperley Football Team (Facebook). 

Tell us more about the work you do in the women's jail?
I work in Unidade Federal de Mujeres de Ezeiza. I integrate a cooperative of cultural work in contexts of confinement. It's name "Elba" means at the edges walking.

How did you start in this work?
I have always been a big fan of Temperley Football Club (Website). My father was a fan and I grew up in this tradition but wanted to somehow work with the club. Football is very male dominated profession and when I started working with Temperley, I was writing small stories but nothing really important or they would have me write about other sports like volleyball. I don't think at first they took me seriously. So, I did menial jobs. After 3 years I think the club saw that I was capable and the offered me a job as their press officer. In the who football league out of 30 teams there are only 3 press officers that are women. I have now been involved with the organization for 5 years.

Did you play football as a youngster?
I never played seriously. I enjoy the game, but playing was mostly recreationally. 

How did you first find Rocinha?
I always had a fascination with real places. I had heard that Rocinha was the biggest favela and I wanted to know more. I searched through google about how to visit and found Favela Adventures. I liked their options for tours so me and my friend decided we would check it out.

What were your first impressions of Rocinha?
The visit to the favela was complete. Walking with Pedro, a resident, made it comfortable. He was a kind honest person. We met Zezinho who showed us his Dj School project too. So much good work being done here. I felt like the community shot "an arrow through my heart". I fell in love with the place.

"Something about Rocinha brought me back. I had to return to this place"- Dana

Why did you return?
I fell in love with Rocinha, I felt like I needed to know it better. The people were so friendly, the structure of life, everything just so interesting. I must be here and then I can find a way to help the favela. If I can find a way to help with football this would be great too!

What would you like to do here?
I would like to move here, live here. I want to make connections with football clubs. Working with kids, education and sports is very important. If kids are active, they will not get involved in trouble. In Temperley they have development teams for youth who are similar to the youth of favelas. I like working with at risk youth. 

We had the opportunity on Monday July 10th, to check out Andre Souza's football project and talk with him about the kids and development opportunities in football. When we arrived Andre was talking with his payers about the past weekend tournament that his under 15 and under 17 teams played in. So, we waited until the team started playing and then I was able to talk with him about my ideas. We also saw girls practicing as well with the other coach Vitor Alexandre. This was great to see. And there was a girl practicing with one of the teams. We need to see more girls playing sports.

Andre was very proud of his teams. He showed us photos and the trophies the teams had won. The under 15's won 2nd place and the under 17's took the championship. 

Andre Souza a proud coach of Under 15's and Under 17's in Rocinha

On Saturday July 15th, we went to visit the Flamengo Football Club. I know Rocinha is mostly Flamengo I thought it interesting to check out their club. 

 Dana with York, her friend at the entrance of the Flamengo Football Club

 Dana wearing her Temperley Club shirt at the entrance of Flamengo Museum

Of course Dana wanted to represent wearing the colors of Flamengo!

How long will you be staying in Rocinha?
I am going to stay for about 9 days at the bottom of the community in a guesthouse. 

What have you been doing so far while in Rocinha?
I have walked a lot throughout the community just checking out how big this place is. I enjoy observing people to gain a better understand of how people live. I went to Pizza Lit to check out a live band with some friends I met in Rocinha.

I love food so any chance I get to try new things, I do. This is Trapia Restaurant and its the best por kilo place I have eaten since being here. And its always great to eat with friends!

I am working about 4 hours a day in a daycare with children doing different types of activities with them. 

A volunteer who is staying in the guesthouse also invited me to check out an English school called Favela Phoenix that teaches locals English. 

We also hiked up Two Brothers Mountain.  I met Andre of one of the football clubs here and got to watch his teams practice. I want to write a story about Vitor and Andre Souza's project called Rampa Crianca do Futuro. The idea is to try to make a connection between projects from Rocinha and Temperley. I am staying busy while I am in Rocinha. Tonight I am going to visit the famous Flamengo Football Club.

I really enjoy getting around the favela by moto taxi too! 

One of the best views we went to was at the very top of Rocinha in "Laboriaux". We could see the christ statue, jockey club, lagoa, Ipanema beach and in the distance we could see sugar loaf mountain.

We walked further down the hill and went to this rooftop to see the view of the favela. Rocinha is so big!

