Favela Spirit


Sure local government should do these things, but when they don’t, we do it ourselves.

-Favela resident


Favelas are a touchy subject here in Brazil. I think I covered this subject in my previous post (What’s wrong with favelas?), so I’ll just add a minimal pre-emptive clarification: I don’t think favelas are fun or cool, but I do think they are legitimately interesting.

Back in Britain it is common to hear people lament the decline of “community spirit”. Of course there are plenty of great community projects and kind, helpful people, but as a general trend, people have become less sociable with their neighbours over the last 50 or so years.

Many people in London (and other large cities I’m sure) hardly speak to the people who live next door or across the hallway. It’s not uncommon to hear of people dying alone in their apartments and only being discovered days (or more) later when neighbours notice the smell.

I used to think that this phenomenon of people closing themselves off from their neighbours was caused by the population movement from small towns and villages into large cities and conurbations. It seems a logical reaction to a reduction in living space: people put up metaphorical walls to counter the fact that they are living in such close proximity to each other. But if that were true, how could you explain favelas?



Just a small section of Rocinha, Rio’s largest favela.

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Is it better not to speak Portuguese?

Recently I was reading the blog of an expat and they were summing up the good and bad points of living away from their home country and then also looking at what it felt like to return. One point that particularly interested me was the returning to a country where everyone speaks your language isn’t always that great. Sure we all get a little tired of the language barriers when we’re ‘away’, but when you go ‘home’, you have to get used to understanding everything that everyone says.

Yes. Yes I am still complaining. And so is everyone else apparently.


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Lupi catches bullet

I won’t resign and I won’t be sacked. I have the President’s full support. I guarantee it won’t happen…It will take a bullet to get me out of the ministry. And it will have to be a big bullet, because I’m a big guy. – Carlos Lupi, 8th November 2011.

Politics and corruption in Brazil appear to be intimately linked.


Brazil’s Labour minister, Carlos Lupi, announced his resignation yesterday. This makes him the 6th minister to resign because of corruption allegations since President Dilma Rousseff came to power (at the start of 2011). Lupi’s resignation comes after more than a month of allegations and revelations. As the quote above illustrates, this guy is quite a character. In response to the outcry to that followed the above quote, he made another statement apologising to the president:

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"To live in Brazil is shit…

…but it’s great.”

Who said that? None other than Antônio Carlos Jobim, also known as Tom Jobim, the godfather of bossa nova, composer of The Girl from Ipanema and one of the great Brazilians of the 20th Century. The full quote is:

“To live in other countries is great, but it’s shit. To live in Brazil is shit but it’s great.”

Tom Jobim – legend.

Are you happy with your country?

Last week I saw this article on the Guardian website – for those of you who don’t do links, the title is Want to be happy? Don’t live in the UK. It goes on to list various statistics which demonstrate that people in the UK and Ireland pay more tax, enjoy fewer holidays, shorter life expectancy and fewer hours sunshine than France, Spain and various other countries in Europe. 

The title of the article made me smirk and feel a little smug (I certainly see more sunshine and enjoy more holidays than I did in London), but as a couple of friends pointed out, the UK is a great place to live! Amongst other things, we (or should I say they?) have a free health service for all, great education, low crime rates, low poverty and politicians who are publicly accountable. And yet people in the UK have been subjected to a steady stream of doom and gloom for years:

Broken Britain – this imagery and tone seems to come up again and again in the British press. Of course you need to acknowledge a problem before can solve it, but are the people who continually push this message doing it for political gain and/or to sell newspapers?


This contrasts starkly with Brazil, recently dubbed the ‘Country of Optimism’.

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Things you find under bridges in Rio

The photo, taken in Botafogo,  shows one of my favourite pieces of street art in Rio. Technically excellent, stylistically interesting and (hopefully) it makes you think.

I’m not great with art history and arty references, but this piece by How & Nosm reminded me of Picasso and Cubism in general (I just googled this to make sure I wasn’t being utterly ridiculous. Can now confirm there is definitely a resemblance!).


It’s a beautiful piece by identical twins Davide and Raoul Perre, better known as How & Nosm. They are known as the other identical twins in the graffiti world, in reference to Brazil’s very own Os Gêmeos (the twins).

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For Funk’s Sake!

Picture this: You have been doing a lot of long days at work – getting up early, coming home late (you rarely have time for a proper lunch). It is Monday night and you are still tired from the weekend when there were various late-night events, at which your attendance was non-negotiable. 

When you got home from work tonight you managed to get a quick bite to eat and then head to bed – it is just before midnight and apart from the occasional dog bark, the night is quiet and peaceful. You close your eyes, so tired that you can feel your heavy body sinking deeper and deeper into the mattress as sleep takes you. Half-dreams flit in and out of your consciousness but you are too tired to take much notice. And then…

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Skimpy hotties, wrinkly oldies and everything inbetween

The ‘ideal’ body is a very subjective thing. Where one guy sees a complete hotty, someone else takes one look and says “she needs to eat a sandwich“. Some women like their guys a little on the tubby side (for these women I am thankful), others prefer the chiselled abdominizer model. And of course there are men and women who are into men and women respectively. Well whatever you’re into, you’ll see it on the beach in Rio. And they won’t leave much to the imagination! 

Regardless of body-shape or age, Brazilian women prefer a very skimpy cut to their bikinis – both top and bottom. When the film Rio came out here, there was quite a big fuss that the derrière in the trailer was wearing a very conservative bikini:


Seriously, there were articles in the newspaper about this split-second shot and how it wasn’t an accurate representation of Carioca beachwear because it wasn’t revealing enough! Click here ( to see the full clip (skip to 1:40 to see the bunda in action).

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On your feet – I’m obese!

The transport system in London is not renowned for being spacious, airy or comfortable. Neither is it known for being efficient, punctual or good value for money. It’s not all bad – I wish Rio’s subway network was as extensive as London’s – but it’s a constant source of complaint and discussion for Londoners.

London buses can get a little crowded

One perennial discussion centres on giving up your seat. If you travel between 8-10 in the morning or 5-7 in the evening you will have to stand most days. So when you manage to grab yourself a seat it can feel pretty good! Then you see a frail old guy, or a mother holding a child and you hop up to offer your seat right? …Right?!

Well yes, I think most of us do and (let’s be honest) we give ourselves a little mental pat on the back for being ‘a good person’ when we do it. In fact I find that it rather brightens my day, feeling that I’ve done something amazing for a helpless stranger in distress (keeping this little scene in my head allows me to really go to town on transforming myself into an urban transport hero).

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