Rongrong Liu: A Colorful Favela

Photography and Text by Rongrong Liu, Copyright 2018




Favela, in Portuguese, means a slum. Thousands of books and reports talk about these Brazilian shanty towns. There are 786 favelas in Rio de Janeiro. Each one has around 160,000 people. They live and die in these shady places because they cannot afford to live in the cities. If you type the word into Google, nothing positive shows up.They are said to be extremely dangerous and full of violence and drugs. However, after staying in Copacabana and Ipanema in Rio de Janeiro, I found most of the urban areas essentially not too different, so my curiosity drove me to take a tour to the inner side of Brazil.

The tour guide was born and bred in Favela. He is a self-taught English and German speaker. He receives thousands of perfect reviews on Trip Advisor and must be able to afford a good life in urban Rio, but he still chooses to live in Favela. With a curiosity about this person and the place for certain, we arrived after a half-an-hour drive. Within expectation, the town is not as prosperous as some coastal areas, but it has most of what cities have- restaurants, clinics, supermarkets, bars, and surprisingly, banks. Considered as neglected places by the government, favelas are not provided with any subsidies, hence they developed their own self-sufficient economy. It is true that “some people just give up at some point of their life”, as said by the tour guide, but at the same time “there are still people who strive to change their fate. I learned English and German. I have been a tour guide for 26 years.” It is hard to imagine that a person can still be passionate after sharing the same thing and showing people around the same place for 26 years. However, I guess he just wants to use his ability to tell the world the positive side of Favela.

I didn’t know how much words can tell about a real favela, but I believe the camera can. I recorded what I saw along the road. There are all those yellow stick figure graffiti everywhere on the walls, on the wire poles, full of happiness and hope. On my way visiting, which was around 3pm in the afternoon, three teenage girls with backpacks passed by. After communicating with our tour guide, the girls gave the most beautiful smile on their faces to welcome us as foreigners. They pinched my face, and gave me a big hug. I guess that was the warmest and the most pure hug that I haven’t received for a long while.


About The Author: Rongrong Liu is a Junior enrolled in the College of the University of Pennsylvania, Class of 2019. To access additional articles by Rongrong Liu, click here


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