I entered the three-storey stone building. In my memory, the images are slightly blurred. But I can still remember every detail. The smell – a mixture of rotting brick, stuffy party air and sweaty crowds.
The entrance over the threshold into this house, this favela house, was like a transition into another world. It was as if I had entered the underworld, in the hidden catacombs of Rio de Janeiro. As small as the house as winding it was – and full of surprises. The narrow staircases left barely room for one person. And however two people pushed past each other at the same time – or even more. Empty cups rolled down the stairs. Drinks polluted people’s clothes. But all those things didn’t matter. Just that moment was important. The fascination of this place and of this unforgettable night.
The stairway to the first floor was onerous. We went by cold stone walls and upwards slick stone treads. And suddenly our eyes were amazed by an odd large room. Dozens, almost a hundred people were there, standing on just a few square meters. It seemed as if the favela would become the new trendy place. And we were in the thick of things. Firstly, we went – as at any good party – to the bar. A bit offside the room, unimpressive in a small niche we bought beer. The crowd was so large that we had to wait for a several minutes After that we discovered the favela house a bit deeper. Because none of us, neither the Maneiro nor the Carioca nor I, had ever been to the favela, far less we had seen such a house from the inside before.
Pillars towered to the ceiling in the big room. They divided it into several sections and gave it a labyrinthine character. Small walls – without any door – indicated a new room, a new niche, a new part of the building. I had never seen anything like this. It was as if I were trapped in a Hundertwasser House that had paired with a dirty little hut. And this in the heart of Rio de Janeiro. Especially the small window niches with the old wooden benches are stuck in my mind. Half of the evening we spent there, looked out of the dirty panorama windows into the night and into the back courtyard. We witnessed daily life, as a young woman took the washing off the line late in the evening and as much too young kids sneaked home at night. Our favela house topped all the other houses on this back courtyard. And somehow they were all connected to each other, were standing wall to wall and created a symbiosis. The shabbiness of these houses, that uncomfortableness was covered by a fascination. Because these houses developed a own soul at that night.
Not only the window niches, but also – let’s call it – the roof terrace was a highlight. We went up an even narrower stairway, past dozens of people. Clutching the beer we paved our way upwards. We felt the fresh air and it gave us a sense of freedom.
Exactly this made our night: this riddance of conventions, standards and the down there, the cauldron of the big city. The favela won our hearts.
As if in trance, we danced to the sounds of samba until the wee hours. Only when the sky turned red and the last syllable was hushed, we started back. Down through the narrow streets, past the many hazel pairs of eyes which looked after us. We were totally exhausted – but infinitely happy that we could experience that unforgettable night.