Are you interested in returning to Rocinha in the future? And what are your plans?
Yes, of course I want to return. I want to go step by step, maybe stay 3-4 weeks. I want to participate in the community. Maybe teaching English, Spanish and Dance classes. The next time I return, I will speak better portuguese for sure. Learning about other projects here is also my interest. Anything working with kids is important.

What do you like about Rocinha?
All the shops, the structure, the activity and people. I enjoy eating and theres so many good places to eat here. I even had Sushi with my new friends.

Enjoying Sushi in favela of Rocinha with new friends at restaurant Sushi Yaki

If you could change anything about Rocinha, what would you do?
I would like to see better sanitation, remove the garbage. Creating more programs that can help elderly and disabled people.

And do you have any future goals or dreams?
I want to return to Rocinha. Work helping with social media for companies or small businesses that need help. Creating a bridge between the football clubs here in Rocinha and Temperley. The goal would be to raise enough money to send some Rocinha players to train with Temperley, creating interesting opportunities for youth through football. 

These were the last photos that I took before leaving Rocinha. I am going to miss this place and all the wonderful people I met here. Rocinha will always be in my heart! Thank you, Zezinho.

How can we find you?
Twitter: danaereys
Club Atletico Temperley

Saturday, July 1, 2017

City Favelas Tour

I often get visitors interested in learning more about favelas. Many students and researchers come to Brazil wanting to learn more about these communities, why and how they are able to exist. Most countries have areas where poor or low income people live but self built communities like favelas are not common in the western world. 

Because of this demand of interest, my friends Rick and Daniel thought of a plan. Contacts were made in several favelas to offer this kind of visit all in one day. Visitors will get to experience 4 different favelas in one day. Each has its own charm, vibe and characteristics. The guides that provide this opportunity are connected to these communities so we keep the mandate of using locals guides who have accurate knowledge of each community. 

These visits are a full walking experience through each favela. There will be the opportunity to meet locals, eat lunch, check out the awesome hillside views, interact with locals and visit unique locations within each favela community. This particular experience is a full day starting at 8:30am and ending off with dinner around 5:30pm in Rocinha, the last favela on the route. The last visit we made was from 9:00-6:30pm. So, this is an intense experience for those that want a true understanding of favela life and culture. Below are reviews and some photos of each favela community. Each place is in order of how the tour operates. In the following order:
Chacara do Ceu
Parque da Cidade
(*There may be options to visit other favelas depending on availability of guides)

1.) Chácara do Céu

One of Rio de Janeiro’s first favelas. The tour will take you up through the hillside favela via steps and residential alleyways. As a “favelinha” (small favela) Chácara do Céu is composed entirely of residential alleyways called ‘becos’. There is no commercial strip, but there are a handful of small shops that serve the residents’ needs for groceries and household supplies. The tour will take you through the labyrinth of colorful becos all the way to the panoramic views of the municipal park, Mirante do Leblon. You will have an opportunity to take photos in what is considered to be one of Rio’s most scenic points overlooking the neighborhoods of Leblon and Ipanema with clear views of the Christ Statute and of Rio’s picturesque mountain landscapes. On the descent the tour will stop at Chácara do Céu’s football field where adults and children frequently hold organized soccer games and barbecues. The approximate tour time is one hour. Chácara do Céu is ideal for weekend visits and tours which is when you are most likely to find residents making maximum use of the recreational spaces and community spaces that the favela has to offer.

2.) Vidigal Favela 

Vidigal overlooks the neighborhoods of Leblon and Ipanema beaches. It is located in the "Zona Sul" neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro between two high-end neighborhoods of Leblon and Sao Conrado. Vidigal is emblematic of Rio's challenging contrasts. With spectacular sea views and easy access to the Zona Sul beaches, Vidigal has been a thriving cultural center since the 1980's. With a little help from Brazilian oil company Petrobras the 'Nos dos Morro' (We of the Hill) theater group has grown into a major hub for aspiring actors from the favela. A number of students from the Nos dos Morro acting school have gone on to star in feature films and popular novelas, most notable of all being the internationally acclaimed City of God film. Leading up to the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympic Games, Vidigal was "pacified" by Rio's newly formed UPP (Police Pacifying Union) which now maintain an active policing presence in the community. 

