Life Goes On

Posted: November 13, 2011 in Uncategorized

Not having slept since the night before, the last 48 hours blend seamlessly together. All the events which have transpired, seem like distant memories lived by someone else. The long eery calm before the storm. The terrifying chopping sound that accompanies a helicopters charge coinciding with the forward move of tanks below, all visible from our perch way above the favela. The far away clanck of traficantes placing metal objects on the road as a last ditch effort to peeve the tanks. The horrible spectre that for some stupid reason the traficantes might fight. The comforting realization that the traficantes would give up and not fire a shot. The adrenaline packed moment when a helicopter does a fly by our location scoping there gun sights on us because they believe our hostel is a Boca de Fumo (Drug dispension point). The heavy silence of Military Police entering the hostel with drug dogs and scouring the entire premises. The most affecting of all of these memories, the quick realization that life will, out of necessity, go on as close to normal as possible for the majority of the residents here.

Walking down the main road of the favela that I have been living in and seeing the familiar street that is now littered with debris from the night before. Instead of traficantes everywhere with guns, there are black clad military police patrolling the areas with large motorbikes and trucks. Yet despite this massive change in the chain of power, the residents pour into the streets. They talk with their neighbors in a subdued manner, which irrepressibly bubbles into good natured joking and laughing. We are greeted everywhere as normally as any other day, with the now familiar “Bom Dia” and a charismatic smile, interlaced with the occasional drunken lecture on how we come from Germany (everyone thinks that blond people come from Germany).

The police, both for symbolic and strategic value, have placed their forces in exactly the same positions as those that the traficantes guarded. The people, out of necessity, quickly seem to accept this new order, but with a begrudging air. Except for the abandoned cars placed in the road, now crushed by the tracks of tanks, it would be hard to tell this Sunday morning apart from any other Sunday morning. It seems difficult to fathom, but it seems that for many of the residents here this new arrangement will be little more than a mild inconvenience for them, as they return to the jobs they have and the lives they lead. What I hope to observe and relate over the next couple of weeks, as the actual process of establishing the Brazilian state plays out,  is whether this is in fact the truth.

Despite the convincing “peace” that has been imposed upon the community, one experience in particular hints that the truth of things is once again more complicated than what meets the eyes. Walking down the road, my friend Miguel and I see a car that has been rolled over by a tank the previous night, leaving it utterly destroyed. An older woman, thinking we are the press, comes to us and explains that it is her sons and that the state will need to repay him for it. As we point her in the way of the real press, she tries to convince her son to start speaking to the film crew about what happened. The son backs away quickly from the entire situation. He refuses to talk to the press.

From what I can tell, this reaction is a common one between outsiders (the press and the police) and the residents of the community. The press, who have painted such a bleak and violent picture of their community over the years, seem to the residents as voices for society they do not belong to. The police are seen as corrupt and violent. The residents, who have so long lived in a type of political system more similar to a 19th century Chinese warlord than a 21st century democracy, expect that the government that has ignored them for so long will quickly lose patience and forget them again. After this they expect the drug traffickers to return and punish anyone who might have collaborated with the press and police. Our conversations with the residents confirm these sentiments. It will take a long and persistent campaign on the side of the government to convince these people that they are a positive force and intend on staying.

My internet is still to slow to post pictures or video, but they will be on the way soon. If you would like to see more photos please check out my friend, Michael’s, blog: http://photowolff.tumblr.com/

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