As many Latin American cities, Salvador da Bahia, Brazil, is a place of aggressive social contrasts. The exclusive neighborhood of Vitoria is home of modern residential buildings and hotels with majestic views of the bay; it has the most expensive real estate in the city with many luxury stores and yacht clubs. Right in the middle of it all, there is a small low income community: Vila Brandão. Without any legal status since its foundation in the 1940s, the residents of Vila Brandão carry on with a very different way of life than that of its neighbors. Many times, they have faced threats of eviction; yet, they have constantly resisted and have a vibrant community. In spite of all the economic and social setbacks, they actively put in motion many initiatives to improve the quality of life of the underprivileged sectors of Salvador’s society. Vila Brandão stands as a symbol of resistance and it’s an example of how to empower individuals and communities.
I had the opportunity of staying at Vila Brandão for two weeks during the summer of 2014. I was amazed by the beautiful view of the bay, but even more by the welcoming attitude of the people. I had the chance to play “futebol” with the small kids, and to share some of their struggles and accomplishments. People was willing to open their doors and to share what they have, and that’s what makes Vila Brandão, with its humble houses, strong enough to resist the weight of the opulent skyscrapers.