West Virginia University College of Law, 2L
May 29, 2007
Day 17 Reflection
Initially, I was filled with a great deal of anxiety about visiting the favelas. I really didn’t think of the potential educational value. All I remember thinking before our visit was, “Why on earth would I go there; isn’t that a place that we should actively avoid?” However, after having the experience, I quickly realized that the trip would have definitely been short-changed if we would have bypassed our opportunity to visit the favelas.
For instance, there were a few things that I experienced in the favela that troubled me. There was a drastic lack of sanitation: the streets were covered with trash, the sewer system was open, and the air smelled very unpleasant. There were many serious structural problems. Walking around the favela made me feel like I was in maze that was hilly, uneven, and slippery. In other words, I felt the need to take each step with particular care. It made me wonder how often the elderly experience life threatening falls just trying to get around their own community. Moreover, I was also bothered that the favela was the only place in Brazil that I saw slot machines around nearly every corner. Even in Brazil, it seems as the though the people who have the least are enticed most often to throw away what do they have. Lastly, I was bothered by the fact that armed gang members were needed to protect the favela from the police—just to be clear, it is more so the fact that the police are the enemy here that bothers me and not the fact that I was nearly shoulder-to-shoulder with several heavily armed teenagers.
On the other hand, there were also a few things that I observed in the favela that surprised me. Foremost, I felt very safe. Further, the people seemed happy, and there was an apparent sense of community. The favela was self-sustained: there was business there, a daycare, schools, post office, private street cleaning, and many other things because the government refused to provide these services. Thus, it seems as though the more the government neglects the area the more the residents exhibit pride about where they are from.
In sum, while in the favelas, I saw things that I have never seen before, but I feel like a better person for having visited. To close, if any of the things aformentioned bothers anyone reading this, here’s something to think aboutâ??several of my classmates mentioned that the favelas are not much different from American ghettos; this bothers me greatly. Does it bother you?