June 28, 2015
June 28, 2015
Nestled in mountains above Rio are favelas — slums that exist outside of Brazilian law, populated by residents who can barely scrape by. In an atmosphere of fun and luxury — it is the marvelous city, afterall — favelas are a reminder of a political and social system ridden with corruption and indifference.
Tour guides are quick to point out that favelas have an undeserved bad reputation. People living in favelas are often honest, hard-working cariocas — housecleaners, waiters and beach vendors. They say only 0.5% of the population is involved in the drug trade, and roughly 20% of Rio’s population lives in one of the city’s over 700 favelas.
When violence does occur, it’s usually aimed at police — who enter the favelas in an attempt to arrest the drug lords — or between gangs. Drug gangs are the de facto authorities in favelas, compared to the state police who patrol the rest of Rio. If you steal from someone, you may get your hand broken — so there’s not a lot of stealing by regular folks.
Favela tours, along with disaster tours, are known as dark tours in the industry. It’s true that Favela tours walk the line between exploitation and raising awareness of a socially marginalized group. Those who believe tourism benefits favelas usually cite the following reasons:
At RealRio, we offer a tour of Rocinha, the largest favela in Rio. We started offering the tour after long discussions with a guide who is born and raised in Rocinha, and who is passionate about educating locals and foreigners.
Our Rocinha tour is carefully planned, with precautions to keep our guests safe, while benefiting the community by visiting a popular local market and capoeira school.
We strongly believe this tour is positive for the Rocinha community and our guests. Our staff regularly speaks with Rocinha residents and guides to keep our favela tour safe and community-oriented.
Over the last ten years, people we’ve spoke to feel that favelas are slowly becoming more integrated into Rio. Locals are beginning to stop ignoring their favela neighbors as outsiders are paying more attention.
Most notably, there was the Haas&Hahn Kickstarter project that raised $116,655 in 2013. Haas&Hahn’s favela painting project that resulted in worldwide press. For many non-Brazilians, this was the first time they had seen or heard of a favela.
In reality, favelas are not as intimidating as they seem at first glance. The rest of Rio is catching on, and we’re optimistic about what’s to come.