Sunday, April 17, 2011

Tourism Development in favela dos Prazeres

foto: Morro dos Prazeres

My contacts with Prazeres have been existant for a little while with out me knowing..I can not remember the complete details but I can give you a general idea of how things came to be.

I have been working with a small guest house in Santa Teresa called CASA 579. I have always believed in trying to give something back especially when it comes to favelas. Favelas are areas that are under served by the city and goverments. Some favelas like Rocinha get more help becase of their size or notoriety. Prazeres and Julio Otoni (JO) are not like that.

I spoke with the general manager of CASA 579 and we decided on working out how I could contribute specifically with the Julio Otoni Favela since this favela is very close to CASA 579. Many people who stay at CASA 579 also volunteer in Julio Otoni. I was contacted sometime ago by a coordinator Thais Corral, with the Julio Otoni Project which is a comunity center for the youth there.

About a month ago, Charles Sisqueira, who is a dance instructor at Prazeres and afiliated with JO contacted me about wanting to know more about tourism. I was suprised that they wanted me to teach them and help get a program started. Apparently some of the youth, Charles and the residents Association of Prazeres wanted to begin this becase of the interest in the surrounding area of Santa Teresa.

Charles has a dance program in Prazeres called Dança pra Galera no Casarão dos Prazeres since 2002 so he has built good relationships in the community. Through his group have passed 213 youth from ages 8 to 21 years. He is istrumental in keeping programs focused in the community, including The website is under contruction now but will be back soon. was created in 2004 in Prazeres as a learning group for technology. The first few years were focused on bringing internet to the favela. and teaching basic computer classes to the residents. At the end of the first year the group created a book "E Nois" about the daily life in the favelas of Santa Teresa. This took the collaberation of 53 students from neighboring favelas of Prazeres, Falet/Fogueteiro and Coroa. In 2005 this book was selected for the Victor Civita Education award. In the same year Galera was able to advance to visual programming and they created a animation film "Qual e?" a adventure in Morro dos Prazeres. This film took about a year to make with the help of 21 students. Galera has also been involved with the reformation of a library and after school homework clubs that also teach about manners and kindness. Often life in the favelas can be about agression and abuse, so learning good citizenship will help youth in these areas better understand outside the favelas. There is so much this group and Charles have done to give visibility to Prazeres.

So, yesterday I finally got to meet Charles and talk of their idea. With coordination of about 7 people, they want to bring tourism to Prazeres. I have always been a very strong believer in people from the favelas operating their own tours. They wanted my expertise and ideas on what kind of experience they could give to foreigners. I dont like the term "tour".
When I bring in guests to my favela, they will receive a social experience or a favela experience. I think they need to do the same. Education should be the focus of these "tours".

I know the whole tourism in favelas many may not agree with (and I understand both sides of argument) but at least people on the inside who are living in these favelas get to organize and run the tours. This is so much better than the jeep, van tours that come through Rocinha and give little or anything to the comunity. None of the owners of these companies live here in the favela, and in all my passings have only met 2 guides who work for these big companies that live in the favela.

By ignoring favelas or poverty will not make it go away. These comunities need a voice and as long as some of this money they earn is put back into the comunity, then this CAN be a good thing. The tours should be educational, not "come and see some poor people". The favela image has been destroyed in the media. People here are tired of outsiders seeing their comunities as only a place of thieves, bandits, drunks, addicts, poverty, and any other negative thing you can think of..people in favelas deserve so much more.

I met Charles in Copacabana and off we went to Prazeres. He explained to me beforehand that this tourism idea will also include the much smaller Julio Otoni favela as well. We walked into the community and I met some of the group from One of the guys Jacson came with us as we walked through the favela. We met many people and told them of our idea. Everybody seems supportive.

We decended to the bottom of Prazeres and sat and exchanged ideas. We were joined at a table by Saulo Nicolai, Davi Vitor and Diogenes Santos Lima. All of these young people are part of the group. Some speak some English. I am not sure what level of English they spoke becase we only conversed in Portugues. But I did advise them that if doing tours in English, you need be proficent enough to answer any and all questions your guests ask.

foto: The gang of Prazeres 100% FAVELA!! left to right, Saulo, Davi, Zezinho, Charles and Diogenes

I explained a basic outline of how I work in Rocinha to give visitors a "favela experience". Respect and support of the residents is needed to make this happen. I emphasized to them the importance of being organized, being prepared. Visitors want to know about physical infrastructure, politics, sports, culture, music, education, health, land rights, employment, and many of other things. It is the responsibility of the guide to know just about everything about the comunity they live in. If they dont know, then they have to find out by talking to elders, political people in the comunity etc. Marketing their service using pamphlets, flyers, business cards and talking to all the hostels and guest houses in Santa Teresa will help them. Any event in Santa Teresa they need to be there promoting their work. Their project will work if they can put some of the money earned into the film making classes or any other new developments that is involved with now.

This was my first "consulting" job. I hope it is not the last. Maybe the city of Rio can hire me to be a "Favela Tourism" specialist. But for now, working to help other favelas earn a self sustaining income is very rewarding and I hope I can help other favela too!

If you are interested in knowing more about the Tourism Project in Morro dos Prazeres in Santa Teresa, please contact
Charles Sisqueira at: or Saulo Nicolai at: Saulo also has a Blog about things going on in Prazeres, go here: