Mythical Rio

Rio de Janeiro Travel Blog

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Who hasn´t heard about Rio De Janeiro before?
It´s in the first place famous for its carnaval, the statue of Christ and for its beaches with names that for sure ring a bell: Copacabana, Ipanema and Leblon. Next to this there is also cosy, bohemian neighbourhoods called Santa Teresa and Lapa.

Thanks to I got into contact with a guy called Bruno and who lives in Rio De Janeiro. It may start to sound a bit predictable, but again the hospitality I experienced was unseen. Bruno took me for a diner in a nice restaurant in Ipanema, and introduced me to Lapa´s nightlife.

Copacabana & Ipanema
Copacabana used to be one of the most posh places for beach tourists worldwide: surfers with perfectly suntanned bodies and the most wealthy Brasilians would launch the latests beach-fashion while strolling on the beaches. These days however, Copacabana lost most of its charisma and Ipanema kind of took over it´s roll. You can find very trendy bars and restaurants there. What I also kind of discovered is the record-store with a +. Buying records or books for the Cariocas (as the inhabitants of Rio are called) is an experience: in almost all recordstores there was also a bar, where they have coffees and cake with other people. You could find some of the most respected artists in these recordstore bars. Mostly these stores are in avenues where the Cariocas buy trendy cloths and expensive jewelry.

And everything breaths the air the beach-culture.

Bossa Nova
In the 1950´s a new style of music was born in the bars in Copacabana and the residential area of Ipanema. Tom Jobim experimented by combining samba-rithms with jazz-riffs. His friend and writer Vinicius De Moraes wrote texts to accompany his music and they called their child Bossa Nova. ´The Girl from Ipanema´ is one of the most representative songs. If you don´t have an immediate idea of how Bossa Nova sounds like, but you do have a (recent) Nokia cell-phone, you can browse in your ring-tones for "Com você" and play it: a very typical clave supports a smooth jazzy sound and a sensual Portuguese singing. Bossa Nova is in fact the musical translation of the atmosphere in Ipanema.

From what I heard in the media and from what I´ve seen in movies (Ciudade De Deus), I thought I would arrive in some kind of war-zone where you actually had to fear for your life constantly. Fortunately this was not the case. I felt perfectly safe in Rio and honestly, Pelourinho in Salvador was more intimidating. Nevertheless, there is a huge problem with the people living in the slums (=favelas) around Rio. And it´s not just Rio´s problem, but almost every big city in South-America faces this problem: people who live on the country side are outnumbered and of economical lower importance. So the governement doesn´t listen to their problems and doesn´t really invest in the development of the country-side. As most of the agriculture is in the hands of real big enterprises, these people loose their income and seek for a better life around the big cities.

These cities offer them social housing, with only the very basic provisions. This is how favelas are being born. And they keep on growing. But these people are uneducated and only some of them find a poorly paid job. The result is that they have to live in very poor living conditions. Some of them try to fullfill their dreams by dealing drugs. And that is where the real misery begins: drugloards are actually fighting a war against each-other in the favelas. Killing and violence are common. For 33% (!) of the people the living conditions are deep, deep misery and another 33% (!) is (just) hungry. 
However, since my visit to Salvador and Rio, my idea of favelas has changed. Some examples: the guys that Katrien Leyssens was taking capoeira classes with, were not drogued and one of them was a teacher in a school somewhere in Salvador.
Teacher is a respectable job and you´d expect those people to earn enough money to take care of a decent place to live. This is just not the case: they can´t afford a decent place to live in, so they stay in the favelas. The cleaning personal in the hostel where I stayed also lived in the favelas; these where perfectly normal people who have dreams for their children. Therefore I think that ´City of God´ only lights one part of the reality: the drug-war. Please, don´t just think it´s only drug-lords who live in the favelas, it´s also perfectly honest people like teachers, janitors, cleaning personal...


Zezinho says:
hey even I live in a favela too and it is NOT all misery here.

Posted on: Apr 13, 2010
BR-UNO says:
We are all mirrors!
Wish you all the best!
See you around,
Posted on: Sep 20, 2008
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