Literary festival brings books and poetry to favelas of Rio de Janeiro

World Today

In Brazil, a literary festival is underway in one of Rio de Janeiro’s poorest neighborhoods. Violence is rising in the area, but that hasn’t stopped organizers from bringing books to those who need an escape.

CGTN’s Lucrecia Franco reports.

The Vidigal favela offered one of the most stunning views of Rio de Janeiro. It’s also the site of this year’s literary festival for residents who live in marginalized areas. 

Contemporary writers from around the world are invited to perform, and a variety of other activities promote reading.

One of the highlights is the poetry contest, where people from all over the world perform their work.

“When we first started this new movement of poetry, it was to take it away, you know, the idea of these old dead European white men and realize poetry was alive and in the streets,” American slam poet and actor Saul Wiliams said. “And if you look, that’s what you see.”

It’s an important initiative in a country where reading is not a popular pastime. The U.N. said 13 million people still can’t read or write, and according to government studies, 44 percent of Brazilians never read and nearly one-third have never bought a book. That’s why book donations are a big part of the event, and are especially welcomed by favela children. 

“It is the first event like this in the neighborhood with all these free books, and I think it so important because it motivates people to read,” one student said.

The average Brazilian readers fewer than five books a year, making the task of bringing literature and creative writing to Rio’s favelas a difficult task. But organizers said the festival is having an impact.

Not only does the project expose residents to literature, but it also encourages them to create works of their own.

“So far we’ve published the works of more than 200 writers from the fringe areas of Rio, and one book is being turned into a movie,” festival organizer Ecio Salles said.