Went to the state sponsored Parada Funk yesterday.  An interesting experience.  All of the usual factors were there, well most lets say.  Ambalantes selling beers, caipirinhas, sausages and whiskey.  Several walls of sound with heavy baselines competing for the grinding hips of those assembled.  There were, of  course, some differences between this daytime Baile Funk, and the ones normally hosted at night by the drug gangs.

The conventional (word used lightly) baile funk is hosted by the gang who controls the favela, and one cannot avoid seeing large guns at every turn.  Anyone who is carrying a gun is doing so over his head, waving it around as he dances – a daft and comedic looking sight, if not so tragic.  Teenagers who can bearly support the weight of their weapons of war, shake them around above their heads.  They want to leave no doubt in anyone’s mind just who is in charge, who’s the sexiest one of all, etc, etc.

At yesterday’s Baile Funk in Centro, the same amount of artillery could be seen, only this time it was in the hands of the cops instead.  There was a huge police presence at the event, and a great sense of tension at their standpoints. You see, the Baile Funk, by its very essence is a subversive affair.  The lyrics promote and flaunt criminality ad anti-police sentiment.  In the minds of (many) police officers, anyone who lives in a favela (ie one-third of the population of the city) is a bandido.

It goes against everything the cops believe in to allow this bandit dancing to continue.  They are acting counter intuitive to allow this.  But, they have no choice.  The powers that be have made their decision, and they in turn, have no choice.  While the community police have been occupying favelas, one of the things banned has been funk music, and the infamous baile funks – to the relief of many, and to the consternation of many others.  Rather than face a cultural revolt, the authorities have been forced to compromise and yesterday’s daylight baile was an example of this.

How often these will be allowed, and how they will develop is, as yet, unclear.  The location of yesterday’s baile had to be changed three times; frist it was scheduled to be held at Cinelandia, then Candelaria, and eventually changed to Carioca.  The location changes were apparently at the behest of conservation people.  now, during Carnaval, all of these locations are crammed sardine-style with drunken frolickers, made up of the middle classes, tourists, and the favelados.  It shows the level of paranoia and ignorance.  The authorities were afraid, afraid of what these poor people would do.  Would they join forces and wreak anarchy on the city?  Would the bandidos arrive with their arms in the air, as they are accustomed to doing at Baile Funks?

Not a bit of it.  Yesterday was a beach day, sun splitting the stones.  Cariocas were at the beach.  The beach is every Carioca’s priority, especially of a Sunday, and as the summer starts to flirt with the city, most city-folk were on the sand yesterday afternoon.

There were a few thousand at the Baile in Carioca yesterday, young people dancing is all.  Dancing with their toddler son their shoulders – same as the night-time bailes so. (Interestingly, the aspect of yesterday’s event that huge media company OGlobo decided to cover, was that people were urinating in the street – was that really the biggest news of the day?  Or, does it suit a certain stereotype?)

I interviewed some people on the street for the radio documentary, which seemed to make some people very uncomfortable.  “Move away from her with that,” one plain clothed security guy told me.  “Clear away. We don’t want the PM (police) coming around here.”

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In the evening, I went to visit a favela called Parada de Lucas, in the north zone of the city.   There is no UPP here, nor will there ever be, most likely.  The community is simply not of strategic interest to those who decide where to place UPPs.  In other words, tourists don’t go there.

Teenagers clad in black swat gear man various corners of the community and walk the streets with their machine guns strapped across their chests, fingers on the trigger, ready for action.  They are children, children with nothing better to do.  Children playing a deadly war game.  Children who have taken the law into their own hands, in the absence of state services, and who are rewarded with power and rpestige in return.  They patrol the meandering laneways of the community, stopping anyone they choose in their tracks.  They are the almighty ones, and egos are super-inflated – as too are neuroses.

I am there as a foreign volunteer, as I have worked in a project CIACAC, for the past few years, helping to provide alternatives for children and youngsters who want to make other choices for their times, and for their lives.  My presence is noted by the bandidos, and as a volunteer, it is ok for me to be there. I have been forewarned that to use my camera, even to snap seemingly harmless subjects, could be dodgy.

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