“We had nothing, but at the same time we had everything,” Walter says inside the small apartment near Ingersoll Avenue he shares with his wife, Molly, and new dog, Branca, a gentle pit bull who likes to sleep. He talks over the loud buzz of an air conditioner attached to the wall over the couch, and hums “No Diggity” by Blackstreet as he searches his laptop for photos of home. He shows them off with great pride.
“Everything we are today—the personality, the craziness—is from here,” he says. “Our childhood was everything you could ever imagine. Pure happiness. Freedom.”
The brothers and their friends spent their days running barefoot in the streets, playing soccer for hours, riding bikes down to the water, eating out of the garbage when they got hungry. Kids were everywhere. For a while, the family made trips to a local well for water before their father was able to install a primitive plumbing and water storage system in their home, a small brick structure without glass or screens on the windows.
Wagner says living in the favela is a “beautiful reality” in which people don’t think about money. No one considers themselves poor.