So today we only had one item on the agenda, a tour of one of the favelas in Rio de Janeiro.
As we were touring the favela we got a really good history of the favelas in Rio. Currently there are over 800 favelas in Rio with about 20% of the population living in them. They range in size from from around 50 to 200,000 people. Favelas for those that aren’t familiar with them are shantytown a built into mountainsides and unused land for people who can’t afford to live in traditional housing. We visited the Racinho favela, the largest in all of Latin America with 200,000 people living in an area less than 1 sq kilometer in size!
At the risk of sounding cliché, I will say that seeing those living conditions truly makes you appreciate what you have. In addition to the accommodations I noticed some other cultural differences. First off, children were often walking around by themself, something you don’t really see in the states. Another really cool thing we saw was part of their informal economy where one woman turned her living room into an art gallery, with amazing art!
We learned the history of gangs and drugs in the favela and how the culture changed once the police arrived. We also debunked some of the myths of the favelas. Some believe the people there have nothing, but they have electricity, water and cable tv! Others believe that they have these things but steal them and pay for nothing. While some of these people do live like this, there are certainly people that pay for everything.
With people not having to pay for these things it brings up the question of whether or not people want to leave the favelas? This made me think of the US and the accusation or belief that people on welfare are content living off of welfare. I could have a whole other blog post about this but for now I’ll just leave you to ponder this comparison.
Another comparison, and one I mentioned earlier was between the rich and poor areas in Rio.
You can clearly see the favelas, that cost about 200 reals per month to live in. Then at the bottom of the picture you see the high rises right next door which is the most expensive part of Rio to live in where homes can cost around 10 million reals! Such a stark contrast cohabiting the exact same area. The issue of poverty is something I’ve studied a lot and an issue I hope to tackle in my professional life so this was an amazing experience for me.
Tomorrow we are off for a relaxing day at Ipanema beach and Copacabana!! Hopefully I can get a tan!!