RIO DE JANEIRO – What was once a city dump is now a haven of peace for the Vidigal shantytown, created by two residents of that community on the south side of Rio de Janeiro on a bluff at the end of Ipanema beach.
To reach Sitie Ecological Park, those who don’t live in Vidigal can take a motorcycle taxi or hike 2 kilometers (1¼ miles) up the hill.
The unemployed Paulo Almeida, 57, is waiting to greet any visitors and works every day in “his” park, which 15 years ago was a garbage dump.
Paulo told EFE how in 2002 “an attempt was made to clean up parts of the slum,” including the dump.
Of all the places that were part of the cleanup project, the park “was the only one that got anywhere.”
“Between Mauro – another neighbor – and me, we developed this park: we filled car tires to use them as stairs, we cleaned everything, we did a lot of planting,” Almeida said.
Paulo congratulated himself because people who live in shantytowns don’t often enjoy “peace and tranquility, they only find it here,” he said, adding that he and Mauro are “doing something great for the community.”
Flowers of all colors, palm trees, shrubs planted in urinals or tires made into a stairway to a small amphitheater are only a few of the details that adorn this peaceful park, where people have picnics or go on romantic walks.
Seen from different points around the quiet park is the beach at Ipanema, that Rio de Janeiro icon, located just a few minutes on foot from Vidigal, which is yet another contrast and another attraction.
All this has made Sitie Ecological Park a very important place within the Vidigal shantytown, “the best tourist attraction in Rio de Janeiro,” Paulo said.