Guardian of the Favela

Posted by Katy Petershack on December 18th 2008 in Uncategorized Edit

Photos | Niccolo Guasti

Ricardo Gomez Ferraz lives in one of the most dangerous cities in Brazil. Recife, located in the far eastern corner of the country, averages 90.9 murders per 100,000 people. While Rio de Janeiro often makes headlines for its bloody drug war, Recife’s even higher rates of violence go relatively unnoticed by the outside world.

The area is riddled with drug dealers, and some members of the police resell confiscated drugs and weapons, providing easy access to both in the community. According to photographer Niccolo Guasti who visited the area, everyone knows a family member or friend who has been killed as a result of crimes.

When Ferraz was 20, he and his cousin Nicolas, were swept up in the violence, shooting and robbing a person on the beach. Policemen found them and immediately shot and killed Nicolas. The police told Ferraz that he could leave with his life but warned him not make another mistake. At that moment, Ferraz decided to devote his time to improving his community.

Last year Ferraz opened a library in the “favela,” or “slum,” called “Livroteca os Guardioes” or “The Guardian’s Library.” He has saved money for the last 15 years to buy secondhand books. Guasti, who found the site while working on a documentary, said, “It is something revolutionary for such a violent place.” He calls Ferraz’s work a “simple but powerful action.” Ferraz has become a highly respected community member through his hard work.

Guasti visited the library. He described its position “in front of a canal where fishermen get mussels and clams and where all the Favela da Pina sewers flush.” He added that the building may be “scorching hot and poor but it is colorful, clean and very [well] attended.”

The library provides books, pencils and paper for free. The community enjoys Ferraz’s work, and roughly 40 children, ranging from the ages of two to 17, use the area. Children go to the library to read, study and paint. Guasti expresses the changes he sees in these children: “Inside the library [they seem] to live in a different country.” Devoted to turning his community around, Ferraz continues to collect books and supply resources for his neighbors.

Contact Ricardo Gomez Ferraz

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