The Globalization of poverty tourism. The favela carioca as a touristic destination

Term Paper, 2014

32 Pages, Grade: 1,0


Table of content

1 Intrdoction

2 Poverty toursim and ethic debats
2.1 The connection between poverty and tourism
2.2. Favela tourism and ethic debates

3 History and development of Rio's favelas
3.1. Multiplicity and diversity of the favela
3.2. Development of Rio's favelas and favela politics

4 The different facets of the favela: stigmatization, segregation and crime vs. popular favela culture
4.1 Segregation and race
4.2 Favela brand, a globalized phenomenon

5 Favela tourism in Rio-what about ethics?
5.1. Favela carioca as a tourist destiny
5.2. Who visits the favela and why?
5.3. Tourism in the biggest favela of Rio
5.4 The voice of the Rocinha's Resident
5.5. Vantages and disadvantages of the favela tourism

6 Conclusion


1. Introduction

Rio de Janeiro is as beautiful ever and it's especially proud of its status as World Heritage Site. In this guide, Rio de Janeiro's City Hall presents all the marvels of a Marvelous City; all the events, beauty and wonders that gave Rio its nickname. The city is experiencing a unique moment that should be shared by one and all. Increasingly we have been hosting important international events in several different sectors. The World Cup and the Olympic Games are turning Rio into the sporting capital of the world. (…) Every day, Rio de Janeiro attracts more tourists, more investors, more businesses and more business professionals. The eyes of the world are on this city, blessed with its natural beauties and by Christ the Redeemer.1

This words from Eduardo Paes, Rio's Mayor emphasize the importance of the city's tourism even if it is one of the most violent cities n the world. One type of tourism is not mentioned: the poverty tourism and it is obvious that the favelas, urban illegal settlements are not mentioned in the tour guide, even if they are omnipresent in Rio. Poverty tourism is a complex and globalized phenomenon. I chose the location Rio de Janeiro for my research because of the peculiarity of its topography and history and because of a personal interest. Furthermore Rio's favelas have always been the focus of a more alternative type of tourism and due to the violence they have never been part of the traditional tourism. But since the movie Cidade de Deus (2002) the favelas as a touristic destination gained importance.

The purpose of this paper is the favela tourism in Rio de Janeiro, as a globalized phenomenon in the context of ethic debates. Is favela tourism good or bad? Is it ethical to gaze at poor people and to take pictures of their houses? Is poverty tourism exploitation? Do slum tours profit of the tour? Is the favela tourism in the favor of the community? In the case of Rio: does the favela tourism help to integrate the favelas into the former city? First I will present the beginning of the poverty tourism and its development in chapter 2.1. and in 2.2. I will give an introduction to the most important aspects of the ethic debates .To understand the favela tourism it is inevitable to know the historical, social, cultural and political background. Therefore in chapter 3.1. I will explain the term tourism and the different favela types and in 3.2. the development of the illegal settlements and the favela politics. As an example for povety tourism I chose the favela Rocinha because it its the biggest favela of Rio and because of the high number of visitors.

In chapter 4.1. I will talk about the issue segregation and race that is linked to the rights of the favela residents. Than in 4.2. I will write about the favela as a brand because it is one factor because the favela tourism became so popular.

In the main part of the paper (chapter 5) I will analyze the favela tourism in Rio: in 5.1. I will talk about general facts of Rio's favela tourism and in 5.2. the questions is: Who visits the favela and why? In 5.3. I will describe Rocinha as the most important favela tourism destination and how the tour operator promotes it, to convince the tourists to visit a dangerous and violent neighborhood.

As it is always necessary to investigate both sides, I will portray the opinion of Rocinha's residents regarding to the favela tourism (5.4.) and the advantages and disadvantages for their community.

The ultimate goal is to give an overview about the advantages and disadvantages of the favela tourism in general and to think about possible solutions (5.5.). In conclusion I will summarize the most important points and results in the last chapter.

2. Poverty tourism and ethic debates

2.1. The connection between poverty and tourism

Poverty can be framed as a consumption product through tourism at a global level. A lot of socialists, philosophers and scientists has thought about how it is possible to end poverty. Wealth grows as at the same time poverty grows. Furthermore the exclusion poor people grows. But how is poverty connected to tourism?

