On a visit to Rio de Janeiro few years ago my husband Sy and I went on a walking tour of a few of the favelas - informal settlements - that cling to the steep hillsides surrounding the city (see below).
This was my first visit back to Rio since I had lived there in the early 1980s, a time when favela tourism was inconceivable. The tour was eyeopening to say the least. We disembarked the van and began our walk at a surprisingly bustling commercial center (see below).
Our guide led us through the catacomb-like maze of passageways that penetrate the residential areas.
Walking through these dark, damp, narrow spaces intensifies the experience of emerging into the bright light and openness of a vibrant playground/public square.
Our tour group continues on its way, heading back into the giant megastructure.
Along the way we notice how parts of the passageway have been personalized. Note the chair and plants placed at the entry to someone's home, and the decorative tiling on the floor and walls.
There are even small cafes, both a convenience and a local landmark, not to mention some additional "eyes on the street."
For more information on community life and the challenges facing the residents of Rio's favelas, check out the great site hosted by Rio-based nonprofit group Catalytic Communities (CatComm).