Watching the New Year’s Eve fireworks display at Copacabana beach, in Rio de Janeiro, is already a dazzling spectacle. But, for a group of 30 tourists, the turnaround party was an unforgettable experience. They watched the firework show on a slab in the favela Pavão-Pavãozinho, a community located on a hill, between the popular beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema, in the south of Rio.
From a height equivalent to 80 floors, you can see the entire Copacabana shore, from Forte to Leme, and the sea of people – about 2 million people. And you could also see the Pão de Açúcar and neighboring Niterói. At sea, no less than nine cruise ships and dozens of smaller vessels.
The visit of tourists to the community is the result of the efforts of Daniel Plá, professor of entrepreneurship at the Getúlio Vargas Foundation, who develops social work with the residents of the nucleus, with the objective of making them earn income on their own. All money obtained from the activity will go to the residents themselves.
This was the second time that Plá took a group of tourists to the favela, which has a UPP (Pacifying Police Unit) since December 2009. Each visitor paid R $ 250 to have access to the slab of Dona Azelina Viana dos Santos, from 77 years old – 62 living on the hill.
The ascent to the community started at 10:30 pm, by the modern panoramic elevator installed on Barão da Torre street. Illuminated, comfortable and agile, it leads to the entrance to the favela, where one begins to notice the contrast with the luxurious buildings of the southern asphalt, which was below.
Wearing T-shirts emblazoned with a photo of last year’s New Year’s Eve and the phrase “New Year’s Eve – Party on the Slab 2011”, visitors pass narrow, dimly lit, damp and smelly stairs, squeezed by tiny, precarious houses that seem to defy engineering rules .
Tourists show a certain tension as soon as they climb the first steps, which gradually disappear as they go up and are welcomed by smiling residents.
-Happy New Year!
– Happy New Year! – ventures a kid, whose haircut draws attention due to the cheerful and bold designs.
The sense of security gains strength when tourists come across a group of police officers – an unlikely situation just over a year ago, when drug trafficking dominated the area.
The group stops at a first birosca (one of the dozens existing in the real maze of alleys and steps), where they toast and pose for photos. The most enthusiastic is the Colombian Heidi Jalkh, who fires her machine frantically.
The atmosphere of joy of the residents, due to the proximity of the New Year, is contagious to the visitors. The group visits several houses, whose slabs offer enviable panoramic views for any tourist or wealthy resident.
The weather helps and, contrary to what the weather reports said, it does not rain. You have a complete view of the Copacabana waterfront, with its popping of photographic flashes and the first, but timid, fireworks fired by anonymous individuals. Looking out over the hill, the windows of the shacks form a veritable checkered mosaic of lights – an exclusive spectacle of the Rio de Janeiro scene.
Through the poorly lit and rustic alleys, the strong smell of sewage, the number of children and the people who are being punished: striking expression marks and humble clothes are noteworthy. But there are also girls and boys scented and properly aligned, with dresses and showy shorts.
In one of the houses, transformed into a beauty salon, the girl finishes her hairstyle, appearing not to care about the proximity of midnight.
“Are you going to have time to finish?”
“You have to give.” I want to enter the beautiful New Year to be beautiful the whole year.
Tourists encounter another group of policemen, curiously by a wall with graffiti protesting the installation of the Pacifying Police Unit in the community.
After a severe walk down steep stairs, the group finally arrives at the home of Dona Azelina and her daughter, Valdete. It is a large house, by the standards of the place. On the main floor, what appears to be a ballroom houses a large table with food and many people – they are Dona Azelina’s relatives, friends and neighbors.
A steep and narrow staircase gives access to the slab. In it, a vision of envy: the sea, the buildings, a carpet of people on the sand, the Sugarloaf Mountain.
It is only a few minutes before midnight. Tourists amuse themselves to the sound of a group of drummers on the hill, duly uniformed with the event’s t-shirt.
The party reaches its high point: the fireworks display thrills visitors. The couple Ana Paula Soeiro and Hugo Maas embraced the show. “This is an unforgettable day in our lives”, tries to translate Ana Paula into words.
To celebrate the moment and remember the rescue of tranquility in the favela, Dona Azelina lets out a pomp that, in a first flight, she thinks of landing right afterwards, on the head of a resident. In a second attempt, the bird gains the skies.
Daniel Plá opens a bottle of Veuve Clicquot, the coveted French champagne that is a sure presence at the most grassy parties in the zone of Rio de Janeiro. Dona Azelina distributes French toast and snacks to her guests. In the downstairs lounge, the sound rolls loose.
A little after 2 am, the group goes down the hill, with easy smiles on their faces and a good story to tell their grandchildren.
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