Saturday, July 1, 2017

City Favelas Tour

I often get visitors interested in learning more about favelas. Many students and researchers come to Brazil wanting to learn more about these communities, why and how they are able to exist. Most countries have areas where poor or low income people live but self built communities like favelas are not common in the western world. 

Because of this demand of interest, my friends Rick and Daniel thought of a plan. Contacts were made in several favelas to offer this kind of visit all in one day. Visitors will get to experience 4 different favelas in one day. Each has its own charm, vibe and characteristics. The guides that provide this opportunity are connected to these communities so we keep the mandate of using locals guides who have accurate knowledge of each community. 

These visits are a full walking experience through each favela. There will be the opportunity to meet locals, eat lunch, check out the awesome hillside views, interact with locals and visit unique locations within each favela community. This particular experience is a full day starting at 8:30am and ending off with dinner around 5:30pm in Rocinha, the last favela on the route. The last visit we made was from 9:00-6:30pm. So, this is an intense experience for those that want a true understanding of favela life and culture. Below are reviews and some photos of each favela community. Each place is in order of how the tour operates. In the following order:
Chacara do Ceu
Parque da Cidade
(*There may be options to visit other favelas depending on availability of guides)

1.) Chácara do Céu

One of Rio de Janeiro’s first favelas. The tour will take you up through the hillside favela via steps and residential alleyways. As a “favelinha” (small favela) Chácara do Céu is composed entirely of residential alleyways called ‘becos’. There is no commercial strip, but there are a handful of small shops that serve the residents’ needs for groceries and household supplies. The tour will take you through the labyrinth of colorful becos all the way to the panoramic views of the municipal park, Mirante do Leblon. You will have an opportunity to take photos in what is considered to be one of Rio’s most scenic points overlooking the neighborhoods of Leblon and Ipanema with clear views of the Christ Statute and of Rio’s picturesque mountain landscapes. On the descent the tour will stop at Chácara do Céu’s football field where adults and children frequently hold organized soccer games and barbecues. The approximate tour time is one hour. Chácara do Céu is ideal for weekend visits and tours which is when you are most likely to find residents making maximum use of the recreational spaces and community spaces that the favela has to offer.

2.) Vidigal Favela 

Vidigal overlooks the neighborhoods of Leblon and Ipanema beaches. It is located in the "Zona Sul" neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro between two high-end neighborhoods of Leblon and Sao Conrado. Vidigal is emblematic of Rio's challenging contrasts. With spectacular sea views and easy access to the Zona Sul beaches, Vidigal has been a thriving cultural center since the 1980's. With a little help from Brazilian oil company Petrobras the 'Nos dos Morro' (We of the Hill) theater group has grown into a major hub for aspiring actors from the favela. A number of students from the Nos dos Morro acting school have gone on to star in feature films and popular novelas, most notable of all being the internationally acclaimed City of God film. Leading up to the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympic Games, Vidigal was "pacified" by Rio's newly formed UPP (Police Pacifying Union) which now maintain an active policing presence in the community. 

According to the 2010 official government census, Vidigal has a population of approximately 13,000 residents. However, Brazilian government population counts for favelas are notorious for their under counts. A visit to Vidigal will easily demonstrate that the community's population is in the tens of thousands and possibly exceeds 100,000 residents. The tour of Vidigal will take you to the top of the hill to visit some of the favela's newest and trendiest bar/restaurants including Mirante do Vidigal and Bar da Laje. On the way down the hill, the tour will make stops at Vidigal Vila Olimpica where the municipal government along with companies like Nike and Samsung sponsored the development of a multi-use outdoor recreational facility with a track, soccer field, and playground. The tour will also make stops at Vidigal's Ecological Park where local residents have turned local waste into a beautiful landscaped garden using a number of discarded items such as tires and appliances. The tour of Vidigal is approximately 2 hours in duration and provides visitors with plenty of photo opportunities and engagement with local residents.

3.) Parque da Cidade:

Located between the neighborhood of Gavea and the favela Rocinha, Parque da Cidade is another close-knit, small favela with little turnover in residency. The municipal park, Parque da Cidade, is adjacent to the favela which is how the favela acquired its name. With under 5,000 residents the favela is comprised of one central commercial strip and a labyrinth of residential alleyways (becos). During the tour, visitors will be able to walk through the very center of the favela’s commercial corridor and see the diversity of shops that cater to the residents’ needs: from barbershops, to clothing shops, cafes, and electronics, and more. The tour will take you through the residential alleyways to see the quaint and colorful homes, engage local residents, on the way to the ‘top of the hill’ where you can see remarkable views of the Gavea neighborhood and the famous Rio lagoon (lagoa). 

The visit includes a stop at a local residence rooftop (laje) at the very top of the community. On the descent the tour will walk through the adjacent actual parque da cidade, a large municipal park, for more photo opportunities and for experiencing Rio’s public parks. While in the park the tour will make a stop at the Museu da Cidade (Museum of the City) which has recently been renovated and is located inside of the park. The approximate tour time is one hour. Parque da Cidade favela and the high-end residential neighborhood of Gavea are in such close proximity that the locations seem to be part of each other. Perhaps nowhere else in Rio is the line between upper class neighborhood and favela so fused together as to seem to be one.

4.) Rocinha

Rocinha is considered the largest favela in Brazil with approximately 300,000 people residing in a space of 89,000 square meters of space. Rocinha is situated in a convenient location for the residents as its surrounded by two of the richest neighborhoods in Rio being Sao Conrado and Gavea. Many from Rocinha work in these noble areas doing any kind of domestic work including housekeepers, drivers, pool cleaners or gardeners. From the top of the community there will be photo opportunities.

After leaving Parque da Cidade community you will arrive about 10 minutes after to the top of Rocinha. The visit will include a full explanation in regards to the history of favelas, Rocinha and their role in Brazilian society. Also covered are subjects such as education, health care, transportation in the community, home ownership, electricity, water distribution and controls, the mail system, community activism and governance and of course problems within the community like sanitation, lack of leisure spaces for the residents and the drug trade.

You will have the chance to walk through 10 of the 26 sub neighborhoods of Rocinha. You will get to see the main street full of activity, the new development of street number 4, many of the tight alleyways where 90% of the population lives and the tour will descend walking through the commercial district where many of the over 6500 businesses thrive. The visit ends with a stop at Trapia, one of best places to eat in the community.

 The best views from the top of Rocinha
 Net Rocinha (legalized internet) working on updating cables in Rocinha 
 Paula Brito neighborhood and school (White and blue trim building)
 Visitors to Rocinha will get to meet locals like traffic director Caio. 
 A stop of at a local daycare is an option on this visit.
Everybody loves animals!
 Guests meeting "Rambo da Rocinha", a local celebrity.
Visitors playing football with the local kids.

 Walking through many of the tight alleyways is always of interest
 Alexandra a 10 year old girl who creates art with recycled materials
 One of our guests making friends with a local furry friend
Ending the tour at Trapia Social, our favorite 24 hour restaurant.

For more information about this tour or any others, please visit our website at: or contact us at
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