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Favela youth no longer a faceless mass
It’s almost a geological phenomenon. As Rio integrates, the violent contradictions of the long-divided city come to the surface. We must deal with them– and the consequences.
Gualter Damasceno Rocha, or Gambá (Skunk), lived in the unpacified Manguinhos favela and danced the passinho, a form of street dance. He had a particular style, with movements that seemed effeminate. When writer Julio Ludemir organized the Battle of the Passinho among 300 youths last September at the Tijuca Sesc, Gambá placed third. Still, that’s when he found fame; he later taped an appearance on Regina Casé’s Esquenta! program and danced Dec. 30 with Preta Gil at the Mangueira samba school.
The Battle legitimated a cultural manifestation that sprang up in favelas, and brought it into the formal city. It gave visibility to hundreds of young people who had long lived on the margin. The kids used social media, posting videos on YouTube, to help along their own revelation.
However, according to Ludemir, not everyone is capable of dealing with the individual energy that such socio-cultural novelty can unleash.
Having seen the police report on the 21-year-old youth’s death, he says that what most probably happened is that Gambá was killed by one or more security guards working for a gas station. The station is located near the favela where Gambá had celebrated New Year’s Eve, at a dance that ended at 7 a.m.
“The police report mentions a misunderstanding with a counter attendant named Neide,” he says. “The body was found behind the gas station.”
As was the custom among the boys, Gambá went to the station’s convenience store after the dance, for breakfast. Ludemir supposes that the misunderstanding led to a corretivo , or a correctional beating, that went very wrong. The police report says the youth died from having been beaten– and not from a bullet wound, as the news media had reported.
Another version of the killing is that a drug trafficker killed Gambá for dancing with his wife. But Ludemir posits that a trafficker would have done away with the body, and that, knowing who Gambá was, wouldn’t have dared to kill a “favela celebrity”.
Security guards or cops (often the same people), he adds, destroy identity documents and bury their victims in a hurry.
Gambá was buried as an indigent unidentified person five days after his death January 1. The gas station’s video footage hasn’t yet appeared in the media.
Sunday at 2 p.m. there will be a “peace passinho” flashmob at Arpoador beach, to honor Gambá.
Meanwhile, we await the police investigation.
Click here to see Regina Casé’s Jan. 15 2012 Esquenta program, dedicated to Gambá