Saturday, July 31, 2010

Jeep Tours Cancelled

I have written before about tourism here in the favela in previous blogs. I know that the Jeep Tours have been making tours of this favela for at least 10 years now. I remember seeing them back in 2001 but had no idea they were tours. I thought it was researchers working on specific projets here. I never really took notice of them until I started working in tourism myself. Then I started to take notice of what they do. This was important for me to know so I could offer a better experience for guests coming here.

They are a company that also does other tours around Rio de Janeiro. They are owned by a person who does not live in the favela and never did. Every now and then I would see then hire a driver from the favela, but not once did I ever see one of the tour guides from here. This is common with all the tour companies that work here. I only know 3 guides from the favela that work with these large companies. I know has 10 guides working for them and only one is from here in Rocinha.

I know in the last three months many people in the favela started to speak up more against the Jeep Tours as they felt the tour operator presented Rocinha in a not very favorable way. First, people sitting in jeeps driving through a community, especially a poor one, made the visit out to be like a safari. The second was lack of connection or interaction with the residents. I know that I felt strange when walking in my community and somebody in a jeep would take my picture. I am not a (dangerous) animal in a zoo. I am sure that if I went to this persons community and did the same thing, I do not think they would like this. I know this sounds strange but imagine if I went to your community and took pictures of you, your house, your car, your child(ren), cat, dog etc., with little or no interaction with you… get the idea I am saying now? I can speak for most here in the favela when I say, that if you come on a tour here, please make a walking tour and try to find a guide who is from HERE IN THE FAVELA. When you walk through the community, you show that you embrace our community without fear. We appreciate this! And when you use a guide from here, you will get someone who knows everything about this place and will answer your questions honestly.

So, I cannot say the whole story but these tours stopped after the death of our Vereador (Councilman) Claudinho da Academia. All I can say is that our residents association decided that it best that these tours are not allowed here anymore. And I for one, are happy that they are gone. Who’s next?