I have been living here in Cantagalo, which is the favela situated directly above the tourist area of Ipanema for four months now. I feel very privileged to have been given access to this wonderful, vibrant and close knit community. I have truly seen another side of life and witnessed first hand the reality of how a large percentage of Rio’s population live. Whilst it may sound somewhat contrived to say that I love it in the favela, I do realise that I don’t have to be here which isn’t the case for those people who have lived all their lives here. Yes it may smell like actual ass a lot of the time and all the pieces of shit that lie around may not all belong to the dog but this place is truely alive 24 hours a day.
I see a lot of things daily that make me stop and think “What the hell”. Here are a few
The ‘Polica’ are universally detested by the community – I recently watched the BBC doc ‘Welcome to Rio’ which featured this very favela as an example of the ‘pacification’ program. Whilst it was true the police presence had curbed the drug traffickers sitting in the open with gats out, it had most definitely not driven them away, I know because I walk past dudes slanging every single day.The dangerous dudes with the weaponry are the police themselves, living under the watchful eye of the heavy armed police means almost daily you are treated to having a gun pointed in your direction.
It seemed very strange to me at first how the police are just ignored by everyone from children to the old people, their presence simply isn’t acknowledged. This apparent invisibility is random as hell as dudes have got these whopping guns in their hands. Even as the whitest dude around here, I have not been able to escape the notice of these guys. The first time I was stopped and searched, I was walking down the hill into Copacabana, they asked me where I lived, I said the favela, that was it, they wanted to search me. Fortunately, after a brief conversation it became apparent that I had no idea what they aware asking me so I was free to go on my merry way. The second time I wasn’t so lucky. Walking back up through the favela after training, I spotted a group of police armed to the teeth, pointing guns up at the windows of a nearby house. As I approached, I was ordered me to stop and stand facing the wall, I felt like a naughty junior school child except it wasn’t a dinner lady admonishing me it was a policeman with a gun pointed at my dome piece. Another officer conducted the search which included full ball cuppage which wasn’t romantic in the slightest. All I could think about was John Travolta saying ‘aww man I just shot Marvin in the face’, this didn’t help. It would be an understatement to say that this was a wholly unpleasant experience and it wouldn’t be unfair to say that they were complete penis holes.
There is this super happy vibe which exists here and every night of the week there is a party / gathering / loud ass music popping off. Each evening people come out onto the streets to have a few bevies and a bit of a dance. You are far more likely to see intimate contact rather than violent conduct. Having said that, I have seen a couple of fights break out spontaneously since living here. Another night, as I made my way home, two dudes arguing had just begun to esculate. Both gentlemen had obviously had a few bevies in them but this was anything but your average drunken brawl with two stinking swedes windmilling at each other. The first dude threw a punch which was horribly aimed and the other dude immediately shot for the takedown. The first dude may have had shoddy stand up skills but as soon as dude scooped him for the double leg he locked on a guillotine quicker than Kron Gracie. They hit the deck, the guillotine had the arm in which allowed the dude to struggle a little before eventually heading to snooze town. The other dude stood over him and called him a ‘filho de puta’ before returning to the bar leaving the dude to be awoken by some of the jubilent onlookers.
The streets are super narrow coming up through the favela but this doesn’t stop over sized trucks coming opposite ways attempting to pass one another whilst some mad-head on a moped weaves through the middle of them with an women on the back with eight bags of shopping and a baby strapped to her. For this reason walking up and down the hill that seperates Cantagalo from Ipanema is sometimes taking your life in your own hands, if you don’t get out-of-the-way of dudes in cars, vans, trucks and mopeds they will gladly plow right into you. Recently I have witnessed a couple of extra out of the ordinary vehicle related incidents. As I was walking up the hill, a large truck was coming down, what made this random was the shoeless dude sat on top of the cab wearing only a pair of shorts. This dude had full on Private Pyle crazy eye and was yelling at the top of his voice to bemuzzed onlookers, my Portuguese isn’t great but I do understand crazy speak when I hear it. The whole scene looked like some some straight up post-apocalyptic Mad Max shit.
Last week, I saw a dumper truck which was unloading cement onto the side of the street, nothing out of the ordinary with that, there is building materials covering the streets at all times as new houses pop up constantly. The difference this time was the fact there was a dude balancing on the back of container as it was 25 feet in the air dropping the cement. His reasoning I don’t know but he had obviously done his risk assessment though, to ensure he didn’t fall he was holding on to the overhead power lines!
I’ve got my homie Torryn ‘Falcon’ Heffelfinger wrestling coach at Rio Fighters and house manager at the imfamous Connection Rio gaff dropping some knowledge on how to smash dudes with a knee tap.