Do Rio's favela residents feel pacification has improved their lives, or worsened them? New York-based photographer Margaret Day decided to see what people thought in one community three years after pacification began.
Day witnessed the pacification of Brazil's largest favela firsthand, when she was living in the community in 2011 doing social work and photography. She's been traveling frequently to Rio since then, spending weeks or months at a time living in Rocinha, and has watched the community change in the process. "Whenever I speak with people from the asfalto, or abroad, they are always amazed that I love living here, because usually their only frame of reference of favelas is the popular media," Day told me. "One of the first things they ask me is if life in Rocinha is better before or after pacification. As anyone who lives here knows, that answer is not so simple. There is a tendency among people to want to argue with me when I point out any positives about living here before the pacification, because I'm a gringa. These same people never come to Rocinha and/or never talk to the residents."
So on the aniversary of Rocinha's pacification, Day decided to talk to residents and see what they had to say. "The initial reaction almost everyone I spoke to about participating in the photo essay was fear of varying levels," Day explained. "Asking people to go on record is highly unusual because the culture here is not to discuss these things publicly. Asking someone whether they prefer life before or after pacification is a very personal question and it is generally something people tend to only discuss that with people they know. However, people here are always talking about it."
Not everyone Day spoke to agreed to participate, and some people even thought she was crazy, she said. Many people she spoke to said that in some ways, not much has changed since "the guns are just in different hands." Day hopes the project will create more dialogue on integrating favelas into the city so that all stakeholders--especially residents--are heard.
Day has showcased the photo essay, called "The Residents Speak - Os Moradores Fala," on Facebook, and the interesting thing to see is just how much the answers vary. Some say that violence was worse before, and others say it was worse after pacification. There's also some that say specific crimes, like rape and robbery, have increased after pacification; this same issue has been reported in other pacified favelas, too.
See a selection of Day's photos from the project, with residents saying whether they preferred life in Rocinha before or after pacification. To see the full photo essay, visit Day's Facebook page.
"Before: The thieves had more respect. They were afraid to steal, the rapist to rape.
There weren't gunshots everyday but today we have no peace at any time." (Age 33)