stories

Pax Carioca

1. The only existing picture of Antonio Vicente Mendes Maciel was taken after his death, on 1897, and in it, he appears lying in the dry dusty soil of the Brazilian northeastern area, gently wrapped on their ragged clothes. He also appears with his long beard, his untamed hair, because that is how a prophet should look like, a prophet addressing his sight to the heart of men and his own heart to the heaven of good lord Jesus. While he was alive, with long stride and messianic words, he walked through the Bahia desert; behind him, forming a procession, an increasing tail of indigents among the indigents, slaves, freedmen, indigenous people, hunchbacked, murderers and fugitives of all law.

During the day, he walked and when the sun went down, he talked. Soon, he became for everyone who could listen, Antonio Conselheiro. He walked that desert for 30 years, until he arrived to Canudos, on the banks of Baza Barris river. Then he said: "This is where we'll stay, to fight against the Antichrist."

He was followed by 15.000 believers.

And the Antichrist finally arrived -the recently settled Republic wouldn't allowed autonomous territories- riding along the Brazilian army, in order to confirm the prophecies and annihilate the rebellious. The killing was huge and the government of the Republic promised land to relieve the consciousness of the soldiers of the campaign. When they arrived to Río de Janeiro, as part of a well-known human law, the promises made by the powerful ones weren't honored, so the soldiers occupied and settled on a morro near the harbor. This land was named, for the sake of irony, Morro da Providencia.   

2. "To what purpose are you coming to the favela? Are you bringing money or confusion? We were received by a resident of the Morro da Providencia, who 100 years ago could have chosen to follow the traces of Antonio Conselheiro. We arrived to the favela to join a demonstration against the compulsive eviction that has been suffered by some of its residents. Rio de Janeiro's Prefecture is determined to install a cable railway to connect the base of the settlement with its higher point: 16 cars, 3 stations, 40 million dollars to travel like a bird for almost 800 meters.

In order to generate the space required by the infrastructure of the cable railway, almost 670 families are facing imminent and non-enquired eviction and it arrives with a promise of a supposed equivalent house, on a place not yet determined. Maybe the residents don't remember the story of the War of Canudos, but they do know the story of the promises made by the government.

While some residents and activist of social organizations gather to start the demonstration -no more than 40 people-, the Pacifying Police takes over the stairway that allows the access to the Morro. At the same time, the representatives of the drug-dealers of the favela, only a few steps behind, leave it very clear: the demonstration cannot be made."Traffic doesn't want to, protests are not good for business". The phone of Edilson, social spokesman of the favela, screams with its ring tone "eu so quero e ser feliz". From the other side of the line he listens to unknown voices of threat. A policeman says "you can go up if you want, but up there bullets are not made of rubber". Finally, the demonstration will not take place.

Money or confusion? Order and progress.

3.

"Eu só quero é ser feliz,


Andar tranquilamente na favela onde eu nasci, é.


E poder me orgulhar,


E ter a consciência que o pobre tem seu lugar."

4. "¿Onde está Amarildo?"

Nobody knows where Amarildo de Souza is. 43 years-old, father of 6 children, fisherman and construction worker. But what is known is where he was on the last night he was seen, the past July 16th: on the Pacifying Police Unit of the Rocinha, the largest favela of the south of Río de Janeio, where he was taken for some background check. The stubbornness and courage of his family on the claim for justice made his disappearance a symbol on the struggle against police violence. On October 2007 the FIFA chose Brazil to be the venue of 2014 Football World Cup. A year before, Río de Janeiro was elected for the Olympic Games of 2016. Since then, 33 Pacifying Police Units (PPU) were installed on the main favelas of Río and 7 more will be installed on the months to come. To pacify a territory means to impose a bigger power to the previous one. To eliminate the conflict is impossible, but to eliminate the conflictive ones seems more like the task that Military Police can face. "In the past, when you walk inside the favela, the drug-dealers received you with their snipers. If you wanted gas, you had to talk to the drug-dealer; if you wanted to open a business, you had to talk to the drug-dealer; if you had a problem with your neighbor, the drug-dealer would take care of it. Today is the Pacifying Police who receives you with snipers and it's the drug-dealer who has to talk to them if he wants to carry on with his business. I don't justify police violence, but today we are more calm." says Edu, municipal worker, born and raised at the Rocinha. The Public Safety Institute, a government agency, says that the number of homicides in Río decreased in a 51%. 2336 murders in the city on 2007, one year before the settlement of the first PPU, and 1209 on 2012. At the same time, how ever, 1858 people are missing since 2007. Compared to the 2488 since 2012, means a 74% of increase. 

