It’s still cloudy and/or raining here after one week of shite weather (although perhaps everything is relative given where I’ve come from).
The election has been and gone, but it ain’t over yet. Dilma, who was expected to win outright, now faces a second round of votes in four weeks. The Greens did unexpectedly well, with the party gaining 19 per cent of votes nationally and coming second in my city.
Here in Rio de Janeiro the people have re-elected Serge Cabral, who has already promised to roll out (sorry for saying roll out) the UPP, a programme of “pacification” of the favelas, which basically means the police will occupy them.
This extends to Rocinha, where I have already been, the largest of all the favelas containing 200,000 – 250,000 people depending on who you ask. I’ve asked a few people which are the most dangerous, and the answer is usually either Complexo de Alemao or Mare, both of which will be subjected to UPP from now on. The Mare favela is interesting, because it is far north of most of the wealthy people and tourists, but happens to be en route to the international airport. When I was last passing through on my return from Petropolis, a mural of children’s paintings on opaque glass, a recent addition, could not completely conceal the sprawling houses behind. From the van I was in, I saw two policemen, one with the biggest gun I’ve ever seen on his lap, headed there.
Nobody in charge of Rio wants tourists, especially those arriving for the Olympics, to be faced with this sight as soon as they land. Those three favelas (and it isn’t only those Cabral has vowed to tackle) will be an enormous and daunting challenge. Police so far have been commenting in the media that they know it is a drop in ocean, but you must start somewhere. While I agree, to a certain extent, I am reminded of that old phrase: “Tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime.” Now, where did I hear that again???
When you take into account the fact that most middle class people have maids, who often live in and get paid less than my rent, it isn’t any wonder so many people are forced to live in this way. A housekeeper I know is paid $R700 per month, that’s about £260. He lives in most of the time, and is also fed, but this means he doesn’t see his three children during the week. It is so little that this job, which is from Monday until Saturday morning, is not enough and he frequently does other work come the weekends.
It has the result that many adults are like overgrown children, unable to wash their own dishes or change a lightbulb, while the people who actually run their homes for them are consigned to a life without the luxuries, or even basics, their employees don’t know how to operate or clean. Because it’s the norm people here accept it, but the empregada culture has to end if there is any hope of closing the gap here. I don’t want to sound like a puritanical Brit but I think it would be better for both sides if it did.
On a nicer note, there are hummingbirds even in Santa Teresa. The word for hummingbird is Beija-flora (literally kisses flowers), which makes me even happier to discover that they are here.