This picture was taken my second day in Rio de Janeiro and my first time in a favela.

This favela is the largest in Rio and is set on a steep hill overlooking the city and its breathtaking coast. Compared to simple shanty towns, Rocinha has a better developed infrastructure and hundreds of businesses, making it a place residents don’t really have to venture outside of.

Based on the documentaries I had watched on the slums of Rio, I was surprised to see how well manicured certain parts of the neighborhood were (keyword “certain”)

Despite the location and the vibrant colors and faces you see in this photo, the reality of the neighborhood is very grim in some other places. This was taken in an area where the government had rebuilt houses and created a road for easier access through the favela. Head a block in any other direction and you will come across unimaginable living conditions.

This girl in the background is a perfect example of the people I met on my trip to Brazil…always smiling. Striking pose after pose, she was full of life and ready to have her picture taken. Despite the reality of her surroundings, she had a spirit that could warm anyones heart.