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April 20, 2009



"the tangled illegal electrical lines" -
The government should be working to put an end to all favelas.
Rio would be a better city. :)
BTW, I enjoy reading your blog.

Marcio E. Goncalves

Sorry, but a "favela tour" is something very offensive and dumb. You're basically treating people that live in the favelas as some kind of wild animal, pretending that you're in a urban safari.

For someone so politically correct as you, that thinks that there's recism in a brazilian doing a slanted eye joke, it surprises me that you don't see how offensive this is.

I'm sure if I decided to do a "Tenderloin Tour" here in San Francisco people would be very offended.

P.S. The Tenderloin is the poorest and bad part of San Francisco.


Desculpe-me Marcio, acho que você está sendo injusto com a Rachel.

Estes passeios, visitas ou whatever you want call it, é divulgado através de panfletos espalhados pelos hotéis e lugares públicos como "Favela Tour".

Portanto, este termo é usado e divulgado pelos próprios Brasileiros.

Ela só está vendendo o que ela está comprando.


I obviously can't say, but Marcio, while I think you have a point, I feel at the same time many people within the Favelas might see those tours as a sort of good thing. There is certainly a degree of trivializing poverty in those tours, but at the same time, rich tourists walking through the Favelas provides a certain economic opportunity for many people there (selling trinkets and art to them, or for the less honest people, pick-pocketing or outright robbing them). And this is certainly not unique to Brazil in any way. La Boca neighborhood in Buenos Aires is world famous for being poor, and outsdie of the main tourist drag remains poor and relatively dangerous.

Marcio E. Goncalves


I'm not questioning the name "Favela Tour" but the existence of such bad tasteful tour and, more importantly, the fact that some one that is VERY politically correct and liberla (in the american sense) as Rachel doesn't realize how offensive such thing is and thing that's ok because "there are tours of super rich communities in the US, like Newport and Beverly Hills."

C'mom, Rachel is a very smart girl, I'm pretty sure if she thinks a little bit about this passage she will see how dumb that is. I think thare is "little bit" of difference when I'm a middle class guy looking at Mansion, or when I'm a rich girl looking at very poor people struggling to get by.


I'm a very capitalist and pro-market guy, so I do agree with you that this kinda of tour does benefit the community in a sense. They only exist because there is a demand for such kinda of tour.

But this doesn't erase the fact that such tour is distasteful.

But my main point is the incoherence of Rachel - how can someone be so annoyed by the supposedly "Racist" gesture of slanted eye but at the same time not feeling uncomfortable in participating in a "human safari"?

As I have pointed out, if I decided to do a "Poverty Tour" here in San Francisco I'm pretty sure that all the well-intentioned-multicultural-white-liberal-girls-like-Rachel would be against me.


Ok Marcio. I got your point and I totally agree with you in how bad taste those tours are. I have been in Rio for few times and I never took those tours for the same reason that you pointed. This is a human safari! Actually, this is a good definition.

Rio Gringa

Oh my god you're right! I've been enlightened. Instead of going to the favelas to interact with people, to spend money, and to benefit local charities, we should follow the Carioca example: ignore the favelas and favelados all together, or go there to buy drugs or kill people. Those are far better solutions, you're so right!

Ernest Barteldes

Well, for better or worse, these tours help bring awareness to their situation, and as Rachel pointed out, the tour company helps the favela by funding their
social services.

A writer I know lived in a favela for half a year and then went on to slums in Kenya,India and Turkey --- he emerged with a very good book called "Shadow Cities." His name is Robert Neuwirth, check out is work

Marcio E. Goncalves

"Oh my god you're right! I've been enlightened. Instead of going to the favelas to interact with people, to spend money, and to benefit local charities, we should follow the Carioca example: ignore the favelas and favelados all together, or go there to buy drugs or kill people. Those are far better solutions, you're so right!"

You could've done all the good things above (money for charities, money for local business) without participating in a ridiculous "human safari".

If you don't really see how offensive this kind of tour is and can just label you as hypocryte. Someone that tries to make the brazilians aware of they lack of sensibility (as in the slanted eye case) but just doesn't care about your personal actions.

I'm not saying that you should ignore and not go to favela. I think is awesome that you do charity work there (as I did in favelas and por school in Curitiba).

But the whole concept of this "human safari" IS offensive.

P.S. And if you think every brazilian has this "i don't care about the poor" attitude as your cariocas friends, that's your problem.

Rio has so many problems in part because of the population attitude, that's obvious.

Rio Gringa

Unless you're going on an actual safari, all travel is a "human safari," because we're going somewhere else to see how other people live. Ponto.

Plus, not only do those tours bring money to the favela and its residents, but it provides a semblance of peace, since the police are far less likely to invade and murder innocent people if there are gringos present. (Sad but true)

It's one of the few positive solutions non-politician Cariocas have come up with to incorporate the favelas into the city, and the residents themselves support the project.

