We had a Brazilian driver take us to a few spots in the city, including the giant Christ on the hills. He spoke no English, and just as my Spanish improved when I had the unofficial job of translator in the jungle, my Portuguese took a leap as I became the communicator. At one point my father asked a simple question about Brazilian favelas, I don’t remember what it was. It struck a chord with our driver.
He explained that Rio had over one thousand favela communities, including the one he came from. As he drove, he would point them out. Not that they were hard to see, favelas, barrios, shanty-towns, slums, whatever you call them, they look the same the world over. Rusted metal, a lack of windows, low ceilings, an eery beauty in their shabbiness – at least when looked at from afar. Our driver insisted on pointing each one out. Since there were many in the same community, our drives were punctuated by him calling out, “favela, favela, favela,” and pointing at several. It may have been the only way he felt he could communicate with us.
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