According to the 2010 official government census, Vidigal has a population of approximately 13,000 residents. However, Brazilian government population counts for favelas are notorious for their under counts. A visit to Vidigal will easily demonstrate that the community's population is in the tens of thousands and possibly exceeds 100,000 residents. The tour of Vidigal will take you to the top of the hill to visit some of the favela's newest and trendiest bar/restaurants including Mirante do Vidigal and Bar da Laje. On the way down the hill, the tour will make stops at Vidigal Vila Olimpica where the municipal government along with companies like Nike and Samsung sponsored the development of a multi-use outdoor recreational facility with a track, soccer field, and playground. The tour will also make stops at Vidigal's Ecological Park where local residents have turned local waste into a beautiful landscaped garden using a number of discarded items such as tires and appliances. The tour of Vidigal is approximately 2 hours in duration and provides visitors with plenty of photo opportunities and engagement with local residents.

3.) Parque da Cidade:

Located between the neighborhood of Gavea and the favela Rocinha, Parque da Cidade is another close-knit, small favela with little turnover in residency. The municipal park, Parque da Cidade, is adjacent to the favela which is how the favela acquired its name. With under 5,000 residents the favela is comprised of one central commercial strip and a labyrinth of residential alleyways (becos). During the tour, visitors will be able to walk through the very center of the favela’s commercial corridor and see the diversity of shops that cater to the residents’ needs: from barbershops, to clothing shops, cafes, and electronics, and more. The tour will take you through the residential alleyways to see the quaint and colorful homes, engage local residents, on the way to the ‘top of the hill’ where you can see remarkable views of the Gavea neighborhood and the famous Rio lagoon (lagoa). 

The visit includes a stop at a local residence rooftop (laje) at the very top of the community. On the descent the tour will walk through the adjacent actual parque da cidade, a large municipal park, for more photo opportunities and for experiencing Rio’s public parks. While in the park the tour will make a stop at the Museu da Cidade (Museum of the City) which has recently been renovated and is located inside of the park. The approximate tour time is one hour. Parque da Cidade favela and the high-end residential neighborhood of Gavea are in such close proximity that the locations seem to be part of each other. Perhaps nowhere else in Rio is the line between upper class neighborhood and favela so fused together as to seem to be one.

4.) Rocinha

Rocinha is considered the largest favela in Brazil with approximately 300,000 people residing in a space of 89,000 square meters of space. Rocinha is situated in a convenient location for the residents as its surrounded by two of the richest neighborhoods in Rio being Sao Conrado and Gavea. Many from Rocinha work in these noble areas doing any kind of domestic work including housekeepers, drivers, pool cleaners or gardeners. From the top of the community there will be photo opportunities.

After leaving Parque da Cidade community you will arrive about 10 minutes after to the top of Rocinha. The visit will include a full explanation in regards to the history of favelas, Rocinha and their role in Brazilian society. Also covered are subjects such as education, health care, transportation in the community, home ownership, electricity, water distribution and controls, the mail system, community activism and governance and of course problems within the community like sanitation, lack of leisure spaces for the residents and the drug trade.

You will have the chance to walk through 10 of the 26 sub neighborhoods of Rocinha. You will get to see the main street full of activity, the new development of street number 4, many of the tight alleyways where 90% of the population lives and the tour will descend walking through the commercial district where many of the over 6500 businesses thrive. The visit ends with a stop at Trapia, one of best places to eat in the community.

 The best views from the top of Rocinha
 Net Rocinha (legalized internet) working on updating cables in Rocinha 
 Paula Brito neighborhood and school (White and blue trim building)
 Visitors to Rocinha will get to meet locals like traffic director Caio. 
 A stop of at a local daycare is an option on this visit.
Everybody loves animals!
 Guests meeting "Rambo da Rocinha", a local celebrity.
Visitors playing football with the local kids.

 Walking through many of the tight alleyways is always of interest
 Alexandra a 10 year old girl who creates art with recycled materials
 One of our guests making friends with a local furry friend
Ending the tour at Trapia Social, our favorite 24 hour restaurant.

For more information about this tour or any others, please visit our website at: or contact us at
or Whatsapp: +55-21-98221-5572