favela

Latin Americanist Lunch: “Twenty-Five Years of Favela Tourism: Continuities, Changes, and Challenges”

 

After attending Professor Jamie Alves’ talk on racial discrimination and the ‘Zone of Nonbeing’, I was very intrigued to learn more about Brazil. Favela’s have garnered a lot of media attention from features in movies and television shows, to photos of children gazing from the Favela’s at the fireworks illuminating the sky during the closing ceremony of the Olympic games. I find the fascination with Favelas, which is simply a Portuguese term for slum, to be intriguing and I wanted to understand how tourism was affecting this community.

Professor Bianca Freire-Medeiros is a native of Sao Paolo, Brazil, and although she did not grow up in the Favela’s she has witnessed their evolution into a tourist attraction and what that means for those living in these slums. Typically, Favelas are inhabited by poorer Afro-Brazilians and drugs and crime tend to run rampant. However, there is an extreme juxtaposition of how Favela’s are, and how they are portrayed in the media. For example, there are ‘Favela Chic’ clubs in Europe which romanticizes this slums into blissful environments filled with smiles, laughter, and of course Carnival. To make matters worse, Favela inspired chairs can be sold for £6,000, highlighting the disparity between those who actually live in the Favelas’ and others who are glorifying it as a new travel ‘experience’.

During the end of the presentation Professor Freire-Medeiros took several questions and there was one that allowed Professor Freire-Medeiros to solidify her point. One of the students mentioned that he was from Peru and when he went to visit Brazil he went and took a Favela tour because he wanted to understand why they were so special, and what made them different from the slums of his country. He revealed to us that the Favelas of Brazil, where no different from the slums of Peru, increasing his confusion in their growing popularity. To this Professor Freire-Medeiros respectively questioned him on why he even needed to see the Favela’s in the first place, they are just people like you and I, sure some of them are poor but they still live, they still engage in activities. She challenged us to break this stigma of enhancing the Favelas to be seen as ‘other’ or ‘superior’ let people live, and stop treating ordinary situations, as chances for us to investigate or explore ‘the unknown lives of the poor’.

This presentation was unique and informative, detailing the exploitative nature of Favela tourism and why it needs to end. My only questions for Professor Freire-Medeiros are: 1.) how can we dispel the curiosity surrounding the Favelas without leaving a negative impact on the market created by Brazilian citizens? And 2.) What are signs that indicate a new community, or group is about to be used as a display prop, and how can we counteract this measure once we recognize it is happening?

 

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