Vidigal is the favela where my husband Rodrigo and I are currently living.
I was lucky enough to have had the chance to house sit here, and then basically handed over a new home shortly after that. For anyone who has tried house hunting in Vidigal, you can understand my lucky strike! It’s no easy feat to find yourself a livable, reasonably priced, dwelling here in Vidigal. The house did have it’s difficulties like having to climb a ladder to get inside, but the view was marvelous! It was everything really.
It’s easy to become wowed by the grandeur Vidigal has to offer as Cariocas and foreigners alike. As a foreigner, once you start to live here, and I mean really live here (not be on a long term vacation), you begin to see the hardships people pass in their day to day, and pass them yourself too, view or no view. Reality check happens and you remember your privileges by having the ability to compare your former life to the new chosen one, in a favela.
Eventually that view was not worth the broken, scrabby, ladder climb. After a long day of work, on a rainy day, after grocery shopping, or worse, bringing Mom over to visit, paying for that view became a hardship and a headache. On top of that, the roof leaked in multiple places every time it rained, the veranda doors didn’t close properly letting in rain water and dirt, and our landlord insisted that because of that special view, he deserved more money, and refused to fix anything. So, after a lot of dedication to searching and convincing our neighbor we would be lovely tenants in her home, we left.
Mr. Landlord was not happy and insisted we must surely be owing him money and almost received a nice shiner from Rodrigo, but luckily for everyone it didn’t come to that. You know, he now values his house at 500K$R. Yah. A house that needs to be torn down and rebuilt, all because of that marvelous view.
I mean I get that, I do, especially after growing up in Southern California and having a great understanding of high property value based on nice ocean views, but it’s just damn obnoxious the way things are going down here. In SoCal, those houses have roads that lead to them, don’t leak water, and are freaking mansions.
In many ways I prefer the way favelas are set up to those SoCal mansions anyway… but, well there are always pros and cons to any situation right? Pros here would be the unique culture that exists due to the closeness of the homes, the rooftop utilization, the true sense of community to name a few. Currently the cons would be the lack of security sense the arrival of the UPP, the lack of consistent running water, dog poop scattered throughout the small alleys and extreme traffic jams on the narrow main road, to name a few.
Rio is on fire right now, and as one of my recent students put it, has a high fever. Because of the upcoming global events, everything that can go up in price has and will continue to do so. The crazy thing is that people pay! I even find myself paying for things that I would never, and I mean never, spend that kind of money on at home. Like what? Like the public transportation to name one thing, but as there is no other choice here, and it has become a norm, you just do. People throw a fit for maybe a week, and then everyone forgets what the price used to be, and you struggle to pay that extra 25cents every ride. Or you choose to simply live without. For me, my live without is quinoa which was my main food source before moving to Brasil, so this is very sad for me, but I also recognize comes from a privileged position when other folks’ “live without” became that 25cent raise in public transportation.
Anyway, the point is that Vidigal has not escaped the fever. Real estate prices have almost tripled since November and the entrance of the UPP. What is going on here people!? I feel like I’m in crazy town. Many people would probably ask, why don’t you just leave then, and shoot, I might just have to.
My husband grew up in a favela and his life’s dream has been to buy his own house like many other community members. Now, because of Vidigal/Rio fever, that’s not going to happen. Not now for us, and not ever for many. It’s as if people have forgotten how and why favelas exist. This is a place where if you are a property owner, you were one who made it here early in the days when the building took place, or you are in the upper class amongst the community members.
The point here from our perspective is that there is a feeling of defeat and frustration for a lack of conscious action being taken place to reserve or rather improve these communities while protecting the people who lived here originally because there was no other choice.
I know my ranting and venting won’t change much of anything, but just needed to get it out. Many people here talk daily about their suffering since the arrival of the UPP and because of this Vidigal fever, mostly in part to the rush of tourists who are flocking here. Until now, this had been a place where people could manage, pay their bills, put food on the table and enjoy the simple life despite their unfortunate shortcomings due to social and political injustice, poverty. Those days are over though. The simple life is going to be extinct here really soon and over taken by big pockets with a hungry fever for that view.
I’m not trying to point fingers here and in fact, I find myself in a complex situation being a foreigner here, aware of the effects taking place because of the presence of people like me. I guess this venting is an attempt to start a dialogue about moving with these inevitable changes in a positive and conscious way. I know that many foreigners come and stay here because they really do fall in love with the people and the place, not just the view. So what can we do to stand in solidarity with the community members here and the wonderful organizations that are in place to support the culture and youth? I’m not taking a stance that “these people need our help” but rather a stance of awareness and openness to hear suggestions from locals and others who may have experience from a similar situation.