Student - October 19, 2009

Studying favelas in Rio

Inge Kuiphuis, a 6th year doing International Development Studies, left last March for Rio de Janeiro. She spent four months investigating the involvement of the local inhabitants of the favelas in tourism.

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'Many favelas in the south part of Rio de Janeiro are built right next to affluent districts with luxury villas. Once, when I was walking through one of the more affluent districts to go to an open day in a favela, a woman asked me where I was going. When she heard what I was intending to do, she tried to persuade me that it was extremely dangerous and I should definitely not be going alone. Yet I never felt unsafe. Of course you can't just walk into any favela. You have to use your common sense and know what you are up to.
Most of my research was in the Vila Canoas district. I stayed with a woman who does not have a partner. She is a cleaner in a chic furniture store nearby and she has to work incredibly hard every day from early in the morning until late at night. Her wages are just enough for her and her two children to survive on.
There is an organization based outside Vila Canoas that takes about thirty tourists a day on tours of the favela. The guides are nearly always from outside the favela and so the local inhabitants do not earn much from this tourist activity. They are able to earn a little by selling handcrafts and paintings to the tourists. There are a large number of such tour organizations operating in Rocinha, one of the largest favelas in Latin America. About three thousand tourists a month visit Rocinha.
My study shows that on the whole the people living in the favelas only have a marginal role in favela tourism. The most popular tour organizations often claim that their tours help the local people, but most of the money does not reach them - it ends up in the pockets of the tour organizations.' /Christoph Janzing

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