Sunday, July 4, 2010

An inside look at a Rio favela

More times than I can count travelers pop up on travel boards I lurk on looking for assistance about taking a tour of the favelas in Rio. Almost universally I speak against this type of “sight seeing” as I find the idea condescending and exploitative of the residents of these poor neighborhoods.

I recall with distaste tour buses in San Francisco circling through the gay Castro neighborhood, with tourists’ noses and cameras pushed against the windows, looking for sightings of queer locals.

But there are some tour companies here supported by the residents which give proceeds back to community groups. It’s your call.

As an alternative, I have found a collection of photos taken by child residents of Rocinha, the largest favela in Rio, housing more than 250,000 residents. Nat Friedman, the artist behind this project, distributed disposable cameras to 32 kids. In the end he got back 26 with a total of 632 images.

For those who wish to get an inside view of everyday life in a Rio favela (without the sensationalized focus on depravity and violence) I encourage you to visit Nat Friedman’s site and click on the images posted to see the complete set from each child.

Understandably these are images of the children themselves and their family and friends, and not the surrounding architecture, etc. But then – that’s what makes them such a personal take on everyday life.

Tell me what you think.

Again - all of these images are from Nat Friedman's project in Rio.


Rachel said...

I strongly agree with you about the tours! From what I heard, the money does not go to community groups or schools. It goes to drug dealers. Who knows now that the drug dealers have left.

The photo project was a genius! Good for everyone involved. I love the pictures you posted! I saw a Brazilian documentary once about the real life in Rocinha. I can't remember the name for the life of me right now. It was done around the time City of God came out. It was an attempt to show that the people inside the favela are not all bad guys, but real people with real lives. It was amazing.

Ray Adkins said...


I agree with you, I think it is of poor taste to visit poor areas as a tourist.
When you go somewhere you are supposed to visit the beauty of the place and not the poverty and tragedy faced by so many.
It would be very similar if tourists decided to visit poor parts of the Bronx, inner suburbs of Toronto such as the former cities of North York, York and East York or parts of Scarborough, Ontario, some poor areas of Boston and it's falling a part triple deckers, the south suburbs of Dallas with high crime and deep poverty or visit the hospitals of Philadelphia that are used to train doctors in route to Iraq on how to treat bullet wounds once the Philadelphia Hospitals receive an average of 100 bullet wounded victims per night...the list could go on and on, Miami, Lost Angeles, homeless tent cities in St. Petersburg, FL.

All tragedies, most very well hidden and disguised, all poverty stricken areas, not at all a good idea to be visited and or exploited...


GingerV said...

great post.

Elena B. said...

Thanks for sharing the photo project, I love that idea. Those photos actually mean something because they are taken by the children as a way of showing their lives, rather than an outsider taking photos of 'otherness.' I don't know much about them, but my feeling is to agree with you about the favela tours.

lifeinrocinha said...


I think it is iressponsible to post something that you "heard" from somebody else.

As a resident of a favela, I find it insulting that you would think that tour companies pay drug dealers. I live in Rocinha and know this what you wrote is a complete lie!

In Rocinha, the biggest favela, WHERE I LIVE, nobody pays the drug dealers everything. Most of the tour companies do contrbute something, it may not be much, but its something..

but I know for a fact that the companies DO NOT pay drug trafickers to ensure safety or anything else like that..

people need to stop writing stuff they know little about or repeated gossip! Its insulting to we who live here!

Just becase somebody is from Brazil, does not mean they know about favelas, unless they are from one or live in one. To ask a midle class Brazilian, they probly spread this stuff becase they have "favela shame"..

I have no shame to live in the favela. Actualy I am very happy here.

"proud favela resident"

lifeinrocinha said...

i mean to say..the tour companies do not pay the drug dealers ANYTHING..not (everything)