Less murders, more missing people; peace works in mysterious ways. 

5. "Minha cara autoridade, eu já não sei o que fazer,

Com tanta violência eu sinto medo de viver.


Pois moro na favela e sou muito desrespeitado,


A tristeza e alegria aqui caminham lado a lado.


Eu faço uma oração para uma santa protetora,


Mas sou interrompido à tiros de metralhadora.


Enquanto os ricos moram numa casa grande e bela,


O pobre é humilhado, esculachado na favela."

6. Seen from the cable railway, the Complexo do Alemão seems a city built with "legos" by an anxious kid who lost the blueprints. Little houses made with simple bricks, one over the other, over another, and over one more already prepared to sustain the next house to come. Dark cracks sink on the tight orange flesh of the favela, narrow streets that wriggles following an incomprehensible logic: if you don't know and don't ask, you wont arrive. Travelling on those red shiny capsules that connect the base of the favela (Bonsucesso) with its higher point (Palmeiras) (6 stations, 152 cabins), one feels like the strawberry on top of the dessert of the pacification. A few years ago, according to O Globo, the Complexo do Alemão was the heart of the drug-traffic, the prostitution and the carioca funk. Two criminal organizations shared the territory: Comando Vermelho and Amigos do Amigos. Meanwhile, the entire neighborhood danced to the beat of Rap das Armas, a violent ode to the epic genre of self-government and automatic snipers. And then the BOPE (Police Special Operation Squad) came along, on November 2010, carrying a badge of a skull crossed by a sword, lying over two large pistols. And its motto: "Faca na caveira, nada na carteira", in a poetic reference to their preference to kill no matter how big the pay is. 50 dead people and 2 movies after (Tropa de Elite I and II), the BOPE left the favela ready to receive visitors. But the visits had to be short, because the overcrowding conditions and the lack of proper sewer system generated an ideal environment for the survival of medieval diseases such as tuberculosis and leprosy.

Nothing remains from the Morro da Misericordia, that elevation chosen by a polish migrant to build his farm on 1920. The Morro has been devoured by buildings that keep on expanding as if they were frozen waves about to break. Only the name remains, after the blond "gringo" who, due to a physonomic proximity, was known as "El Alemãn". 

7. "Quem vai pro exterior da favela sente saudade,

O gringo vem aqui e não conhece a realidade.

Vai pra zona sul, pra conhecer água de côco,

E o pobre na favela, passando sufoco.

Trocada a presidência, uma nova esperança,

Sofri na tempestade, agora eu quero abonança.

O povo tem a força, só precisa descobrir,

Se eles lá não fazem nada, faremos tudo daqui."

8. With the World Cup just around the corner, the Brazilian State carries on with its scheme of penetration inside the favela territories. After the military pacification, the primary health care units and the social welfare arrive. Census and plans of urban order aswell. The favelas and its exponential growth, are not a natural phenomenon, nor a consequence of the drug-traffic, but the product of a housing crisis and the difficulty to access to the land: the segregation in the morros of impoverished social sectors, inner migrants drifting along after the shipwreck of de-industrialization, expelled from urban tenements in the edges of the city. Today the centrifuge force of the Brazilian economic growth seeks to broaden those margins. Urbanization and legality hold hands with real-estate speculation, taxes and the rise of the life cost. While the hotel and tourism industry gets ready to a feast, the settlement of UPPs increases, the Chinese factories spit a "Fuleco" after another -the doll chosen to symbolize the World Cup-, and the streets and walls of Río shout "não vai ter Copa"- you will not get the Cup.

