By Lisa Flueckiger, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Guaratiba is in the far west of Rio’s metropolitan borders, sitting between Santa Cruz, Campo Grande and Recreio. This humble middle-class area in Rio’s Zona Oeste (West Zone) has recently taken the spotlight as location of the World Youth Day (WYD) Campus Fidei (Field of Faith), where Pope Francis will hold the vigil on Saturday, July 27th and Sunday Mass on July 28th.
The World Youth Day is expected to draw a potential 2.5 million to Rio, and the Field of Faith is a focal point to the massive event.
Guaratiba was ideally situated to host the site, offering a lot of open space and being conveniently located between some of Rio’s larger neighborhoods such as Santa Cruz and Campo Grande, where many pilgrims are being hosted, while still accessible to Zona Sul (South Zone) via Barra da Tijuca and Recreio.
“Dom Orani [Metropolitan Archbishop of São Sebastião do Rio de Janeiro] really wanted Zona Oeste to also harbor WYD besides Zona Sul. (…) For those who live far from Copacabana, Guaratiba is very close,” Lucas Guerra from the organization’s press office told The Rio Times.
“Another factor that determined the choice of the place is the size of the area, as it needed to accommodate at least two million people and have a secure infrastructure… Guaratiba simply was the best option,” Guerra explained.
Guaratiba is often considered an extension of the Recreio dos Bandeirantes neighborhood and is located after the beaches of Prainha and Grumari. Although the bairro (neighborhood) is quite large, it has one of the lowest population densities of Rio, therefore still offering a lot of future building space.
Already, real estate in the area has seen a surge with the opening of the Grota Funda tunnel in June 2012, directly connecting Guaratiba to Recreio. Thereby the community was also linked to the BRT Transoeste, which is part of the transportation plan for the 2016 Olympics.
The Field of Faith in Guaratiba is over 1.3 million square meters wide, three times the size of the Vatican, and was divided into 22 lots. Each lot corresponds in size to seven Maracanã Stadium pitches, and holds services stations and bathrooms to cater to the WYD pilgrims.
The participants are expected to make the 13 km (8 miles) walk to the site from the last BRT bus stop. Mr. Guerra explained, “The event also means a journey, a voyage. We believe that for the pilgrims to travel to Campus Fidei will be an adventure of faith and joy.”
“We recall that in other WYDs the journey was even longer, and it did not stop the success of the event at all. To the contrary, it was during the journey, where many have found friends and even their spouses,” Mr. Guerra continued.
The build-up of infrastructure for the event, has also changed the routine of Guaratiba’s residents. Many have been involved in the construction, finding work in an area where there is not an abundance, or have profited from the improvements, such as road pavements and bridge repairs around the site.
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