My younger sister (who happens to be named after a certain John Coltrane ballad) is currently on an extended trip to Brazil. Somehow or other, she's managed to start working with a local NGO in a favela. Here's part of the last email she sent:
In other news, I went to my very first Favela Party, what is known as a "Baile Funky".I don't think that was the kind of news our mother was eager to hear...
Welcome to the jungle.
There are no words to describe what it was like. I felt like I was in a gangster movie.
This is a party where the entire hill takes to the streets, speakers piled together in a huge wall of sound, playing '"novo funk" music at a volume that had all my insides vibrating. There are banners displaying the prices of extasy, cocaine and macounha (weed), and salesmen with large sacks of this merchandise beckoning for clientele like fishmongers in a food market. Girls as young as 12 or 13 are grinding away to the extremely rude music in barely-there outfits,and young men toting pistols and guns the size of small children march up and down the street wearing the air of importance their weapon seems to instill in them.
While everyting was new and entertaining and crazy in my eyes, it was an insight into the daily reality of the people who live in the favela, and who hardly ever leave it, from fear of the police, who are as corrupt and bloodthirsty as the drug dealers who run their community (if not more so. an American tourist was killed in cold blood by a Policia Militar just the other day). Kids of 6 or 7 are hooked on crack, and women latch onto any man who can provide a semi-decent future, through any means necessary.