This seventeen-year-old teenager prefers to be known as ‘X’, after Malcolm X, the black activist. X lives in Complexo da Maré, a ‘favela’ near the airport in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where children from a very young age are coerced into declaring allegiance to one of the gangs in the area. Failure to do so can lead to violent recriminations, or even death. X works as a mid-ranking lieutenant in the Comando Vermelho (‘Red Command’), a local drug-dealing gang. One of his duties is to look after ‘soldiers’ (young gang members) who are positioned around the favela, monitoring police movements. Soldiers set off fireworks to alert the gang if police enter the area. X carries a handgun for protection but also has the use of a powerful rifle, an AK-47, which he loves. His ambition is to be ‘boss of the favela’. X has no fixed address. He moves around a lot, often sharing a room with other gang members.
Book published by Chris Boot November 2010, price $30 / £20.