So last week I asked you to do some required reading for this week’s post. Did you do it?
Reason: La Lopez gave me some required reading of my own, a book called Child of the Dark, a diary written by a “favelado” woman named Carolina Maria de Jesus, first published in 1960. I had never heard of the book, not even during the time I lived in Brazil. The book was instrumental in forming La Lopez’s own life path and current work with the UN in Chile so I thought it worth the read.
When I first cracked the book, I, naturally, read the prologue. All of it seemed applicable. Until I got to the numbers for the favelas in Rio de Janeiro: 200. This could not be right! So I fast forwarded and discovered that the preface was written in 1962. Fifty years later, there are approximately 880 favelas.
Obviously, things have not improved poverty-wise during half a century. Why? Guns and drugs. Reading the book, it is clear that while the poor in the late 1950s had plenty of knives and pinga (sugar cane alcohol) the other two were not in wide circulation.
Slavery ended in Brazil, officially, in 1888 by the stroke of a pen brandished by an Empress. But I ask you, with conditions worse than fifty years ago, is the situation today not another form of slavery? Will electing on October 31, 2010 a former Marxist guerrilla, Dilma Rousseff*, make living in a favela any better? Does this make you want to go to Rio for the Olympics in 2016? Carolina had to contend with gnawing hunger; today’s “favelado” dodges bullets. But I do not feel better about the situation in Brazil having read the the book and doing some follow up research.
So, while I was complaining last week about my crappy house, in reality, I know better. I have (hot) running water, toilets, electricity not boosted off the grid. My roof leaks only intermittently. Better yet, I can move if I want/need to. There is too much food in my stomach and I am not mired in the vicious cycle of poverty.
Now you have some required reading for the end of year. I will be interested to know if my Brazilian amigas have read the book. The afterward, written by a Robert M. Levine, was particularly interesting as it tells of Carolina’s life after the publication of her diary and her subsequent departure from the favela. Carolina’s story does not have a fairy tale ending, I warn you. But the real take away from her life was her incredible strength, sense of self, and her continual desire for a better life. She never gave up.
Speaking of moving, Mrs. NATO (pronounced Nay-to, like the organization) is out of here in six weeks. Her beloved, Mr. NATO, is headed to Iraq** the day after her 40th birthday in January of 2011. He will be staying a year. How is that for some birthday present?
Is there a moral to my sad saga? Why, yes, several lessons are applicable to me. 1) if you don’t live in a favela, Iraq, or Afghanistan, or in other hot spots around the globe, stop complaining. 2) sometimes being suckered by real estate offers up a friend or two (to wit: Raftbuddy and Mrs. NATO) 3) peacekeeping sometimes means continued combat.
*Dilma was imprisoned from 1970 – 1972 for her activities.
**Peace-keeping mission? Really? He will be receiving combat pay, so, no.