Marcio E. Goncalves

It's nice to see how you incorporated the brazilian way of thinking, trying to rationalize you lack of sensitivity! :)

I can see you're pretty much a carioca now.


I think taking a tour through a favela can be very enlightening, and debunk at least a few myths about them, like the people don't have running water, electricity, etc. I remember my first trip into a favela. It looked so run down from the outside, but the first house I went into was very nice, with tile people pay a lot of money for in the U.S. My first trip into a favela would be to see where the woman i would later marry lived. Since that time I have been in and out of several favelas in Zona Norte that my new family members live in. I have been to plenty of family gatherings, community centers, etc. and have had wonderful experiences. However, I also don't glorify what is a difficult existence for residents living in the middle of what is sometimes a war zone. The dance the police and drug traffickers play gets all of the attention, but favelas are full of many hardworking families trying to provide for their children, go to church, enjoy life, etc.

Hans-Christoph Steiner

Instead of thinking of the favelas as poor destitute people who need charity, we really should see them for what they are: quite well developed cities within the city that the locals built themselves. And not only did they build the favelas without the help of the government, the government was actually working AGAINST them, including sending in elite military troups to shoot up the place on a regular basis. The people in favelas would be much better off if outsiders stopped trying to tell them what they should or shouldn't be doing.

I do think that poverty tours are despicable. The reason why I would like to go to places like Rocinha is to see people that have built an amazing community in a beautiful spot. Its a community built on a human scale without a master designer tell everyone how they should live, like all of the awful skyscraper neighborhoods around the world.

So if the locals want to give tours of their neighborhood, they who are we to tell them not to? What responsible people should do is make sure that they are not giving their money to outside tour companies, because that is exploitative.


We support people to come to Rocinha to see the realty that not all is bad and violence here..Favelas are far from perfect places but the tours depend on who is your tour guide and how the condut the tour to the visitors..

I am from Rocinha and trying to change and break down barriers of discrimnation by bringing people to meet my family and see my community more like a visit than a tour.

We are poor in money but rich in culture and spirit! Please check out my website..thank you



Acho quem tem que mostrar mesmo, só assim vamos poder mostrar que mesmo morando no lixo podemos ser pessoas de bem. Eu sou Favelado com muito orgulho e a 16 anos moro fora do Brasil. Favela e a verdade do Brasil.

Alan G Ston

Ai! I came here, but I was not looking for favelas, tours, nothing like this. And after all the silly things I ended up reading - specially from GRINGA, I have only one thing to say: MARCIO IS SO RIGHT.

The problem of the "incursions into poverty" is that people that go there only get ONE vision of the thing.

No one tells them favelas are invasions, for instance. Now, when I write here, many of these favelas have been "taken back" form drug dealers armed to their teeth. Still, many people inside the favelas COMPLAIN of the police, and not because they are "killing" people there (Oh what a silly thing to say!!! and NO, they are not), but because drug dealers also have mothers, sons and all sorts of relatives that depended on their illegal activities, so I call these people vagabonds against the State, for they do not have the minimal idea of what's moral and legal and what goes in conformity with social rules FOR ALL, not only for them or their pararell state.

I am sorry for the guy that says he is proud to be a favelado. You have to be proud to be a human being, because a favela is a circumstance, poverty is a circumstance - only that, and this can change. What cannot change if you are proud of being a favelado is that you're being proud of being denied a lot of RIGHTS in your life, and that is not my fault, that's the State's fault. If you just bang on your chest and say you are proud to be a favelado, nothing, NOTHING will change.

I come from a low middle class/poor family. My grandparents were poor people that helped poor people. They did not help people to appear in the newspapers ok? Or to open an NGO with their names, not to make tours to "poverty". BUT i remember my grandpa VERY MUCH and i remember he helped only those who were true, sincere. What I mean is: one can identify those who want to live out of poverty, as professional "poor-me-s". Those he would not help. But he would not mistreat them either. IF they came back to our house with a better story, something we knew was true, this person would get help.

Going to a poor neighbourhood like ours to take pix of people is easy. What's difficult is to organise a community kitchen garden for the neighbours all year long; getting donations for Xmas without the help of anyone, and not being a "star" because of your good actions; refusing the opportunist help of politicians every now and then; opening the door of your house to poor people you never saw, preparing them good fresh food form scratch (not left-overs) for years and years of your lives.

Go there, take pix, blame us, send money to charities so that you do not have to actually SEE the poor, most of them who live close to you. Go to another country and take all the pix again and blame the locals. That's so easy, when about 30% of the US population is below the misery line.

Alan G Ston

Ah, and something I forgot to say. It is nothing but NAIVE to say the tours help the communities. And to say it helps them also because we buy "trinkets". That's the old idea of the indigenous that gets trinkets form the colonizer in exchange of showing the land (and its possible richness).

C'mon, you're being too primary, for god's sake.

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