Favelas – A View from Above

By Cezarina Niculae – Emzingo Fellow (NexGen Brazil)

Rio is the only city in the world where the poor look down on the rich. Residents of Rocinha look down (literally) on the American School for expats and benefit from a much nicer view over the sea. This is also visible in the Cantagalo favela where at a crossroad you have the option to go to either Ipanema or Copacabana beach. The truth is, Rio would not be the same without the favelas. Their lights at night make Rio even more beautiful and offer a new perspective to “cidade maravilhosa”. Of course residents of favelas do not live an easy life: electricity is not available to everyone, free water is limited and transportation down the narrow alleys is difficult to say the least. Despite all these problems, people love living here. Last Saturday we found out what the word “favela” stands for: thorny plant that doesn’t go away. The Brazilian government tore down houses but people built them again and again so they named their neighborhoods favelas. There is something special about that, a sense of being part of a big family maybe. It’s too early to draw conclusions though. For now, it’s just clear that Rio is a city of colorful contrasts and its beauty relies precisely in that!

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