Karla Zabludovski – NewsWeek, 10/30/2013
As the van revs its engine and chugs up the hill, passengers – scooped up from some of the most high-end hotels in Rio de Janeiro just minutes ago – crane their necks out and up, straining for the first glimpse of what they hope will be the most miserable squalor they’ll ever see.
Suddenly, Rocinha, the biggest favela – slum – in Rio de Janeiro comes into view in all its dilapidated glory: green, yellow, white, and redbrick buildings piled on top of each other like a collapsing wedding cake, lining the base of a cliff. They see vans and cars try to squeeze through the only street, a narrow road, going up through the favela. Around them, motorcycle taxis swarm from all sides, transporting locals toward their humble residences in the heights. Rudimentary restaurants, bars, gyms, and markets dot the windy road. Electricity lines, to the tourist’s surprise, create giant webs at the middle and tops of poles, a free-for-all.
On both sides and all the way to the top are endless sets of steep stairs, connecting the ever-expanding favela like an intricate circulatory system of veins and arteries.