Today was another great day in Rio! To start the day, we met with Julia Michaels. Julia is a writer who has been living in Rio for 31 years. She grew up in Newton, MA and moved here once she married her Brazilian husband. Julia’s blog, Rio Real (http://riorealblog.com/) studies the transformation Rio has undergone which addresses many of the issues we have been studying. Julia discussed Rio’s transformation which she believes happened for 5 main reasons: the rise in middle class, unusual political alliances, petroleum money, olympics and world cup, public safety policy. She gives much credit to President Lula who came into office in 2002. Lula brought the issue of poverty to center stage which had never been done before. His time in office also helped Rio reach closer to full employment while increasing economic growth. Between the years 2003-2011 40 million people came out of poverty.
After she informed us of Rio’s transformation, we had a chance to ask questions. When asked about the education system, Julia felt that there is access to schools but the education quality is poor. Children have a 4 hour school day and the principals are elected by the parents. Universities do exist within Rio however the best universities are public and the more wealthy students use tutors, giving them a greater advantage. Next, we asked about the favelas and how well she feels they are integrated into the city. Julia felt that the integration was moving in the right direction. She discussed food contests throughout Rio and mentioned how Favelas started joining the restaurant contests 2 years ago. When the restuarants within the favelas win, they attract people to their homes. She also discussed the Passinho dance which boys within the favelas came up with. They have posted their videos to Youtube and attracted many people to their communities. Next, we talked to Julia about the upcoming Olympics and World Cup. She feels that these events will affect the city negatively and positively. On the good side, these mega events have brought in many foreigners with great ideas to help the city. They have also caused many Brazilians who have moved out of the city to come home. However, these events have also started some political conflict. For example, the government wanted to take down an Indian museum and turn it into an olymoic. However, these Indians are opposed to the idea because they feel the building has history and is theirs while the Government suggests that this is the first time they have ever really cared about the building. Finally, we asked Julia if she believed Rio would be ready for the Olympics. She informed us that to her it isn’t about if Rio will be ready or not, she cares about the urban population being taken care of. However, she did mention that some parts will be done and some may not.
After our meeting we left for Mount Sugarloaf, one of the most famous tourist attractions in Rio. We took cable cars to the top of mountains overviewing Rio. At the top we were able to view the entire city and get some great pictures! We also had a great lunch at the top of the mountains. After the cable car adventure, we took a walk around one of Rio’s parks. Unfortunately, we didn’t see any monkeys but the walk was still great! We closed our third night in Rio with a tasty meal, and then headed off to bed for a bright and early revile to Curitiba!