Letter to the Editor

Dear Rio Times,

We were in Rio last month at this time and we had a fair amount of rainy days.

I picked up the guide book and went scouting. I found the option of visiting a favela. A debate unfolded within our group concerning the voyeuristic aspects of touring poverty.

Ultimately we passed on the idea. Our last night in Rio, we stayed at the Ipanema Plaza Hotel. They offered favela tours in their lobby as an excursion for a day in Rio. It reinforced my decision to have passed on a tour. There is a certain seductiveness to drugs, traffickers and guns which is a hook for the favela tours. Is it a coincidence the restaurant in the Ipanema Plaza is named Opium?

Upon our return, doing an errand and listening to Public Radio, my ears picked up
hearing an interview with the author of a recently published book entitled “Culture Is Our Weapon”. One of our most enjoyable evenings was listing to Afro-reggae samba in a club in Lapa. Now I was listening to the author talk about a music movement in the favelas. Another coincidence.

I highly recommend the book to your readers planning a visit to Rio.

Stanley and Kimmerly
Witchita, Kansas

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2 COMMENTS

  1. Although I understand the objections that people might have towards favela tours, I think that if favela tours are done in a way that is based around community interaction it can be a positive experience for both locals and foreigners. I took a tour recently in Rocinha that was a walking tour with a resident who was very proud of his community and wanted to share it with outsiders. I think that if you want to get an intimate, humanized experience from a favela tour, that is the way to go. Jeep tours, on the other hand, tend to encourage participants to gawk at community residents as though they are animals in a jungle safari. I think it is important to keep in mind that people sign up for favela tours for different reasons. If you want to challenge your expectations about a favela and really try to get a sense of how people interact with each other within the community, opt for a walking tour with a knowledgable guide, perferably a community resident, and not someone who is just capitalizing on tourist demand. If you want to see people carrying guns, but not really try to understand anything about who they are or why they are carrying them, opt for a jeep tour- or, save your money, rent a violent movie.

  2. I took a visit as well to Rocinha with a guy who is from there as well and I am glad I did.
    I have a much better of understanding of what life is really like there instead of reinforced images of the what the tv shows. And while I was there I did not see any guns/drugs/violence (nor did I want to see any).

    I also am thankful of the things I have and where I live. I at some point want to return and volunteer in Rocinha.

    My experience was more than a `tour`. If I lived in the favela, I am not sure I would like the jeeps either.

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