Rio de Janeiro – Rocincha Favela Tour

Week 8 me: I have all these notes strewn everywhere, hardly sorted in proper sentences; unfortunately I find it pretty tedious to do so now, so I’ll leave them as such in the choppy selves. At least they’re here!!!!!!
Graffiti in Rocinha, Rio de Janeiro
Night with Katia
I was telling her about the Kampong Luong where the people in the fishing village had to shift their houses along with the rising tides; usually the ones who struggle are the poorest.
She says that within the favelas they also have to be careful of the landslides – those who live at the top of the hills get their houses washed away during heavy rains. And these are usually the poorest of the poor. (though, after speaking to those of other Latin American countries i.e. Bolivia it seems like those that live at the edges / higher areas doesnt necessarily mean they’re poorer, just more inconvenienced)
My day 2 self is clearly different – I am no longer freaking out as much as I gently ease myself into the scene of Rio. Still careful and wary of course, but not as jumpy I suppose – wary and firm I suppose.
By the end of day 2 I feel myself easing into the city; I get less and less paranoid with the hours (by that I refer to paranoia – I am wary and alert always)
I guess that’s the thing about travelling alone; you soak in the city slowly and all your emotions get amplified by its intensity.
I’m just going to write down everything

Favela tour with Zezinho in Rocinha

I thought the tour was extremely enriching and educational, calling into question whatever impression I had of favelas.

Community of 250,000 people, 6000 businesses

Only a third of people are registered in the census, so it is not sure how many residents there are exactly. ~ 200.000 – 300.000 people
Ho-sing-ya, that was how they pronounced it. I met Zezinho this morning and another German couple. Took a bus from Copacabana bus stop up into Rochincha. Zezinho assured us several times that we were more likely to be robbed along Copacabana than within the favela; now that I’ve been there I have to agree. I didn’t feel unsafe at all throughout the visit, only at the beginning where my conceptions of a favela triggered fear and I held my backpack tightly. You could take pictures, he said, but not at people directly, nobody likes having a camera pointed at their face.



Jody was our guide of the day. He was a British who’s lived here for several years now. Initially I felt a little disappointed because I was hoping Zezinho would be the guide having lived here longer, but Jody was extremely informative and it was very interesting to hear his story / perspective about why he was living here.



Rocincha is located between two of Brazil’s wealthiest neighborhoods, Sao Conrado  and Gavea


Electricity came 1979 with help of Catholic Church
Illegal hooking allows you to get it free, but since the pacification make people pay for electricity depends on how much you use
Angel graffiti all over rio to represent the people



He lives in Rocinha, he’s born and raised in favela but become quite famous professional graffiti artist


Everything is done by residents – who then teach their sons
Sewage etc – amazing, build yourself bit by bit
Everything done by then bricks etc
Run out of money, continue when you’ve saved more
Build 6 levels high
All built on concrete pillars  6 pillars



one of the schools we passed by.

16 classroom 30 to 40 students
Divided into morning and afternoon class over a thousand students everyday
Public school school uniform
But the government teachers don’t get paid very much – basic reading writing math – he went to this school

Traction scheme – areas where everyone dumps their trash. These guys come in everyday to collect the trash – fills quickly. Before pacification, gang paid – now it’s the government’s responsibility. Everyday rubbish was thrown on the road. Currently the truck that comes to collect these trash is provided from the government


Residents went about their usual everyday duties and occasionally they’d talk to Jody for abit. That’s how I knew he was part of some kind of community? It wasn’t a pretense, it’s like random people / neighbors we passed would say hi and they’d chat for a bit. People were really nice and open, one man shook our hands and pecked a kiss on my fist (haha). The kids hi-fived. It was just very normal <- annoyed at myself when I see this, because what was I expecting
Jody had plans to establish an English school in the next few years – free education for the kids because English opens up tons of opportunities they would get volunteers
It’s significant to critique voluntourism and slum tourism but much of it has to do with how these are being operated I think
Issues of commodification / objectification of poverty- Is it really? Or is it a western-centric view? Has anyone taken a bottom-up approach to ask them how they feel?

