my first day in rio - 25th april
25.04.2010 - 26.04.2010 35 °C
After a short night’s sleep I stumbled down to reception to ask the friendly receptionist how best to spend my 2 days in Rio… this was how, a couple of hours later, I found myself on the back of a moto-taxi winding my way up to the top of Favela Rocinho, the largest favella in Rio which houses over 300,000 people!
There are over 600 flavellas in Rio alone, and it’s estimated that 1 in 5 people in Rio live in one - that’s a lot of people! In fact there is so much demand for space that the flavela extends precariously up the hillside, roads have disappeared under houses and owners can sell the right to build on their roof, to someone who sells the right to their roof, and it goes up and up! This gives the Flavela a higgledy piggeldy feel with ad hoc passages, stairways and tracks running through them.
Following the main street , a narrow, meandering passageway, we made our way down through the flavela, visiting a local art gallery, stopping here and there to listen to our guides stories, watching an inpromptu street performance by some local children, and finally visiting the day care centre which is run by the money we pay for the tour.
Police have little or no control in many favelas, and Favella Rocinho is run by a drug lord who earns $1.5 million a month (!) selling drugs and weapons!!! Our tour guide explained that the flavela is stable because it is run by one gang, the ADA - Amigos dos Amigos, or ‘friends of friends’, who create the laws and monitor who goes in and out. Trouble only occurs when a rival gang or the police turn up. In these instances, about 4,000 members of the gang turn out to defend the flavela and the events are broadcast to us back home on CNN! Despite this unsettling fact, I actually felt very safe in the Flavela and we were told that 85% of the population work and many commute into Rio’s centre (the remaining 15% are presumably children and the elderly). There are shops, bars, banks and even, we were told a McDonalds!?!
Back at the hostel my room mate Thamine, a Brazilian girl visiting Rio, invited me to a free open air concert - Viradão Carioca, with her and her friends which was being held as part of the Tiradentes public holiday in the city centre. Seeing the opportunity to experience the Rio nightlife with locals, I immediately accepted the invitation. As we approached the public square, the sound of Samba music drew us into the crowds, where a mix of Brazilians and tourists crowded around chatting and swaying to the music. Vendors weaved their way through the crowds selling beers, glow sticks and bizarrely, throat lozenges?!? I was introduced to Thamine’s friends and settled into enjoy the show. Soon, a local Brazilian artist came on stage and serenaded us with Portugese love songs, as we swayed along, my local friends translated the words into English for me, which was intersting! Brazilian songs seem to follow the same themes as English…and French…and Arabic….etc.
Next came the big event, a handsome Brazilian artist took to the stage and the sound of Samba filled the air. The atmosphere changed and all around us couples broke in dance, twirling in time with the music. Thamine whispered to me that "the singer was her future husband…he just didn’t know it yet".
After the concert we walked through the city until we reached a samba hall in Lapa, here the dancing continued, until exhausted we returned to our hostel as the sun began to rise.