Bus 0805 – destination Bairro da Paz

by Kirsten van der Voort (Spain)

Making a local connection Brazil


The photo in front of me shows three boys in their twenties leaning against the wall of a dilapidated, brick house on a dusty road. The hairstyle of the oldest of the three - a big afro, neatly combed out and perfectly shaped around a handsome face – symbolizes black identity and black power. My mind gently drifts off to a small, local radio station, located in a neglected, green and lively neighborhood in the outskirts of Salvador da Bahia in Brazil. This grassroots radio station in the outskirts of Salvador had been set up to create a growing political awareness among the community. I had chosen this remote neighborhood as social setting for my adventures. “I take a seat in front of the bus. The wobbly, long drive through dense humidity and overwhelming heat creates a perfect moment for contemplation. The sequences of negative remarks and worried facial expressions as a reaction to my visit to Bairro da Paz are still echoing through my mind. A young, European, fair-skinned girl taking a bus on her own to the biggest favela in town is difficult to understand for people that grow up in a paranoid society divided by class differences. The scenery that appears though the window slowly transforms from a beautiful, historical center with colonial architecture and stone-paved hilly streets into a spectacular coastline with long stretches of white beaches bordered by blue oceans and palm trees. When the bus turns left, the seemingly infinite coastline makes place for dusty and densely populated streets full of slums. The bus is driving uphill on the last paved road in Bairro da Paz, the driver parks the bus and walks out. I take a deep breath and with mixed feelings of heroism, naivety and insecurity I do the same. I pass an old statue of a stained white dove, a small symbol of peace and hear a young male´s voice announcing the social-cultural agenda for next week. The loud voice is being transmitted through big, old speakers attached to the top of electricity poles, spread out on all corners of the streets. I follow the wires that connect the analogue speakers to the central source in the radio station and arrive at a small, stone house with a door made of metal bars and a sign saying “Radio Avanzar”. Rafael, the coordinator, opens the door with a big smile and sparkling eyes. I have a quick glimpse through the small studio where four girls and boys, surrounded by wires and cables, are presenting their radio programme and sigh. I made it.