Rocinha, the largest favela in Brazil. Drugs! Danger! Poverty and shambles! Or is it? Learnt about their water and waste system, education, economy (50% of the ~ 250,000 residents work within the 6000 businesses of the favelas). Zezinho, tour guide and resident of Rocinha says he wants to reduce the stigma of living in a favela; within the favela there is wifi, kids with Facebook, a pet shop, orthodontist, churches and a ballet school. Some are pretty happy there and don’t necessarily want to leave.

Slum tourism is controversial because of issues of voyeurism / commodification / objectification of poverty. As I walked along the streets the random locals chatted with our guide happily and shook our hands, asked where we’re from, one kissed my fist. I felt safe in the favela and its residents, challenging all that I imagined (existing representations/conceptions) prior to the tour. I can’t help thinking – are these critiques a western-centric view? Has anyone taken a bottom-up approach to ask them how they feel? Head is going to explode with thoughts. Always open to ethical debates!

Water system:
Once a week water buckets filled up to 500litres, with water supply pipes as the linking system. Water is free, provided by the government. 
Average wages 800-1000reals a month
Where the poor looks down on the rich
30-60,000 10 pounds for one space in favela
People’s properties value up now
26 districts

Motor taxis – 3 reals anywhere, motor taxi drivers and their passengers have to wear helmets as part of the regulations

Motor taxis turn off petrol to roll down hill (saves petrol)

Nursery has a long waiting list
People don’t complain about noise
250,000 residents
8 sushi restaurants
50% work in favelas
6000 businesses here
Other 50% leave and wrk in town service jobs hotel cleaners maid drivers beach cleaners vendors
Any line if work that doesn’t require a level f education cause education is Bad
90 reals a month and 20mb speed broadband
30% residents maybe last year 15-20%
Have social media accounts as well
Internet for education
Some people rather have nice home and stay in favela instead of being poor in ipanema
Strong community

Cable tv 40-50 reals a month, 200 channels

people have satellite dishes – government made it cheap in Brazil with the idea that if so it’ll keep people off the streets at night – quite a lot of people support

Different levels of poor
No discrimination internally, only the rich people look down
Guys that hope to pick up the ladies don’t say they live in the favela cause of the associated stigma, that everyone in the favela is going to get shot robbed everyone does drugs and stuff
“People who write these things have never stepped into a favela into their life – guidebooks talk about things they don’t care about”
“We don’t hide the fact that we have problems here”
500 gang members – small percentage
Armed gang members ask why you’re here
They just wanna protect themselves
4 national banks
Building materials
Pet shop
Hairdresser dental no hospital but there’s healthcare
Sex shops even
Zezinho rarely leave here
No fire service but nearby
Less than 1% go on to college or uni must pass entry test and is too difficult for public school system (this applies supposedly to the whole of Brazil)
Social unrest and protests with world cup and Olympics cos billions dollars spent on World Cup stadium and village and not on education!! Brazilian economy 4th biggest but corruption severely stunts its growth
99% can’t leave cos no opportunities
A boy learns English and walks past, “where are you from?” he asks
August September opening English school 2 classes morning and evening free for them
Regustered charity lots of paperwork to be done
Sponsored by friends family and self employed <- comes off your tax don’t give taxman give charity
Going to be opened in England and running here
Over 1000 favelas in rio only 60 are classified
Get gangs away from where tourists go
Non pacified favelas
4 government buildings
Favela 1929 started 1937 this was first proper brick building and oldest though it looks new well maintained Catholic Church
Hotel here!
Water pumping centre
Post office and health centre
Infant school primary school and theatre for education purposes

Taxes people gave to earn a certain amount – 2000 reals – so nobody earns enough to pay the taxes, thus no taxes