A new word found his way into the travel discourse: poorism. The term poorism refers to organized tours that principally brings the upper class and middle class people to poor neighborhoods or regions. Such programs exist for example in South America, USA, India and Netherlands.2

The origins of poverty tourism can be traced back to 1884 when the term slumming it first was recognized by the Oxford English Dictionary. According to the UN-HABITAT (2007) the definition of the term is the following:

The term “slum” is used in the Report to describe a wide range of low-income settlements and poor human living conditions. A simple definition of a slum would be “a heavily populated urban area characterised by substandard housing and squalor”. This straightforward description reflects the essential physical and social features of slums, but more meat needs to be put on these bones.3

Furthermore it refers to the poorest quality of housing with lack of adequate sanitation, security, access to safe water. Also marginal activities such as crime and drug abuse is mentioned. However the UN HABITAT emphasizes that there is a wide range of low income settlements and not all residents suffer from the same degree of deprivation. The slum tourism started in neighborhoods such as Whitechapel in London or the Lower East Side in New York where tourists wanted to see how poor people lives. At this time these areas were considered the poorest neighborhoods but compared to the slums of major cities presently they were not necessarily extreme. There were no organized tourism strategies for poverty tourism for the next hundred years.

The poor areas were seen as dirty and unwelcome to big cities who tried to attract tourists and residents were afraid that tourists doesn't want to come to the cities. Governments invested money in slum clearance programs, into removing them from the city borders.4 In the 1980s tourists were attracted to the township tourism in South Africa because they wanted to learn more about the living conditions of the Africans and about the apartheid. The Kibera slum of Nairobi is one of the largest slums in the world and also considered to be the friendliest slum in the world for the positive attitude of the residents. Most visitors of this slum say that they feel touched after the tour and have gained a new understanding for poverty.5 In the 1990s the slum tourism in Brazil started what I would like to explain more detailed in chapter 5.1.and 5.2.

2.2 Favela tourism and ethic debates

There are a lot of conflicting discussions about the ethics behind slum tourism. As all kind of tourism has critics, also poverty tourism is criticized by the media and sociologists. British and American newspapers6 says that critics decry poorism as exploitative voyeurism.

David Fennel, the author of Tourism Ethics 7 takes a completely contrary view. The advocate of poverty tourism states that even between one and four percent of the profit of poorism goes back to the community, which turns them down into a product in the service of an industry. Moreover he criticize that human beings feel that they have the right to go anywhere on our planet as they have enough money.

Fennel explains three problems that other advocates of poorism had not paid attention to. The first problems refers to the intention of poverty tourism.

Fennel explains that altruism is not the responsible motivator for tourism but motives like greed, power and superiority. We can say that poorism is generally exploitative if this type of tourism further emphasizes the freedom of the tourist to go anywhere, any time and any price and the willingness of the service providers to capitalize at the expense of others.8 The second problem concerns distributive justice. Fennel draws our attention to the value of the financial assistance that poverty tourism provides. Locals may be forced to support poverty tour operators. Furthermore it is not possible to distribute the benefits between the members of the community and this inequalities would compromise the coehesion of the community.

The third issue concerns unintentionally evokes suffering. He asked whether misunderstandings could arise during poverty tours. The tourists risks to identify theirselfs beeing responsible for the poverty of the community and for the big gap between rich and poor.

According to Sellinger there are two different categories of poverty tourism critics: first the clearly specifiable practical difficulties and predicaments that have deeper subjective dimensions. The first category refers to initial justification and questions how can someone justify poverty tourism as a moral enterprise because they could also donate the funds they would have spent during the holidays to a charity organization.

The second difficulty of poorism critics concerns the impact of the tourists. It is complicated to measure the impact of poorism on the tourist. It is complicate to measure the impact even if an survey of tourists responses are given because it is unclear how the survey results would be judged.9

The third problem concerns to judge the impact of poorism on poverty. Poorism skeptics confirm that it may be true that financial benefits from poorism may help particular individuals but the poverty will rise. Instead of supporting poor people of the community buying inexpensive goods they propose to invest in education because only education could improve their financial situation.

The fourth difficulty refers to the intention of the tourists. Skeptics ask whether the motivation of the tourists is to increase awareness of global misery or they just want experience a new adventure so that they can impress on party small talks. The poorism tour operators attract the tourists with the promise of an authentic and real experience. The fiths problem concerns the intention of the tour guide. The tourist cannot be sure that the benefits go to the community and not to the personal finances.

Furthermore the poorism tourist cannot be assured that the visited slums or areas visited were not selected over alternatives because representatives from that area cut a special deal with the tour operator.

The sixth problems concerns the danger that promoting poverty tours could be interpreted as legitimating other more morally problematic forms of tourism.

