May 24, 2016
After spending a majority of our stay in the more affluent South Zone of Rio de Janeiro, our group took a tour of the North Zone, an area not as attractive as its southern counterpart. This is not necessarily a specified area of favelas or set aside specifically for the poor: our tour guide described it as “just another place where people live.” Our group arrived at the stop at Madureira and followed our guide into a huge market. He told us that the market sold many cheap items across a wide spectrum to the locals, as well as to people who would eventually sell them elsewhere for higher prices in places such as the South Zone. These objects included small food items, soccer jerseys, and Cristo figurines. In fact, on the train up to the North Zone, people were selling candy and other food items up and down the cars – all of which had been bought at the market.
As we walked past the market, our guide led us into a samba school known as Portela. The dancers practice for the entire year for a chance to win the competition against all the other samba schools at Carnaval for the best performance. To raise money for the event, the dancers put on shows throughout the year to the general public. In our class, we had learned that samba schools were a place of social activity and mingling with others while watching the talented dancers. Here, we were able to see wide spaces for large crowds, a shop for souvenirs, and an area to buy food. Many of the souvenirs at the shop were shirts representing the school; after buying these, people would walk around in public and wear them as if they were supporting their favorite sports team. We also walked around a community center and park, and stopped by the Olympic Rings (some of the ParaOlympic events will be held there).
Later, after a few other stops, we needed to head back on the train. As our group was waiting for our train, the one moving in the opposite direction came. The doors opened and we could see that each car was completely full with absolutely no free space. However, this did not stop one man from entering and literally pushing the rest of the passengers back so he could fit. Even after that, two more men squeezed in next to him. It was incredible because they were still able to find room, even when there was no open space left.