Kites symbolic symbol to the gang to see which police or kite
It’s a multi function building
Internet place sound studio theatre come study library
Sad cos library cut down hours it’s open
Less education more guns
Government control it pay the staff
One of the most useful buildings slash the hours sad to fund  the police
“Favelas are not shitholes there’s issues but they have a lot of things there’s a good vibe a good feeling people smiling”
Favelas have a bad reputation ‘I’m making money from the community so what can you give back to them?’
Ross kemp
White guy living here so i guess must be okay can’t be that bad right?
US guys coming in filming documentary
Goodnight Cinderella
The older the favela the more developed
30 years ago then got water
Biggest in Brazil – 85 years old
Zezinho wrote a message in response to the controversy about favela tours that I think is worth sharing here. Lets see what he has to say.
I certainly understand the controversy about slum tours. I am both FOR and AGAINST them. Let me explain this.
I was born, grew up and still live in Brazil’s largest slum or favela. Life is dificult yes, but not impossible. I am proud to live here in Rocinha. I will never leave here, but I do not want to leave here. This is my home. This is my feelings about this issue of slum/favela tourism.
What I like about the tours is the contact I get from foreigners who come here. This interaction helps me to educate people about my life here in the favela. When foreigners come here I feel like my home/favela has value and are worth to be seen. The Brazilian goverment mostly ignores us and helps us very little. We want our voice to be heard. I want to feel that somebody on the outside cares about us and recognizes that we exist. Up until about 5 years ago favelas did not exist on maps. Why was this? Many foreigners come to learn how we create and live in our comunity with little or no goverment involvement. Others come because of the art and culture that exists here. I do not judge why people come, they confirm that we exist.
I started in tourism becase I saw the oportunity to show my favela and help create jobs for others here. We live here, and should be making the tours here. I have heard outsider tour companies exaggerate things or tell outright lies about my favela. They do this becase they do not know and do not live here. I am here to show a social experience not some adrenaline tour. With my work, about 20% returns to volunteers in social projects or start their own programs in the favela. Recently people have contacted me wanting to make projects like a rooftop garden class and another person wants to help bring solar energy here.
My friend Jim Shattuck and I, ran a fundraiser which earned about R$800 Reais ($400 USD), which will go to Tio Lino’s Art School in the Rocinha. Visitors to my favela helped with this project by taking tours! With this we will be able to give 40 children back packs filled with school supplies and provide much needed art materials needed for the art studio.
I was able to help a student, Leandro Lima, realize his dream of being a photographer. After learning that he had his camera stolen (outside the favela), I set aside money from my tours from August to October 2010 and during his birthday party on the 16th, he was suprised to receive this, but he is deserving!
These are people who came on visits here in the favela and in some way help contribute. Is this bad?
What I do NOT like about the tours…the tours made in jeeps or trucks is the worst becase it presents us like a zoo. The tourists have no contact with the locals and this reinforces a sense of possible danger. Tours or visits where the guests walk in the favela are more welcome. There is one company that tells their guests not to interact with the locals if they are approached. This is wrong. The glamorization of violence is another thing that we do not like here. It is as if these companies are trying to capitalize on some kind of excitement. Favelas are not war zones and people need understand that real, honest hardworking people live there, we just make less money.
There are tour companies here who use the comunity to make money but they give very little or nothing back to the community. This is not right. They should contribute something for the betterment of the favela. There are plenty of social projects here who could use help.
I am not ashamed to live in the favela and people should not feel shame to come and visit. All we ask is please do not take photos of us like we are animals and do not have fear if we say hello to you on the street.
If we want to stop or reduce poverty, we need to stop pretending it does not exist. I call it socially responsible tourism. If you chose to tour this type of comunity, try to give something back however big or small. Becase of Tourism we have a Dj School called Spin Rocinha. The dj classes are FREE to all residents of the favela. You can find us on facebook under “Spin Rocinha“…
Slums, favelas and shanties are where 1/3 of the population live in all major cities, serving the needs of mostly the rich. Visiting these places may increase your knowledge and awareness at a much deeper level than visiting a museum or art exhibition. Ignoring poverty is not going to make it go away and those who have more, should not feel guilt. Unfortunately, this world will always have this unbalance of wealth. Sad but true.
Thank you,
Zezinho da Rocinha



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s