I am always shocked by how quickly things return to normal in the favela. Tuesday morning, the sun was shining and people went back to their day-to-day routines; besides an increased police presence, the was no sign of the explosion of violence that had occurred the day before. There was no visible evidence of the running gun battles between police and the local traffickers which had left three young men dead in the streets.
So, I was surprised to find on Thursday that everything was closed again: bakeries, general stores, bars, and restaurants were all locked down. Walking through the community I feared the worst, maybe the ‘tiros’ was about to start again. Arriving at the academy for training, I discovered the reason, it was the funeral of the dead traffickers. Everything was closed as a mark of respect.
I have written about this before, the strange relationship between the traffickers and the residents of Cantagalo. These young men had brought terror into the heart of the community, they had put the lives of everyone in danger, caused all of those owning and operating small businesses to lose an essential day’s wages; led to residents being effectively held hostage in their homes or trapped outside unable to get to their families.
I personally struggled understanding why their deaths should be commemorated. Yet, they were looked upon by the community as their own. They were once the innocent children of Cantagalo, and regardless of their choices in adulthood, they had left behind grief-stricken parents, wives, girlfriends, young children and friends, all who wanted to celebrate their lives and the rest of the community showed their solidarity by joining them.