By Jay Forte, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – While tours of favela communities in Rio de Janeiro are nothing new, over the years there has become increased sensitivity to how visitors interact with these neighborhoods. The goal for many is to move away from “poverty peeping” from safari jeeps to immersive and interpersonal walking tours offering opportunities to see the culture and unique beauty these areas provide, and bring resources into the community.
One of these operators is Rio Cultural Secrets whose main goal is to encourage sustainable entrepreneurship by stimulating tourism. Recently they have begun promoting tours in Vidigal, which is one of Rio’s most accessible and safest favela communities.
Founder of Rio Cultural Secrets, Fabio Mendonça explains some of the highlights of their tour: “The Sitiê Project where they have transformed a garbage area into a beautiful garden, also the Brechó do Vidigal, where there is an art gallery with bar, also we visit the Hostel da Laje and Barlacubaco Restaurant where the costumers can stop to eat.”
Rio Cultural Secrets was founded in 2012 and has grown becoming one of the main agencies of private tours in Rio. They are listed on Tripadvisor and continue offering excellent private tours at the best prices in Rio de Janeiro. The company states: “[We] make tours like when we receive a friend in our city.”
Yet their intention goes beyond that. They would like to above all to awaken visitor’s curiosity for experiencing the culture of the favelas, getting know their food, cultural production, local artisans, dance, graffiti, historical buildings as well as other countless possibilities.
Vidigal is located in a privileged part of town, on Avenida Niemeyer, which connects the Zona Sul (South Zone) to the neighborhood of São Conrado. Its first owner was Miguel Nunes Vidigal, Battalion Major and Knight of the Imperial Order of the Cross, a man of great prestige in the Court.
During the First Brazilian Empire (1822–1831) he received a large piece of land at the foot of the Dois Irmãos hills from benedictine monks, which where the favela community stands today. The Major’s family name was at first given to the beach, and then to the community that would establish itself in the centuries to follow.
The first squatter homes were built at the foot of the hills right on the Vidigal beach, where now the Sheraton Resort stands, one of the most luxurious hotels in Rio. When construction for the creation of Avenida Niemeyer started in 1941, homes were transferred up the side of the mountain.
In the decades of 1950 and 1960, the urbanization of the Leblon and Ipanema neighborhoods lead to a population explosion in Vidigal. The Pacifying Police Unit was created on January 18, 2012, and the community is now recorded at 12,372 residents.
* This is a Sponsored article by Rio Cultural Secrets.