Celebration in the Face of Adversity in Pica-Pau

Residents, local businesses and the church of the Pica-Pau favela in Cordovil came together in a fun-filled celebration of the Resident´s Association´s 45th anniversary last Saturday May 26th. Children´s activities, live music, a prize raffle and a fair providing necessary services marked this special occasion in one of Rio´s more neglected communities.

Located in the peripheral North Zone neighborhood Cordovil, the Pica-Pau community was founded in 1942 by workers from the Northeast of Brazil hired in the construction of buildings in the city´s downtown area. The resident´s association started in 1967, whose anniversary was celebrated at Saturday´s event, along with the month of May´s Mother´s Day and Worker´s Day, is an essential locus of support for a community living with difficult conditions.

Saturday May 26th´s festivities commenced with a fair offering residents access to a wide range of services from blood pressure consultations to IT courses and hair cuts. Resident´s Association president and one of the event´s main organizers, Irenaldo Honório da Silva explains: “This brings improvements and benefits to people in need. There are people with difficulties and this makes some things easier.” Over 200 residents received dental treatment and 50 were helped with identity document applications throughout the morning.

In the afternoon, giant trampolines, bouncy castles and inflatable play centers created a buzz as children of all ages bounced, laughed and squealed. “It´s so good to see the kids playing like this,” says Ana Nunes, 59, looking on smiling as her grandchildren bounced and bumped into each other on the trampoline. “There´s a lack of things for children to do here.”

With gospel performances by members of the Ministério Semear de Brás da Pina, that also helped organize the event, and free hot dogs and soft drinks for all, the festivities went on well into the evening. A range of items donated by local businesses such as an iron, blender and sandwich toaster were given away in a prize draw while the association´s gigantic birthday cake was donated by the local supermarket.

Irenaldo, who has been Pica-Pau´s Residents Association President since 1997, says these bi-annual events provide a very important service in a community neglected by the state.

“With this event we´re bringing some dignity and love to people,” he says. “We´re very much abandoned here. We´ve not had adequate sewage system or water supply for a long time. There´s no play area for the children. There´s a lack of medical services. We´re completely abandoned by the public authorities.”

He and the 6,000 residents of Pica-Pau are fighting for improved basic services, social projects and children´s facilities. Despite the difficulties the favela faces, residents are happy and proud of their community. Milton Nunes, a university educated gym teacher from Pica-Pau who gives classes in the community, explains: “Brazilians are pretty neighborhood-oriented and try to improve the place and the image of the place where they live… Anything like this [event] that helps the community is always welcome. It´s all about quality of life, self esteem, the image of society and accomplishing citizenship.”

Pica-Pau is one of eight communities to be featured in Catalytic Communities’ film, “Favelas as a Sustainable Model,” to be launched during the Rio+20’s People’s Summit in June.