February 16, 2004

Rio de Janeiro, Brasil

Trying to explain Rio in a few paragraphs is difficult. Trying to explain Rio at Carnaval in a few paragraphs is hopeless. If you've seen it for yourself, you know what I'm talking about. If you haven't, get here. This place is insane.

For the first time on this trip, I'm not able to talk to the locals. In the south of Brazil and São Paulo, I was able to speak slow, clear Spanish, and they would reply in slow, clear Portuguese. The two languages are close enough that we could get most things across awkwardly. This isn't working at all in Rio - the accent is different and the local's exposure to Spanish is minimal - but if I had to pick a place to get by with body language, this would be it. I doubt there's friendlier, funnier, more laid-back people anywhere on the planet.

São Paulo was all about night. The restaurants and clubs there are some of the best in the world. Rio is about the day. Some of the best beaches in the world - Leblon, Ipanema and Copacabana - are literaly steps from the city. White sand, blue water and minimal clothing are status quo.

I spent the afternoon today in Rio's largest favela: Rocinha, a slum that is home to a quarter million people. Favelas are shantytowns that are home to 20% of Rio's population, or about 1.3 million people. I'll let the shots I took there show what the hillside communities look like, but they can't convey the stench of poverty, decay and sewage that permeates the place. They also show only the "tamer" side of the favela. Taking out a camera in the worst areas would have been stupid. The inhabitants in Rocinha fall under the protection of one of two warring drug lords. I don't. And obviously, taking pictures of drug dealers is asking for trouble. Ditto pictures of the scariest millitary police I've ever seen - they were in the favela on a drug raid. Pics will be up soon.

Posted by dhuska at February 16, 2004 02:07 PM