La Profesora Abstraída

Weblog of Michelle Dion, Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science, at McMaster University. My blog has moved to Visit my other website.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Favela tourism

See Rio the way thousands of favela residents see it:
"In a very central part of the city (Laranjeiras/Santa Teresa), inside Rio´s most beautiful and tranquil favela, the unique Hostel "Favelinha" welcomes travelers from around the world. It gives backpackers and other interested tourists the opportunity to discover what life is like for a great majority of Rio´s inhabitants. You will be amazed at how friendly you will be welcomed by the people in the favela and you will not believe your eyes when you step out on your balcony and start to overlook the bay of Guanabara, the sugar loaf and some of Rio´s famous beaches like Botafogo and Flamengo."

Favela where Pousada Favelinha is located.

According to this story in a major Brazilian news magazine, only 20% of Rio residents live in favelas.

Favela tourism has been around for a while, though the local guide we used for our study abroad trip in 2003 told us that it was too dangerous to visit the favelas at that time. (And, maybe it was too dangerous to take 20 young U.S. students. On the other hand, he took us to see live, street capoiera in an area crawling with paint-huffing street children, so it's all relative.)

Here's a satellite photo of Rio's largest favela (Rocinha), which is less than a kilometer from the beach and very close to some of the most expensive real estate in Rio.

If I remember the geography of Rio correctly, you can see the favela Rocinha in the background of this Ipanema beach photo. It's the area sloping up the hillside.

I was only in Rio 4-5 days with our study abroad program, but I was amazed at the extent to which the violence and poverty associated with drug running and the favelas was kept away from the touristy areas near the beach (where our study abroad was centered). The order in the Copacabana and the Ipanema areas belied the poverty and dangerousness associated with urban Brazil. Whereas, even when you're in 'nice' parts of the D.F., you can still sense the poverty and disorder and feel that the city is living on the edge of chaos.

For a Amores Perros-like look at life in the favelas, you can watch City of God. (I admit that I haven't seen this one yet. We missed it on the big screen, and then didn't really want to watch it while living in Mexico City. Just like I wouldn't watch Amores Perros while living in the D.F. It would just heighten anxiety about living in the city.

For a Hollywood-esque look at life in the favelas, you can watch Orfeu, with music by Caetano Veloso.

For a sense of the optimism of the late 50s when economic prospects looked good for Brazil, I recommend Black Orpheus. (Orfeu is a bad remake of the classic.)

Thanks, Elena Mary, for the suggestion.

posted by Michelle @ 9:49 AM,


At 9/14/2005 12:32 PM, Blogger Elenamary said...

I've seen those three movies and they are good. I would reccommend however, one of my favorite (if not my favorite) films which is a documentry set in rio, Bus 174

At 9/14/2005 12:56 PM, Blogger Michelle said...

I heard about the documentary after it came out, but never saw it. I see it is available on DVD,; will see if we can get it through netflix.


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