Have you ever been to Vidigal?
I have passed Vidigal dozens of times, driving along the Avenida Niemeyer between Leblon and São Conrado, and I have met many people who live there – the Vidigal population provides much of the labor for store and domestic duties in Zona Sul – but I never imagined actually going up into the favela community.
I do translations and voice-overs, and I was recently given a fascinating text about a huge machine that goes out into the sea and cuts up sunken wrecks. The text is from a video that will be shown in an event in São Paulo where people go who like cutting up wrecks, and presumably building ships as well, or maybe looking after ports, as this particular ship sank in the middle of Santos harbor and was preventing port expansion.
I translated the text and was told that the voice-over would be recorded in a studio in Vidigal. Vidigal? I exclaimed – I have to go into Vidigal? Well of course with the UPPs the favelas – or communities as we are supposed to call them nowadays – are much safer, and apparently Vidigal was always pretty safe, for its residents and visitors – after all, it was once visited by the Pope!
So a day was set and I asked about getting there. ‘Come by car’, they said, ‘though as you live in Gavea you could walk it’. I asked about parking – no problem! My contact said he would meet me at the entrance, and show me where to go. I reckoned it must be somewhere around that praçinha with the amphitheater. Well, at the appointed time he met me, got in the car, and directed me – up … Thank goodness we weren’t walking it, I would never have made it.
We went up and up, weaving between parked cars and trucks, including the Comlurb lixo truck, and dozens of children just out of school. The surface was at times tarmac and at times cobbles, indicating that the road had been there for a long time. Turn left, turn right, but always up, stopping when there was no room for two cars to pass. The best way to move around in Vidigal is of course by moto-taxi, and if you would like a virtual ride up the morro, click here
We eventually got to the top, not the very top, but pretty high up, and I parked the car. I asked if it was safe – ‘Safest place in Rio’, my friend said. We then climbed lots of steps to the “Nos do Morro” building. This is a theater school, where 400 students study. They do everything, from Sergio Ricardo to Shakespeare – they have been to London to work with the Royal Shakespeare company, and also with the Battersea Arts Centre (BAC), for the project ‘Rio Occupation London’. For more on the Institution, click here
The views are of course amazing. Not expecting to go so high, I had not taken my camera, but will certainly go back one day to capture the views of the ocean, the favela itself, and in the distance the beaches of Ipanema and Leblon.