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A Ride that Takes Courage

If one happens to stumble upon Rio de Janeiro’s newest touristic hotspot, another over-the-top project provided by the PAC program, they would come across the trendy cable car that now spans the entirety of Complexo do Alemão. But they would have to make quite an effort to see deeper, past simply this attractive scenery of what is Brazil’s largest favela complex.

Certainly a medium of transport that is initially operating outside of peak transit hours, from 7:00 am until noon, cannot be considered useful to the general public. Except, of course, for the strong touristic appeal of this new installation. Furthermore, apart from the obvious lack of medical facilities and emergency response team at the cable car’s various stations, a serious complaint was filed by residents to the Jornal Rio Suburbano citing that two gondolas fell and crashed to the street prior to the cable car’s inauguration. Though there were no casualties, the newspaper failed to report the incident and thus this shocking news was completely overlooked by mainstream media. Given these factors, residents have been left with a distressing feeling that they have served as guinea pigs to a reckless and poorly planned experiment.

Had you been to Rio during the month of July, and were able to overcome your fear of heights in order to experience the cable car’s ride, you would have surely enjoyed the stunning scenery that it provides. Of course, if you were able to muster up the courage to look down below, you would notice that between the lanes and alleyways of Complexo do Alemão were a number of garbage dumps scattered about. This being the result of a lack of environmental consciousness on the part of the residents. But even more so, the fault of many years without public utilities, which are common in other neighborhoods but still in a phase of adjustment in the favelas. This lack of earlier state presence can only be fully comprehended by making the physical and psychological effort to walk around the streets of all the communities that comprise Complexo do Alemão.

I recommend going to the Morro da Bahia station and looking for a lady known as ‘Dona Marlene.’ She has lived on Amaral Street in the Complex for 16 years and lives in a home (if we can even call it that) whose structure supports two more homes above hers. The entire foundation of her house was destroyed after the start of a PAC project to build a drain. However, built in the alleyway directly behind Dona Marlene’s home, this drain ejects all of its water and sewage from other homes in what was once her kitchen. According to Dona Marlene, her daily life now consists of sleeping between rats and feces and furthermore she has been given a document from PAC interdicting her home. No other solution was offered to her. To make matters worse, Dona Marlene lives with her 16-year-old daughter with special needs.

Faced with this desperate reality, it is easy to see from the gondolas that soar above the lanes and alleyways of this pacified community, that Complexo do Alemão has been a neighborhood neglected for years. Nevertheless, the ride from the cable car is still worth a try.  Besides the unique and unmistakable views that characterize Rio’s favelas, Complexo do Alemão is a place of receptive people in need of a visit.