Rio de Janeiro, a city you hate and love at the same time.
Many connect Brazil with football and samba, white beaches or the film "City of God", which describes the life of the famous "city jungle" Favelas. The most popular place is Rio de Janeiro and it is a city full of screaming contrasts - where "the rich are very rich" and "the poor are very poor", but one thing they have in common is enjoying life.
Marchel travelled to Brazil in April after his trip to Peru. His 2 week planned vacation turned to 2 months in the city of Rio de Janeiro.
" I didn't know what I was getting into,all I knew was what I heard in the media growing up. it was not positive things. But that changed quite quickly, and my nervousness disappeared. I got a totally different view of Brazil and the Brazilian people.
Brazil is much more than murder, violence and drugs. it is a great country with lovely and hospitable people who hover between Heaven and Hell...
The richest part of Rio city Leblon area and Vidigal favelas.
I stayed in one of the nicer areas in Rio de Janeiro called Botafogo. The area is located in between Flamengo and Copacabana Beach. It is filled with cafés, active sports people, and students. in the evening it transformed into sports bars and pubs. Very quiet, ordinary young people who wanted to have fun and get away from the everyday wear and tear.
Botafogo cove and neighborhood.
Other shadows crept out as the evening approached. The homeless, which is a negative connotation of abusers: crack cocaine, or regular cocaine. They sleep in door openings of shops, under trees, and in the middle of the pavement so you have to step over them. What came to me at first was that most of the Brazilian people with permanent jobs, and roofs over there're heads did not notice the homeless in some ways. Then I asked, how can they just let them be without giving them a dime or a meal?
Homeless in Rio de Janeiro.
The answer was, they only come to beg, and do not even bother to work. If they really wanted to have a job, you could certainly find it.
Popular tourist areas in Rio and artistic Santa Teresa metropolitan area
The first few days, I was there, I saw the most typical tourist attractions: the Christo Redemer (statue of Jesus) and Sugar Loaf that is 396 Meters heigh. I also saw the Selaron stairs, where among others Michael Jackson and Snoop have recorded music videos.
Selaron Stairs (Escadaria Selarón) of artist Jorge Selarón.
My favorite place was certainly Santa Teresa which is totally unique - filled with art shops, old buildings, museums and cafes. Many artists settle in the area when they retire.
Graffiti in bohemian Santa Teresa.
Santa Teresa tram.
The site is located high up on a hill so you have views of much of Rio and many of the surrounding favelas.
Favelas from Santa Teresa.
The site is unfortunately not as safe in the evenings, there can be a lot of crime in the area. There was an incident where the police drew their weapons and arrested some people in the middle of the street. But in the day Santa Teresa is absolutely fantastic, you can meet many different types of interesting people.
Police work in Santa Teresa area.
Police work in Santa Teresa.
Santa Teresa area.
Favelas - "Gate to Heaven"
After a few days I was tired of going to the usual tourist traps and went slightly out to the gloomy end of Rio. The notorious Favelas.
"Gate to Heaven" - Rios favelas.
I had been warned by several people against going into this world due to the kidnappings, assault, or the chance I could be killed. I took the chance and didn’t regret a second.
Small red brick houses packed one after another on top of each other along the mountain side that surround Rio de Janeiro. A completely amazing architecture which I could not imagine.
Small narrow path systems are as a labyrinth bent going over, to the right, and to the left of the buildings that I would not want to get lost in.
Small narrow path systems in Rios favelas.
Favelas have their own small society. Schools, doctors, playgrounds and a lot of small shops where you can buy the daily things you need. Most who live in the slum work downtown where they stand in shops, kiosks, and petrol stations. The men work mostly as unskilled laborers.
Young woman in Favelas.
However, I met many incredibly sweet, and nice people. Even though they spoke no English it was an experience in itself just to be there. But I would not recommend others doing it because it can be extremely dangerous.
On patrol with police
I had the pleasure of following a police patrol in the day time in Rio. I started at their headquarters in downtown where I was first introduced to different people and was shown around.
Police Headquarters in Rio de Janeiro.
Police Headquarters in Rio de Janeiro.
Policia militar have several different departments that is both SWAT (special units that carry out dangerous situations, red.), the tourist police, and general police that patrol in and around the favelas and the rest of the city. I was to go on patrol in Rio and come with them to work. We drove out to the various check points that they have around the city.
On patrol with police.
Policeman in Rio de Janeiro.
It is quite normal for all of the cops to be armed. Both tourist police and the ordinary police. It gives the city a image of negative connotation to be heavily armed and always very vigilant.
They have their own church where they can go and pray for their lost colleagues and friends they have lost in many of their battles against crime.
Capela de N.S. das Dores.
I heard that many of the cops have not been paid for several months due to the forthcoming Olympic Games. Normal police get in Danish kroner ca - 5000 - 6000 DKK. So they actually put their lives at stake unpaid at the moment. And this is probably one of the reasons why corruption arises within the police.
There is a large difference between the rich and the poor in Brazil. The minimum pay in the country is around 1600 Danish kroner for most people. People who live for example in the favelas often live for less than the minimum wage. You can compare that to a school teacher who averages 4000 DKK and a lawyer who can make from 4000 kr to 100,000 DKK a month.
Photographer Marchel Tino Johansson