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Rio de Janeiro, the second most populous Brazilian city, has a population of 6,320,000 people, of whom about 1,500,000 live in slums or informal settlements, according to data from the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics, 2010 Census

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View of Rocinha. Around 1930 began the settlement of migrants mostly from the Northeast of Brazil, located in the forest between Pedra dos Dois Irmãos and Morro do Cochrane.... (+)

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Troops of the Pacifying Police Unit (UPP) patrol access to the summit of Morro da Providencia favela located in the port area of Rio de Janeiro.

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View of one of the many corridors paths between the buildings of the Rocinha. The favela has a population density of 391.99 people per hectare, the largest in the city. Crowding is related to the prevalence of tuberculosis and leprosy.

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Interior of a house in Rocinha.

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Comercial street in Rocinha.

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Troops of the Pacifying Police Unit (UPP) patrol access to the summit of Morro da Providencia, favela located in the port area of Rio de Janeiro.

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Monumental sculpture of Christ the Redeemer, located on top of Cerro Corcovado. Brazil is considered the country with the most Catholics in the world, religion introduced by missionaries who accompanied the Portuguese colonizers.

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Internal street of Rocinha.

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Ana Beatriz, 17, one of 6 children of Amarildo de Souza, a construction worker who disappeared after being taken to a UPP Rocinha for questioning.

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Interior of a house in Rocinha.

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Sons and nephews Amarildo de Souza (an inhabitant of the Rocinha disappeared after being taken in for questioning to a UPP) playing in his room.

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Head of the Pacifying Police Unit (UPP) in Rocinha, installed in September 2012, after the occupation of the favela by the armed forces. Amarildo da Souza was seen there last time.

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On November 2, Day of the Dead, almost 4 months after the disappearance of Amarildo de Souza, neighbors and relatives made ​​a ceremony in his honor, for justice.

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Relatives and neighbors of Amarildo de Souza claim for justice and the appearance of the body outside the headquarters of the Pacifying Police Unit of Rocinha.

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An effective of the Pacifying Police Unit of the Complexo do Alemão patrols the streets with his service weapon.

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Children playing in one of the main streets in the Complexo do Alemão.

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A child climbs among the ruins of houses that were demolished to build the supporting structures of the laying of the cable car. Its inhabitants were evicted.

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The Complexo do Alemão comprises a group of 16 favelas in northern Rio de Janeiro. According to the 2010 Census, about 65,000 people live there. 6 stations and cable car line 3.5 km long connecting the base to the summit complex.

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Interior of the house where Amarildo de Souza lived with his wife, his brothers and their children. In the center, his son Anderson, 21, who when the case became public received offers to work as a fashion model.

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Delegation of the Pacifying Police Unit of Rocinha (UPP), installed in September 2012, after the occupation of the favela by the armed forces.

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A demonstrator during a protest named "Grito da Liberdade", held in Rio de Janeiro in November 2013. The protest was called for the release of activists detained during protests in July and August and against the militarization of the favelas.

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Grafitti against police, accused of multiple murders and disappearances during the occupation of the favelas, in Arcos de Lapa, downtown Rio de Janeiro.

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Port area of ​​Rio de Janeiro. Protest called against evictions of families whose homes are in the path of the future line of cable cars that plans the Prefecture for the favela of Morro da Providência.

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Day of the Dead. Family, friends and representatives of NGOs and social organizations march to the headquarters of the Pacifying Police Unit (UPP), located at the top of Rocinha. Protesters held a symbolic burial of a mannequin representing Amarildo de Souza.

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Mannequin wrapped in a shroud representing Amarildo de Souza, in the symbolic burial made ​​by friends and family, on November 2, Day of the Dead.... (+)

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