[100th Cruise Report] Call to Rio de Janeiro (Brazil)



The Ocean Dream arrived in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and to the South American continent at last! Rio is well known as the host of the 2016 Summer Olympic Games. It is also a popular tourist destination that can be counted as one of the world’s three largest harbors. Although there are beautiful World Heritage registered scenic sights near the harbor, we will not be focusing on sightseeing spots today, but will instead learn about the problems that Rio de Janeiro and Brazilian society are facing. Rio has large scale slum areas called “Favela”, and it is not uncommon for clashes between drug trafficking groups and the police to become news. Since the 1990’s, a movement initiated by residents of the favela “to eliminate violence and improve the community with our own hands” has become popular. One particularly active NGO is “Afro Reggae” which was started by young people. Their aim is to “change the never ending cycle of poverty and crime within the favela through the power of music and art”. Today, we will visit the the base of Afro Reggae’s activities, the Cultural Center which is located in the favela.


In order to keep up their image as the Olympic host country, the government allocated roughly 600 million yen to build a barrier so that the favela can not be seen. We will be going over the barrier and entering the favela. Amongst Brazilian citizens, the argument that “more money should be spent on education and welfare rather than creating a ‘blindfold’ wall” has become widespread, it is also called “the wall of shame”. Residents waiting to welcome us were on the other side of this wall. Upon arrival at Afro Reggae’s cultural center, we experienced a percussion lesson which children at the center are learning day by day.


After the dance lesson, we took a walk around the favela with the members of Afro Reggae and the children. Favelas tend to have a dangerous and violent image as seen in the movie “City of God”. But the people there were living everyday lives; washing clothes, eating dinner with their family, and children playing on the roadside. However, when looking at the utility pole and the walls there were a numerous bullet marks, and the river flowing on the immediate side of the residential area was cloudy. The river gave off an intense smell that makes one want to block their nose, yet there were children playing there. At first we were smiling while walking, but after seeing this harsh reality there are no words to describe it.


At the end of the exchange, participants performed Yosakoi (a traditional Japanese dance) to show their gratitude for today. The children seemed to enjoy the shouts of “ha!” and were captivated by the well coordinated movement of the dancers. These young people stood up to try and make a change in the future of these children who may otherwise become involved in violent activities. They have been doing this now for over 20 years. There are musicians and dancers from this program who have gone on to perform around the world, this is the dream of these children. They are the hope for the future of the favela as they smile and learn to express themselves through dance day by day. It was a valuable experience to realize the importance of getting up and going forward no matter how severe the reality is. These children will surely change society. The Ocean Dream will head next to Montevideo in Uruguay. The trip through South America continues on!