The worldwide Augustana College experience

The Favela Santa Marta

The favela was CRAZY! I don’t even know how to explain it. The living conditions of these people seem dire from the outside but something we noticed–and something Professor Mariano reinforced– is that Brazilians don’t seem to care about their external surroundings. There is much liter on the beaches, streets, etc. However, Brazilians think it is very important to maintain a tidy and clean home indoors. In Santa Marta–one of the most famous favela’s and one of the first pacified favelas– we met a beautiful 16 year-old girl named Letecia. Her father is a community leader and this specific favela is paving the way for “favela-empowerment” if you will. They took us around on a tour of the favela and while the stench was in some parts unbearable and in some areas it looks like the walls are moments away from collapse the insides of most of the peoples homes were perfectly well kept and rather nice! Letecia and her father let us use their bathroom– in 2010 there was a water tank added to Santa Marta so to provide the 10,000+ citizens with clean and safe drinking water– and their house was no different than something we would find at home. The tile was in fact beautiful.

I learned that most favelados–citizens of the favela– work and work hard for their livings. I was under the impression that it was a welfare based system of some sort but in fact these people commute to work–usually as maids or cooks, etc.– everyday and do so even though their commute can reach up to 4 hours one way!

In the middle of Santa Marta is a little promenade and it was the most colorful part of the community. The buildings were painted vibrant pinks and greens and blues and yellows. They had everything from a bar to a mini Best-Buy like shop.

I also assumed that we would be intrusive and insulting to come and tour the place where these people unfortunately have to live. I figured that they would feel something along the lines of “were not animals and our home is not a zoo.” I can only imagine that that’s what I would feel if people came and toured my home so to say that they’ve been to the notoriously dangerous favela. My experience was the exact opposite, rather. These people were so happy and welcoming. They loved to share their home with us and were seemingly proud of it as well. On the way up the tram (which was rickety and frightening) I thought, “How could this still be here in our day and age of instant global communication and wireless technology, etc? Demolish it and rebuild! Yes, it is a big project but it can be done.” When I left I could not have felt any more different. This is these people’s homes and they are nice homes at that! They are a community and one with such rich culture and history. I left feeling as if I had just witnessed one of the most beautiful senses of community and solidarity. We think that we’re happy in the US with all of our nice things, etc. but these people are truly happy and truly dependent on one another.  They help each other with anything and everything. It was amazing.

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