My family and I dressed all in white and welcomed in the New Year of 2016 on the Copacabana Beach together with thousands of Rio citizens. We watched a fireworks display like no other I have ever seen, so spectacular and relentless, the overwhelming visual pleasure of it recalibrated for me the word awe. There was much to admire in Rio–the range, number, and quality of their neighborhoods, museums, bookstores (they even sell books in vending machines in the subway),
and restaurants was beyond impressive; and much to regret–the pollution, the crime, the political morass–shared by too many global cities. But the best part of our short stay in Rio was getting to know just a little bit the neighborhood where we were staying. We had made a house exchange with friends of friends who had a place at the lower edge of Vidigal, a favela located at the base of Morro Dois Irmãos, or Two Brothers Hill, in the South Zone of Rio near Leblon overlooking Ipanema Beach. The favela had been through rough times in 2011 and the “Pacifying Police” still maintain a robust presence, but the much stronger presence was the spirit of art, the power of visual culture to unify, challenge, heal, protest, and celebrate community. I wish for the residents of Vidigal and for all of Rio’s citizens a happy Olympics.