Here’s another photo from the start of our journey to the favela yesterday in the UniRio van. From left to right, you’ll see Liz Raynes, Jodie Lawston, Sarah Thompson, and me. After I posted my reflections on yesterday’s adventures, I received a very thoughtful email from Sarah, adding her impressions of what we saw in Maré (and teaching me how to add accents to words in my blog posts!). Sarah has been a real gift to us on this trip because as a recently graduated Latin American Studies major from the University of Michigan (Way to go, faculty at LACS and the Brazil Initiative for doing such an excellent job of training students!), she speaks excellent Portuguese and is on her third trip to Brazil. She has been serving as translator for those of us with limited language skills, and she knows a great deal about local customs and culture, including practical things like how and where to catch the bus. As you will shortly see from her comments on our time in Maré, she is an excellent critical thinker with much compassion and insight.
Sarah’s response to my blog post from yesterday begins with a reference to an art exhibit that Isabella Porto described to us. The Crossing Rio exhibition took place at the Centro de Artes de Maré and used art to try to bridge the gaps between various communities in Rio. Here’s what Sarah wrote:
Anything I’d add would be about the idea of Crossing Rio and combining the two cities, the South Zone (where we are) and the North Zone (where Maré is). As a student of urban development, I found it fascinating to learn that that was the focus of the previous art exhibition, as well as the proposed theme of the play at the end of the year [devised by the children in the second workshop we saw, the one at the Centro de Artes de Maré]. Particularly poignant was how this linking of geography through the barriers of socioeconomic class, quality of life, and so many things also came through the lens of using history, linking past and present. I think I already commented to you about this a little but but I found it so great how they were using the past, like the case of the Revolta da Vacina [one of the historical events featured in the second workshop’s play], to make the children reflect on, and think critically about, the protests today. There were tons of moments like the girl saying that she just submitted herself to the power at the expense of her friends without thinking. I saw it in that group but even in the children’s group [at the third workshop in the hospital]– part of the protests have been against Rede Globo, the media monopoly, and by using the newspaper clippings and ending with a discussion encouraging the kids to take liberty with their scenes and use the facts to build a story, pointing out this is what the media does anyway, is a really subtle way to get them thinking politically. And about their own role in the story. It seemed to all be about making sure the residents of Maré, who like all favela residents have been told by the government for generations that they are off the grid, a blemish on the city of Rio, making sure that they understand how much they are a legitimate part of this world, significant in quantity and perspective. So cool.
Thank you, Sarah, for these reflections!
More on our time in Rio soon! A group of us are going tonight to see a production of Chekov’s The Cherry Orchard in Portuguese!