Reporters on the Job

City of God: Staff writer Sara Miller Llana admits that before she ventured into the favelas – slums – of Rio de Janeiro, most of what she knew about them came from watching "City of God." The 2002 award-winning movie portrayed a dark world of drugs, guns, and death.

Entering the areas at night as a stranger isn't advised, but from her reporting on the series "Latin America's New Gospel," she knew that the criminals tended to leave the Pentecostals alone. "My first night there I met a young man from the church and felt completely safe as we wound our way up the hillside to his church," says Sara.

"The next day, with another church member, I was actually so unafraid that I was paying more attention to our conversation than who was around me. But when we started talking about this man's former life as a drug dealer, I noticed that he lowered his voice," says Sara. It made her wonder if he felt unsafe.

"When I asked him, he said. 'Look around, everybody knows you are here.' Sure enough. At every other door was a kid, a young teenager with a gun, looking at me," says Sara.

He reassured Sara that she was safe, that it only really gets tense in the favelas when police enter or one gang challenges another for control of drug sales in a neighborhood.

"He told me that if I kept coming, after a couple days, I could probably come and go without an escort because everyone would know what I was doing and why I was there," she says. "But I decided not to test his theory."

– David Clark Scott

World editor

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