Rio de Janeiro: City of God

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June 9th 2011
Published: June 24th 2011
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View of Rio!View of Rio!View of Rio!

...from the base of the 'Cristo Redentor'
Before leaving for Brazil, I received ample warnings from friends and family about the dangers of Rio de Janeiro. In the days before my departure, one of my coworkers told me never to take a cab unless I already knew the cab driver, and another informed me not to walk down any streets that weren't well-lit and/or in a 'touristy' part of town.

Needless to say, I didn't listen to any of these warnings.

Upon arriving in Rio, I immediately met up with Sahil, my old roommate from New York with whom I planned to travel around Brazil and film a short documentary about a fazenda in the Pantanal region of the country. I wasn't sure where we'd be staying, how we were getting around the country, or how we'd be paying for things, but I had faith that everything would work itself out.

As soon as I met up with Sahil at the airport, I learned that we'd be staying with the parents of a friend of his in the Catete neighborhood of Rio, which borders one of the city's major favelas ('favelas' are Rio's poor neighborhoods, which have an international reputation for gangs and drug warfare). While I'm sure that some of the favelas' dangerous reputation is legitimate, the favela in Catete seemed much less menacing than I expected. In many ways, it looked just like any other poor neighborhood in any other second- or third-world country.

For our first day in Rio, Sahil and I decided to visit Rio's most iconic monument: the Christ the Redeemer statue that overlooks the city. The statue stands 130-feet tall and was constructed between 1922 and 1931, mostly with funding from Brazil's Catholic community (along with the Panama Canal, it is also considered one of the Modern Wonders of the World). In order to get to the statue, you have the option of either hiking up the Corcovado mountain or taking a cable-car (we opted for the latter). Once you arrive at the statue's base, you are greeted by breath-taking views of Rio, which is a much larger city than I expected, with over 14 million residents. After walking up a winding path, you finally reach the statue, with its outstretched arms appearing to bless and protect the city's residents down below. Most of the people at the statue were tourists like myself, but there was also a

...being a typical tourist
large contingency of locals who were likely there more for religious purposes than for the fantastic views of the city.

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in prayer?

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