“Minha Casa minha vida” translates to “my house my life” – a very apt name for the Favelas
These mountainside Favelas are as an important part of Rio as the famous Corcovado and Sugar loaf – and just as famous – although a little intimidating for some.
These are the areas of Rio that you won’t find on your tourist map – more like hidden treasures. I definitely recommend a visit to these fascinating hillside areas which at one time were dangerous no-go areas. Don’t try to discover the Favelas on your own. We had a local guide, Francesco, who was an expert on the Favelas and, by the end of our visit with him and the driver, who actually lives in the Favelas, I was sad to leave.
The Favelas could easily be associated with the bad reputation that they have due to them being slums which started as only two shacks on a hillside. These have now grown to a population of 1.8 million – 20% of Rio’s entire population live in a Favela. People’s perception that these ghettos are dangerous areas and full of criminals are not true. Yes, they apparently do have drug lords who openly sell narcotics – but the majority of the citizens are law abiding citizens working in low paying jobs.
It’s great to see how these locals have integrated with the city – the carnival dancers, the drummers and costume makers all live in the Favelas – it would be difficult to imagine Rio without events such as the annual Rio Carnival and the Favelas…
The houses in the Favelas are built on vacant land without infrastructure. Once the inhabitants have stayed there for 5 years they automatically own the land they live on. As the size of the families grow and expand, so they start to add and extend their homes. These homes take on interesting shapes and sizes of their own and some are very colourful. The Favelas are not where the homeless and miserable live – they’re happy, laid back people who take care of each other. This can be felt as you wander through the narrow alleys and walk ways – I felt welcomed and safe.
The first Favela we visited was called Hosenia – the largest Favela in Rio. The size of this Favela could be compared to a small farm – which occupies anywhere between 87k and 250k people – 80% of the people don’t have plumbing and have poor sanitary conditions and
35% take electricity illegally – thankfully this number has come down since the price of electricity dropped.
Our next visit was to a much smaller and poorer Favela, Villa Canoas – small Favela – although they all have sewage, proper services and pavements.
The most heart warming stop was to the local after-care school – in Villa Canoas – called “Para Ti”- translated into English “for you”. This is run by NGO’s and a wonderful facility offering school assistance; sporting and recreational activities and basically keeping the youth out of trouble… The location overlooks the most beautiful part of the forest. This facility is sponsored by Italian families as well as the local Tourism Agency of Rio de Janeiro.
The walk through these Favelas was fascinating – with no street names one wonders how they receive post? There are shared boxes hanging outside some of the houses… a simple, yet apparently effective, postal system.
Our visit to the Favelas with Trafalgar was an interesting and worthwhile experience and since it’s known as a Brazilian trade mark – a visit to the Favelas should be ‘a must’ on your itinerary.