Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Who Needs Disney When you Have Favelas

Who needs Disneyland when you have a favela? At least that is how Dilma feels.

Apparently the government of Brazil has announced their plans to turn the Complexo do Alemao Favela into a tourist destination. I totally had this one called the moment I posted the video about the cable cars! Not wanting to be a total pessimistic biotch, I didn't say anything at the time. It did, however, seem doubtful that the government would drop millions and billions on something just to improve their citizens' commute. Dude, this is Rio! It's the same deal as the elevator/tower in Ipanema. It does improve the quality of life for residents but also makes for a unique tourist attraction.

And that's all well and good. I'm all about the co-scratching of backs. Anything to get the government to actually take care of its people. What I did think was a bit ridiculous was that it took potential tour groups to get new houses, new schools, and family clinic built. Hey, at least it's there. From what Dilma says, she's doing this for the community as a means to improve their lives.

While I don't buy that 100%, I'll accept it as it will improve their lives.  Maybe the next stop could be improving public education and the availability of it as a whole. I guarantee that if you scratch that back you'll get a whole body massage in return!

What do you think, is it wrong to sell an entire community as a tourist attraction?


  1. Rachel,

    I think it's an insult to transform a favela into a tourist destination. Nobody is happy and proud to live in a place without proper sewage, without safety, without the basic infrastructure necessary for a decent life.
    I was always opposed to visiting favelas as a tourist. I think it's humiliating and degrading to the people that are suffering in there on their day to day lives.
    In my opinion, the only option should be to end favelas and give this people a better chance in life. Build decent housing for them, remove the fragile shacks off the side of the mountains and build basic infra structure for these people. Public hospitals, schools, sewage, legal and safe electrical connections etc...
    This cable car they built in Rio is a copy of a similar project developed in the slums of Colombia. Over there, it was the solution they found to facilitate public transportation in the hilly favela areas. In Rio, it sounds to me as a popular thing politicians did to improve their image.
    They spent MILLIONS and MILLIONS to built this cable car over this Rio favela. Imagine how much REAL improvements they could have promoted if the money had been well spent!
    I am sorry to sound so pessimistic, and maybe I am wrong because I don't know that part of Rio very well. But I just have this strong gut feeling that these millions could have been much better spent.


  2. Although I have never lived in a favela, I did spend six months living in what is known as "the slum of the Pacific", as an elementary school teacher. It would piss me off to see the American tourists from the Army base next door (AKA paradise) coming over with their fancy cameras and nice clothes to take pictures of the poor living standards and the half naked children. I felt like they saw it as some kind of zoo... "Oh look, how cute!" And then, after they had their kicks, they would hop back on the boat and return to luxury, talking about their amazing experience next door, while my studnets continued to pray for rain so that they could fill up the water tanks to take showers and get something to drink. As a photography hobbiest, I do understand the desire to have these pictures, etc, but that should be via real relationships/friendships that allow you on the inside, not treating humans and their struggles as an amusement park attraction. And ditto to what Ray said... really, how far would this money have stretched doing something else? Probably pretty far.

  3. I didn't need the government announcement to tell me that.

    I got off the train this morning in Bonsucesso and noticed the Bondinho wasn't moving. When I got up the stairs I noticed a sizeable line and there were guys handing out fliers about the wonders of the teleferico.

    Apparently, it only opens after 9am.

    Since Bonsucesso is a good 20min from the center of town via train, the next train isn't until 9:30ish and most people work before 10am, it is really hard to imagine that this was "for the good" of the people who live up there.

    I do find it very interesting that they chose to base the tourism out of Bonsuccesso, rather than the otherside, say Nova Brasilia, where they put the 3D theater.

    There is already a lot of tension between the lower and lower-middle class descendents of the portuguese who live in and around Bonsuccesso and those who live in the favela.

    Unlike the Z. Sul there is not that much of an economic difference between the two areas, but a slight culture war and a lot of racism towards the "lazy" "lawbreakers" who invade the hills.

    I can't wait to hear what the old people have to say about this tonight. This announcement should get them roaring for a least a week!

    Hopefully, the tourism will breathe some new life into the area below, which despite being full of plenty of old racists, is a seriously under-rated part of the city.

  4. I agree that they should have used the money a better well. Hell, that's the understatement of the year. At the same time, certain things are not going to change here. I'd rather the community get something rather than nothing...

  5. I call this sort of thing 'poverty porn', when tourists gawk at poverty-stricken areas and then go home and show their friends pictures of a deeply wrinkled elderly person or cute dirt-smudged kids, all for street cred. When I was in Rio in the spring, I went with a group of volunteers from my school to Complexo do Alemao to co-host an Easter party for the kids there. But, it was a collaboration between my school and a really great person from that community, who is trying to improve conditions there. Let's hope the cable car does help improve the quality of life and isn't just for tourist schmucks.