Sunday, January 4, 2009

Baltimore vs Rio

Before leaving for my trip to Rio I ventured over to one of my favorite places in the city, the Enoch Pratt Library. It is a nice walk from my apartment, down Charles St. past the monument and little shops. If I am feeling lazy I might drive but the majority of the time I prefer to walk there. One section I really enjoy at the library is the Maryland History section. It has become a great resource for my research such as when I was gathering information about my last project that dealt with a warehouse in Greektown. More recently I searched for books or articles related to Rio and stumbled upon this hit: Chronic community violence and adolescent peer group activity settings in Rio de Janeiro and Baltimore : a cross cultural comparison / by Joie D. Acosta. Apparently it was written for this woman's dissertation. I was happily surprised to fine something and read through parts of it. Since I didn't take many notes I decided to try to do some additional searching because I have been thinking about this comparison. I stumbled upon this article in the Baltimore City Paper. It discussed a video project that examines the rough lives of young people in the violent neighborhoods of Baltimore and Rio. The documentary is called Violence Next Door: Growing Up in the Favela and the Hood and it was created by Mari Gardner. Here is a link to her site. Unfortunately I haven't been able to see this film yet but am hoping to find some clips soon. The article did however bring up some important points. Here are a few quotes from the article:

In Brazilian cities, "people are scared to death of the people who live in favelas," Gardner says. Of course, she notes, "most people in Baltimore won't dare go into West Baltimore. This was one problem I had when I was in Rio. One of my goals was to visit one of the favelas to learn more about the communities or at least experience it first hand rather than from what I've read. I wanted to have my own opinion about it. Everyone I talked to about it..thought I was crazy or questioned why I wanted to go in. I was totally fine with going in but not by myself and I couldn't find anyone to go with me.

This next paragraph discusses how surprisingly different the two cities actually were to Garner. "I thought it going to be a lot more similar [in the two places] than it was," she acknowledges. In Baltimore, given the predominance of heroin and the widespread drug trade and gang activity, "the violence here spreads out and affects everybody in a way that's a lot more personal," she says. The video features interviewee after interviewee recounting family and friends lost to drugs or violence. In the favelas, the drug gangs regularly shut down the streets with gun battles, but Gardner estimates that maybe 1 percent of a given neighborhood's residents are directly involved, and heroin is all but unknown (marijuana and cocaine are the drugs of choice).

The weight of crime and drugs "doesn't affect people in same way that it does here," she says. "These [Brazilian] young people are going to school, and the community and family structures are incredibly strong."

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