Who was it this time?

It could have been Lucille- the single mother of Nina. Lucille who wakes up before the sun and returns home long after the moon has made its welcome. Lucille who creeps into the room of her thirteen-year old daughter, says a prayer over her sleeping body and leaves a soft kiss atop her head.

Or perhaps John- the oldest of six brothers. John who, when not playing peacekeeper, can be found painting in the community center. Rumor has it, he’s going to art school on a full scholarship. He’ll be the first in his family.

Peter even. The grandfather with kind eyes. Peter who spends his afternoons out on the porch with his guitar, singing melodies of hope and love and passion. Peter who greets every passerby as if they were a long-time friend.

…Who was it this time?


2018 was an especially difficult year for the people living amongst Rio de Janeiro’s City of God favela. It was a time filled with violence where  “shootings and overt homicides perpetrated by heavily armed drug gangs, was at its worst”. A time where the Lucilles, the Johns, the Peters all found themselves perspective victims to the crime within their community.

On average, one person is killed every three days. So, twice a week, neighbors are confronted with a new, dead body asking the question, “who was it this time?

This kind of reality does something to the spirit. With each stolen life, it threatens to also take the joy of those left behind.

But certain residents of the favela are putting up a fight. They refuse to seek refuge behind the locked doors of their home. Rather, they brave the streets and walk to the local daycare center. Once there, they “help at the centre, sharing fun, learning and affection with local children.” The children call them “grannies.”

In a touching clip, the elders sat in a row of chairs with the young children on the other side of the room, ready to run. Countdown starts. Countdown ends. And within seconds, each granny had an armful of giggly five-year olds. On the surface, this playfulness seems light and trivial. But the tears flowing from the faces of these women beg otherwise. The tears say, “I loved. Then I lost. And the loss was so great. I thought it took my love too. But here I am. Loving.”

Who was it this time?” They’ll ask, “Who was it this time who made you smile again?”

Aziza Gore
JU Intern

March 8, 2019