In the slums of São Paulo

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We feel incredibly welcomed here in the slum. Used to  experience much discrimination the people here admire a group like ours, which travelled such a long way for the only reason of visiting their community.

Global Campus in São Paulo, Brazil. A report by Rui Braga.

It’s been one week since we arrived.

Cached a bus from the Guarulhos Airport to Congonhas, a one and a half hour journey through a dirty and gray city center. The whole setting didn’t look so welcoming – I was happy not to be out there on my own. Through the bus window I saw the homeless people sleeping on the tight sidewalks, the drug addicts sitting under the bridge, the feeling of widespread poverty and the apparently tense and unfriendly environment. How did this misery came about? One realization came fast, shortly after landing in Brazil: there is such a visible life power here… you can see it everywhere, wherever bare ground is left untouched for a while, how life blossoms and strives towards these romantic pictures of tropical vegetation. And you can also sense it in the human realm, in the untamable chaos of cars and people and in the full joy of the Samba. It feels like there is a very active and ever-present wall pressing and twisting these vivid and original life forces, and as a result we arrived at the current “state of the art”.

Finally arriving at our meeting point, our host Claudio M. from the “Favela da Paz” welcomed us with the words: “Now I will take you to the best area of São Paulo: I will introduce you to the slum. It is the best place to be!” As we continued driving through the city to the ‘Jardim Ângela’, where he lives, he explained the situation in the city-center: people who heavily fall into drug consumption, are rejected by their families and communities in the slums. So they move to the center of São Paulo. As a result, this is where you find the highest degree of violence, poverty, anarchy and homelessness. Unlike the slums, where there is a big sense of community. People help each other in every possible way. Those connected to crime and drug traffic hold a strong respect for their communities.

Slum in Sao Paulo, Brazil

Claudio took us directly  – even before dropping our bags at home –to a place called ‘Cooperifa’, a café and cultural-center where a poetry slam was taking place. We saw incredibly talented people, intellectuals, critical-thinkers, poets, musicians, and also courageous beginners with trembling voices. They were received by a supportive audience, which listened attentively and clapped and sheered loudly after every performance. The slum is not the place where small-minded, illiterate people live. It is the place where, in many points, fabricated poverty meets an incredible potential.

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‘Jardim Ângela’ is a slum area with more than 800.000 inhabitants. We met the family of Claudio, his beautiful wife Hellem, his brother Fabio and others; the humble and charismatic Roberto, a man with meningitis who raps about the scenes of violence he witnessed, using music as a way of transmitting his message; a mysterious man who spends most of his time in nature, at the edge of Jardim Ângela, taking care for this area; and Dona Rita, an eighty year old woman, with a contagious spirit of openness and joy. She is the care taker for the water spring that flows into Jardim Ângela, and she creates medicine for the community. One by one, she embraced us as if we were her dearest friends that she didn’t see for a long time. An incredible frequency of love. She lost her son two months ago, due to drug overdose. It seems Claudio and the “Favela da Paz” are creating a gathering point for all these different elements and people.

The drug traffic and consumption are present everywhere. It’s a fashion here to set up late-night spontaneous reggaeton parties – using the potent sound-systems of cars – where a lot of traffic and consumption takes place. Nobody from the community likes these parties, but it is a risk to call the police. The police is widely corrupted, and nobody wants to call the wrong cop. But usually the police anyway shows up at some time and  interferes. Two days ago we heard some shots at night. Lately, also among the traffickers things are getting tense. We also witnessed power struggles at our door step. Claudio doesn’t like these developments, of course. Hellem explained, compared to the surrounding where she and Claudio grew up, this is here  a place in “holy peace”.

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We feel incredibly welcomed here in the slum. These people are discriminated even by the inhabitants of the city-center, so to have a group like ours, traveling such a long way for the sole reason of visiting their community, it’s something which is highly admired. People love us for our courage. We come from Europe, we belong to an international organization. People ask themselves: “What are they doing in the slum?” Even the local government institutions and the local police station are curious. Our international presence opens up new ways to support the work of the “Favela da Paz”. We mention the deep meaning of their work and the growing number of international people who get to know what is being done here. It’s a pleasure to use our influence in this way.

We now prepare an Open Day in the Favela da Paz at the 2nd of November. Then we will  hold a community seminar where also our friends from Bolivia will join.

And: the biogas digestor is already finished! With gratitude for all who worked on it! Here is a photo showing this “feat”:

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Venceremos,

Rui.

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