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City of God: Rio Favela Slum Tour

by Jason B. on December 16, 2008

I spent some time in Rio De Janeiro and one the most memorable experiences was walking around a favela with a Rio Favela Slum Tour. Favelas are the shantytowns usually on hilltops where the land is considered unsafe and the settlements are illegal. The movie City of God is about life in a Rio Favela, if any of you have seen it.

My purpose in posting this is to share a unique experience. I do not think the drug lords are good guys. I posted this believing there is a general acknowledgment that people who kill are bad and so I focused on why the residents and its drug lords make Rocinha such an interesting place. They do this through creating their own sense of order. But this entire topic can be a bit touchy as favela life is not so simple. I am not making any moral claims…just showing my brief experience with Rio Favelas. For a great detailed explanation you can read this article.
http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa…tBody;col1

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We began the tour at the bottom of the favela where we hopped on the back of some motorcyle taxis to ride to the top of the favela, a city within a city of more than 200,000 people.

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We exited and were met with this monstrosity. Apparently most people just make there own tappings on to the overhead lines for electricty.

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The water is also turned on every 3 hours so that people who can not afford water can fill up for free.

The favela we visited, Rocinha, is the largest favela in Rio and we were told was run by different gangs involved in drugs.

We began our walk down the narrow alleys.
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Visited a neat art studio
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Some kids banging on cans for some extra money
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Our group walking single file down the streets
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I have no idea what this girl was on about?

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Dinner!

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As you can see I made some nice friends

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Chickens running amok
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Kites were pretty popular. children flying kites used to be a common sight in the favelas as a way to communicate with drug dealers. They don’t need to rely on kites anymore, because they have cell phones, radios and firecrackers. Firecrackers are used as the first warning signal, which I heard once while we were there.

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Open sewers
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Corner Store

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Friendly Carioca

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This was an overall positive experience and a fascinating opportunity to see something completely different.

It didn’t end there though.

Another day I attended a July party with some friends and a woman we met through Couchsurfing. A July party is more of a traditional neighborhood block party with favela music. Everyone from the neighborhood goes to theirs, held in their neighborhood Samba school. They eat traditional food like Fejioa, drink capirinhas, and dance to live music.

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Still not over….

I led a group of 12 tourists into a favela to go to a big funk party in the favela. To give some perspective, tourists pay a tour company over $50 for this service.

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The sparklers always catch everyone’s attention, creating a fog that makes it nearly impossible to see 5 feet in front. At the same moment the DJ blasts the music even louder playing a series of catchy dance songs followed by Brasilian funk music.

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At one point during the night, the MC collects a mix of 20 people and stops the music. Each person is individually forced on stage and the MC forces each to put on a show. Some strip down to their panties and bra to perform the type of dance one expects in a go-go bar.

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My two favorite performances consisted of an awkward Irish guy forcefully grabbing the microphone from the MC to rap. In the middle of it all he falls flat on his face as he tries out a new dance move he events on the spot.

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Men dancing without shirts in their undies was a normal sight.

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So that is pretty much my experience with the favelas in Rio. If anyone has any questions I am happy to answer them.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Ben November 28, 2010 at 11:52 pm

So you would say that it is really safe for a gringo to go hangout and eat or do whatever in the Favella alone? rather then pay the tour group?

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Locationless Living November 29, 2010 at 4:37 pm

I wouldn’t advise doing that.

But I think as long as your plan is to take a taxi directly to wherever you are going (club for example) it would mean spending no more than a minute outside and I can’t see any reason why that would not be safe.

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