Today (with my mother’s disapproval), I visited two slums (aka favelas) in Rio. I would definitely not recommend visiting a favela on your own. I went with an organised tour – led by a man who lives in the favela community. This was recommended and arranged via our hotel. If you are planning on visiting one – your hotel should be able to help you out.
First up was Rocinha, one of the largest favela’s in Brazil.
Rocinha is HUGE. It’s estimated population is somewhere between 150,000 and 300,000 people. If anyone has seen the movie Son of God (side note: it’s a great movie so make sure you see it) – I was kind of expecting something similar. However, surprisingly it was very different and very commercial – schools, hospitals, post office and take-away shops. Admittedly though, the living conditions weren’t great…
I felt slightly uncomfortable working round to begin with. It is hard to see their living conditions and also everyone was starring at us. A raw sewage cannel ran straight through Rocinha. Anyone could have easily fallen in. There were live wires lingering above our heads and also a few rats lurking around. The tour guide told us how much is was to buy a house there. It was something like 2weeks pay (yikes! And remember I’m in the print industry!). 😉
I actually think the people in the favela loved the tourists visiting. Our tour guide encouraged us to purchase little knick-knacks and trinkets that some of the people were selling. It was a nice to know we were offering something in return for us looking around their community.
Classic Brazilian style the homes were very bright and colourful! Apparently it was a gift from the government to brighten up the area and also to help locals identify their homes.
Next up was Santa Marta! A lot smaller favela near Ipanema. Again lots of bright colours! This is where Michael Jackson filmed ‘They don’t care about us’
Would I do it again? Absolutely! It was one of the most eye-opening experiences of my life.
Be wary that you are not allowed to take photographs or someone or their possessions without their permission. I found if you ask they are more than happy.