I often get people asking me to address certain questions so I will post them here for others to see.
1.) How did you get the idea of working in tourism and what were the first steps?
If you were to ask me 10 years ago about working as a guide, I would have thought you were crazy. I ended up in this by accident and the encouragement of others. I remember in the early 2000's seeing tourists here but never really understood what was going on until somebody explained it to me. I always thought it strange of outsiders coming to see us and how we live. But I was also curious because with their coming here, apparently the favela had some sort of value for them.
I often had people in the favela say to me, "Zezinho, you should be a tour guide, you love Rocinha so much and you would represent our favela in a good way". This made me think but I had to do more thinking about what actually these guides do. Where are they from? Where do they get their information? in 2007, I was working up selling my t-shirts in the art stalls and I over heard a tour guide who is not from Rocinha give incorrect information about the community. This immediately upset me and I repeated to the other artists what this guide said and it was the start of something. I was angered that an outsider could come inside our favela and tell lies about us. How can they do this? and why?
Selling my t-shirts at the top of Rocinha before I became a tour guide full time!
So, I started seriously thinking about how I could become a guide who can show the favela in an honest way. I already knew a lot about living here but I wanted to get more history about Rocinha and details about the public services and growth of the community. I went on a few tours with other guides from the favela but I felt their tours were rushed and not as much details given. I wanted something different.
I had seen the Jeep tours, the van tours which seemed distant and no connection to the place. I overheard one guide, not from Rocinha, tell a group of tourists, NOT to talk to the locals. WTF??? This was one thing I would definately change. I know a lot of people here and promote interaction between the tourists and the locals. This creates more of a friendly experience and showing the favela in a friendly way. The idea is to make a visit to the favela, rather than a tour. I want my guests to be relaxed and feel welcome in the place that I love.
I spoke to many elders, friends, family about life experiences in Rocinha. I went to the CEDAE building and asked them when the water pumping station was built. I asked about when the main road was asfalted and when the electricity came and much more. In the beginning if I didnt know the answer to something I would write down the question and find out the answer and send the tourist the accurate answer. I hated not knowing something but I didnt want to give false information either.
I first started off showing friends around the community as a test run. I did this for about 6 months. I found the routes that fit everybody's fitness level and set out on perfecting my spots of where I would stop and talk to the guests. In the favela sidewalks and alley ways are tight spaces, so I would try to find more open spaces to have discussions. The first thing is respect of my fellow residents. I did not want my guests to in anyway inhibit residents ability to do something. So, I always find enough room to keep everybody happy. The second thing in terms of respect is about photographs and what people can take pictures of. Most people dont want to feel like an animal in a zoo. I know if I had people sticking a camera in my face, I would be suspect too. Now with the internet, people are more concerned with their image being plastered on some strange website.
In 2008, things started forming nicely. I had still been going back and forth to the US for work and when I was in Rocinha, I was still selling t-shirts and would make about 2 tours a week. I was surviving. I learnedfrom many people both in Rocinha and the US about how to market, getting an identity online. In early 2009 was the year I finally had enough money to get a website. I had a basic website made and I spread the word quickly about my plan.