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Favela Tragedy, One More Mother With A Broken Heart

Violent death is a regular ocurrence in Rio's infamous slums. But that doesn't make it any less excruciating for the families of the departed.

Favela landscape
Favela landscape
Alfredo Mergulhao

RIO DE JANEIRO — Sheila Cristina da Silva came back from the market on Friday, June 10, to find her 20-year-old son lying on the pavement under a sheet.

Carlos Eduardo had been shot in the head as he was about to enter the family's home in the Rio favela of Querosene. Desperate at the sight, the mother, 46, plunged her hands into the pool of blood that formed next to her son's dead body and wiped them on her own face.

The boy was buried the following Tuesday, after a series of unexpected and nasty developments. This is his mother's story:

I was coming out of the favela when I heard two shots. I kept walking towards the market. I wanted to buy three potatoes, one carrot and bread to make a broth for my youngest, who was sick.

On the way back, as I was coming up the steps, people from the neighborhood started telling me that my son had been shot by the military police. Moments later, I was told it was Carlos Eduardo. I ran up the steps, pushing past the people, desperate to see if Dudu was still alive. But when I got to the scene, I saw his body lying there on the ground, on the doorstep, covered with a sheet.

I removed it. I wanted to see his face. Except I couldn't bear to look. He was dead, his body very damaged. I screamed so much, I cursed even. I was desperate. Nobody had gone up the stairs to save my son. He wasn't even taken to the hospital.

It hurt so much seeing my son's blood pouring out of him. That blood was my mine.

I was so affected, so indignant that I spread my son's blood over my face. There, at that very moment, I wasn't afraid of anything anymore, not of the police, not of death, because my life had already been destroyed.

I was born and I grew up here, in Querosene. Everybody knows my story. Everybody knows what I've been through to bring up my children. I've given birth to 14 children: Luiz José, 26, Aluísio, 25, Bruno, 24, Gabriela, 23, Luiz Henrique, 21, Carlos Eduardo, 20, Marcela, 17, André, 12, Ezequiel, 4, and Gabriel, 3.

I've forgotten how old two of them are. Natasha and Marquinhos were raised by another family. I couldn't take care of them at the time and had to give them up for adoption. I lost two others. Vitória died a month after she was born. Max José died of pneumonia at age 12. And now, they killed Dudu.

Not a criminal

I've always done everything I could so my children would have something to eat. I've worked as a cleaning lady. I've even begged for money outside the São Sebastião church in Tijuca. I now earn a living as a waste collector in Rio. I live with my six youngest children in a small, one-bedroom house.

Dudu used to sleep with his brothers in the living room. My son was not a criminal. I'd say if he was. They've killed an innocent young man.

Since Friday night, I've been looking for my son's body so we can bury him. On Saturday morning, I went to the forensic department in downtown Rio to take care of everything and bring his body back. But his body wasn't there, and nobody was able to tell me where it'd been taken.

On Saturday evening, a civil servant called me to say the body was at the forensics facility in Nova Iguaçu (a municipality in Rio de Janeiro state). That person said we could go pick up my son's body on Monday, not before. Three days after his death. And all this time I can't sleep.

So I went there when they told me to go, only to be told that the body had been sent back to Rio. What contempt. They only do that because we're black and we don't have perfect teeth.

I finally went back to Rio and was then able to officially identify my son's body. Now I have to find out how much the funeral will cost and ask my neighbors in the favela for help so we can bury Carlos Eduardo.

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