On Wednesday the 13th, a UPP release informed that there were approximately 300 people gathered in Vidigal’s square at the peak of the pre-event. Residents and visitors from all ages performed and crowded the audience. In a community of 50,000 people, it is rather a small number of attendants to the show, however the pre-event was not very publicised so a greater number of people is expected tomorrow on the actual event.
Vanessa repeated today: “people, this is an event that is happening for you, that is directed to benefit your community, so do it for your people regardless of who comes from the outside.” Nevertheless, the residents are eager to welcome visitors, tourists, people from the city... and open their community to cultural and social exchange. As old Señor Manoel told me yesterday when I was delivering to him some brochures, “a gente tem que trocar experiencias!” (we must exchange experiences!). It is crucial to get people interested in their experiences, to promote exchange in order to start erasing all the prejudice that favelas have been subjected to for years. Vidigal is the community that has the most foreigners living in it, about 180 mostly Europeans, and it has been one of the most accessible and less conflictive ones in terms of violence. “What do you feel about so many foreigners living here?” I asked a Federico. “Its good, there is more exchange... well, in truth is both good and bad” he said. So I asked, “Why bad?” and he answered: “Is just that rent prices rise, and that is ridiculous because people that come from Europe to live here is as broke as we are, they come here because in Europe they are in deep shit. But the landlords still don’t get it, so rent prices rise.”
At the same time, while most residents are in favour of a greater interaction between the locals and foreigners as long as growth is promoted within the community there is still a certain fear for exploitation or people taking advantage of their community or their situation. While I was photographing the event in the square, I was also talking to a woman from the community about the activities that were being displayed. Most of the cultural shows belonged to NGOs that promoted dance, theatre, and arts in general in Vidigal. Still, the woman told me “there are a lot of NGOs that are terrible here, they don’t do anything and take advantage of us.” That is why there has been a great emphasis during the development of this project to keep things inside of the community and to benefit first of all the residents.
That same day I met the lieutenant in charge of the UPP forces of Vidigal. A young officer that was born in the community, which is one of the reasons why there is a friendlier relationship between the police and the residents: the fact that he knows since childhood most of the people that he is meant to police facilitates conversation, dialogue and understanding. He defends his community is one of the most peaceful ones, as opposed to others that are having trouble because traffickers that used to be from opposing bands have united against police forces and are opposing violently to the occupation. In Vidigal though, people are determined to end with this unbridled violence. The “law of silence” that overtake other communities and forbids their residents from speaking against violent behaviours is less and less prevalent in this community. The lieutenant agreed that here, people speak up, point out who is doing what and who is harming who, they are not afraid to approach a policeman and denounce someone, which makes their task much easier than in other areas where people just keep silent under fear.
I was surprised to see that the whole theatre play that the high school children put up for the event was about democracy, which seemed to perfectly fit the topic I am trying to explore. A young boy and his teacher acting together pointed at the audience and asked “do you know what democracy is?” So the play went on, and the young spoke up and they all listened to a hopeful promise of future. And to a great play that predicted a fantastic event will happen on Monday.