In 1980, in the midst of the rise of drug violence in the favelas, the Pope John Paul II visited the favela of Vidigal. There, he made it through rough alleys into a small chapel that had been recently built by the residents. He blessed the chapel, he left there one of his rings and he delivered a speech. The end of his speech read: “they told me of you that, in between scarcity, struggle and harshness, there is solidarity and mutual help, thanks to God. They also talked to me about the “mutirao” (free cooperation for construction), thanks to which this chapel that I will bless in a few moments was finished. It is always beautiful and important that people unite and hold hands, add their efforts and together achieve what they can’t achieve alone.”
This part of the Pope’s speech is a great description of how what I could see on Monday’s event. There was much cooperation, willingness and a lot of people attended. Most of the audience and the participants were young people, which was great because they are the people that are going to make the most out of all that was being transmitted, and build a better future for the communities. The event started in the morning at the small favela of Chacara do Céu, with aprox. 5,000 inhabitants. A resident gave a lecture about sustainability, another resident talked about the long history of the community which originated in the 1930s, and then there were several shows of dance, sports, poetry, cinema... All this surrounded by stands that displayed artesany, things done with recycled materials or food, and there was also a rugby game and other activities.
The event then moved to the favela of Vidigal, with aprox. 15,000 inhabitants, were also many dance, theatre, sport, martial arts and other shows were scheduled and there were more than 30 stands around a football field displaying artisany, advertising ongs from the favela, and showing other activities that people could join or learn from. There was a whole tour structured around the favela to show the ecological park where a theatre play and artisan work were displayed, and the chapel that the Pope had blessed where they had a lecture and a small samba concert. Finally, people came back to the football field for a huge concert of Gabriel o Pensador, an internationally recognized artist that voluntarily offered the concert.
However, it was rather a stressful day because of the informality that, as I am progressively assuming, characterizes Cariocas. At first, I was prompted to rebel against this informal behavior, feeling frustrated and dealing with it as if it was something wrong. Things such as meetings starting more than one hour late, lots of time spent on conversation unrelated to the work tasks, people promising to deliver things and cancelling at the last minute or not answering the phone, the bus stopping on a green light because the driver walks down to grab a bite... It is easy from my perspective to understand these conducts as mistaken, nevertheless as I grow to understand the culture here and how things work I am starting to be able to work with this and see that it is just a different culture of work. There are also a lot of advantages to their work methods, so that much more fruitful results are obtained working with it rather than against it. Monday's event with its chaotic moments was one clear example of this.
The event had been carefully structured and discussed for months, and despite that new shows came up or long planned events were cancelled at the last minute, and other activities had to be reorganized the same day on the spot. What also caused trouble was that the whole performance ended up having a delay of two hours and a half. The order of some shows had to be changed because of timing and because of the sunlight, that given the lack of artificial ilumination in many places was necessary for many of the shows. Finally, the most complicated problem was one with the transportation. Our team was assigned two vans with two drivers to move materials and people up and down the favela. This was crucial because the events were to happen in three different spots, the football field, the ecologic park and the chapel, which were located at a considerable distance from one another. The steepness of the slopes and harsh streets made it difficult to transport instruments and material without a motorized vehicle, and people needed vehicles as well to move around faster. But suddenly, one of the drivers just dissapeared. His van was parked near the football field, but there was no one on the wheel. Noone knows were he went for those hours, but one of the vehicles could not be used. Then, the artisans from the favela Chacara do Céu where the shows happened early in the morning decided in the last minute that they wanted to move their things and put them in a stand on the favela of Vidigal, where the performances were moving to. The organizers thought that was a good idea so the only van we had left was sent to fetch them and their stuff. There was no telephone connection up in the football field, so messages run from mouth to mouth or up and down with people riding a motorbike-taxi.
The most surprising thing, however, was that even with all the confusion, the delay, the lack of light and transportation and the miscommunication... all the shows were happened and gathered a lot of audience from all ages and it was evident that the event was a success.
It was also a success because it made a great impact on the community to be able to see how they can organize themselves into enjoyable and also profitable activities. They realized how important it is to share in order to grow. During the event, three different people from the committee approached me at different times saying that we should organize similar events more often.
Hopefully this has been just a start, and from now on smaller but more numerous events can be organized to bring more life into this community. Events that promote the work that is already being done by numerous organizations and individuals that want a greater equality in terms of resources and accessibility for this area. Moreover, many of these activities are also helping to maintain security, to bring development and to construct a more sustainable environment. All the sports, dance clubs and martial arts keep children away from other bad practices that they may fall into in their free time given their troublesome environment and teach them team work and healthy habits. The artisan work exposed was done mostly with recycled materials, which promotes sustainability. Finally, there were many organizations that help women, children and other minorities that promoted their work and were exposed so that people from the community could participate in them and people from the outside could support them. It was a very inspiring environment in which, as Pope John Paul II said, could not have created by one person alone.