When we visited Rio we’d heard a bit about tours that went into the Favelas (or shanty towns) of Rio de Janeiro, my first impressions where that Favela tours sounded inappropriate and dangerous but after speaking to a few people who had been on the tours soon realised this was not the case.
The tour itself is much more about seeing the lifestyle of the community of a Favella. We visited Rocinha, the largest Favela in Rio de Janeiro and Latin America with Favela Tourism Workshop. Started by Rejane Rei, who saw tours as a way to stop begging and help the children of the Shanty towns help them selves, the primary purpose of the sustainable tours was to dispel the myth that Rocinha is simply a place of drug dealers and extreme poverty.
Visiting the Favela really was an eye opener, I was maybe being naive but wasn’t expecting such a developed settlement and was expecting to be pretty nervous. The tour felt very safe and there was nothing to worry about, drug dealers do operate in the Favela but don’t like to invite police in by causing trouble with a tour group.
One of the most interesting things about Rio’s population is how the wealthy neighbourhoods sit next door to the poor Favela’s. As we walked up one road our tour guide brought our attention to two expensive looking houses neighboring Rochina. One had high barbed wire fencing and CCTV cameras whilst another had no security at all. The family whose house had no security avoided problems by integrating themselves into the community, helping fund the school near by.
The walking tour wound its way through the narrow haphazard alleys all the time being met with warm welcomes from the locals, we ended the tour with a visit to a school where crafts could be bought from the local children.
Favela tourism is without doubt a good thing, helping the poor community help themselves and dispel some of the myths about the dangers associatted with Shanty Towns in Brazil.
For more information visit www.favelatourismworkshop.com
Rocinha Photo Gallery