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Deep Inside Rocinha: A Rio Favela Story

BRAZIL | Friday, 27 September 2013 | Views [5706]

Going to Rio de Janerio for many people means a non-stop party, and while I had a great time of getting amongst the infectious atmosphere of Carnaval, I wanted to discover the other side of Rio that laid up the mountain, inside the Rocinha favela.

It is estimated that over 11 million people live in favelas, or shanty towns as they're also known. Ever since the favelas were established in the late 1800's there has been constant battle not just for recognition of these areas, but government support to establish access to basic santation, water and electricity services. These challenges occuring under the shadow of a rampant drug trade that saw murder rates skyrocket and gun battles a part of daily life.

In 2008, the UPP (Pacifying Police Unit), a law enforcement and social services program, was established to systematically wrestle back control of the favelas from the drug traffickers. This was a two step process; gang leaders are driven out by Rio's elite police battalion, BOPE, who search for guns and drug caches and as you can imagine are ruthless with those traffickers that oppose them. BOPE then exit from the area and the UPP move in, hundreds of newly trained policemen, who work within the favelas as a permanent police force.

One man I spoke in Rocinha gave me his fairly blunt assessment of the transition, "One day there were drug lords standing on my roof with machine gungs, today its men in uniforms, not much has changed". However, the overwhelming view of most Rochinha residents I spoke to was one of great hope. A sense of having turned a corner in their history and having their destiny finally back in their hands.

There are still major obstacles to overcome, housing, education, employment opportunities, but the formation of more community action groups, the rooting out of police corruption and greater dialogue with government is hoped to bring these communities a much brighter future.

My hosts for the day were Marianne Eduardo from Real Rio tours and her friend Pedro Neto, a Rocinha local. They took me into their backyard and showed me a community that is full of life, music and rich characters. Reminding me that its not just what you see, but the people you meet that leave a lasting impression when you travel.

Keen to watch more of the Rio adventure? Check out the other videos!

The Heart of Carnaval

Rio Football Fever

Pedra do Sal

Looking for more info on Rio or Carnaval?

Get some local intel - If you have any questions about travelling to Rio, feel free to hit up our Ask A Nomad community here or check out Triptrotters.

Concerned about safety in Brazil? - Check out our travel safety articles on how to stay safe when travelling to Brazil and stay covered with our travel insurance.

Looking to book for local festivals and events? - Check out Be A Local , they were great in getting us tickets to Carnaval.

Thinking about where to stay in Rio? - We had fantastic assistance from the crew at AirBnB who helped set us up with an excellent pad.

Looking to give back when you travel? - Check out International Volunteer HQ , who have some great projects running on the ground in Brazil.

About the Brazil team

Chris Noble is the General Manager of WorldNomads.com and will forever be indebted to the World Nomads of Rio that shared their knowledge and passion over the Carnaval period. He has a renewed love of Samba music and still dances as if his feet were held apart by a broom handle.

This film was directed and shot as part of our Brazil series by the very talented nomad Brian Rapsey.

About WorldNomads.com

WorldNomads.com keeps you travelling safely.  Whether you’re off for a long weekend, looking for the ultimate adventure or living the nomadic dream, you’ll stay safe with Travel Insurance you can buy online, anytime, and the latest travel safety advice. Learn how to flirt in over 25 languages with our free language guides and have an experience of a lifetime on a travel scholarship. We'll also help you share your journey with a free travel blog, get answers from other nomads to all of your travel questions (try the new 'Ask A Nomad' iPad app) and donate to a local community development project through our Footprints program.  

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Tags: assignment, beaches, brazil, carnaval, culture, festival, film, filmmaking, rio, travel

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