According to a News article from BBC some Jewish settlers have offered special terror tours of Gaza and the West Bank. In this terror tours tourists receive training in weapon use, can observe Palestinian terror enclaves from a helicopter and at the end of the tour a paintball fight is simulated. Of course this kind of tourism raises questions about evoking prejudices instead of improving one's world view.10 The seventh's difficulty that Fenell mentions concerns the problem of profit. The advocate questions whether poorism tours should be entirely non-profit or is it morally permissible for tour operators to earn money. Fennel draws our attention to the fact that although one part of the tour money is given to the community it is a big difficulty for a tour operator to make a moral case for this activity. The eight difficulty refers to the informal consent. Fennel ask if the poverty tourists can be sure if the people of the community want to be observed.

The last difficulty that Fennel mentions concerns the educational factor of poverty tours.

Tourists have preexisting conceptions of culture, race, history, economics and justice. As poverty tourism is not a regulated industrial sector we have to ask what guarantee do tourists have that the tour guides can provide appropriate background information about the community and its residents.11

3 . History and development of the Rio's favelas

3.1. Multiplicity and diversity of the favela

Poverty is a deriative and variable characteristics of ghettos: The fact that many ghettos have historically been places of endemic and often acute misery owing to the paucity of space, the density of settlement, and the economic restrictions and statutory maltreatment of their residents does not imply that a ghetto is necessarily a place of destituition, nor that it is uniformly deprived.12

Most Brazilians do not like to hear the favelas mentioned, that was what I experienced when I traveled the first time to Rio de Janeiro in 2013. A lot of cariocas 13 are afraid to enter a favela and describe them as dirty, dangerous and primitive.

But what exactly means favela ? And what exactly makes them different from the cidade ? To respond to these questions adequately, we need to consider the historical and political background but also the ideological dimension of the definition urban space. According to Vargas space is produced and reproduced by social relations.

Social relations are determined by power differentials and urban space is linked to history, social hierarchies etc. Therefore we need to focus on the spatial practice of a society to understand how power differentials determine the social construction of favelas. To analyze and to understand the dimensions of urban space implies remembering how hegemonical concepts (hierarchy, privileges and exclusions) are related to urban space. The concept of favela has historical, social, political and racial meanings which differ from the fact of who dominates the favela.14

Moreover we have to be careful not to generalize the term favela because it would lead to homogenization and prejudices. The term favela is quite complex and it is linked to geographic, social and ethnic markers. Moreover there are regional variations of this term across the country. The term may also refer to the favela residents positive identification with their neighborhood.

There is a homogenization tendency in international debates which tends to subsume the favela as a slum, comparing it to other so called slum settlements all over the world.15 Also Mc Bryann emphasizes that favelas are not slums. The term favela is a local language term for slum that describes a variety of neighborhoods. The fist favela was built when poor soldiers with former slaves and their children settled hillsides near Rio's commercial center in the last years of the nineteenth century. One part of this favela was settled by soldiers who returned from a campaign in the backlands of Canudos, in the northeastern Brazil.

The term favela derives from the name for a hardy weed that grews around Canudos.16

There are also synonyms for favela: morro (literal translation hill) and corti ç o (box). The term communidade is a general term that is frequently used for slums . 17 Moreover we can distinguish in general between four types of slums: favelas (squatter settlements), cortiços, loteamentos irregulares ou clandestinos (illegal subdevisions) and invasões (invasions).

In many parts of Rio de Janeiro the favelas occupy empty areas, especially in the western zone. Public or common areas are often occupied by some housing estates and loteamentos. Frequently throughout Rio the types of illegal houses are mixed and it is also often very difficult to recognise the boundaries.18

Favelas can be defined as highly consodilated invasions of public or private land with self-build developed by the poor on lands lacking infrastructure and without following any kinds of plans. They exist in large numbers and are spread across the city.19

In 1996 the Municipal Planning Institute recorded a total number of 605 favelas in the city. Furthermore the favelas occupy 6,3 % of the total territory of Rio.

The loteamentos are: illegal subdivisions of land that lack infrastructure and do not comply with planning rules, but normally have some kind of urban physical order. They are considered irregular when have been submitted submitted to the planning authorities but have not complied with the legal urban requirements, and clandestine when have not been submitted to the planning authority at all.20

The term invas õ es (invasions) concerns the irregular occupation of public or private land that is still in the process of consodilation. This kind of illegal housing takes place in environmentally fragile areas such as riverbanks, swamps and hills or in areas of public infrastructure: besides roads and motorways or under bridges.

The last type of illegal housing is called corti ç os: Social housing formed by one ore more buildings located in a single plot or shared rooms in a single building. The rooms are rented or sub-leased without any contract or legal basis. The dwellers share bathrooms, kitchen and laundry, and sometimes, electrical applicances. Houses lack power ventilation and lighting, are frequently overcrowded and one room may house many people and accommodate different uses. Services are deficient and do not have adequate maintance required for good working and security.21

Also the author McCann agrees that there are different categories of illegal neighborhoods and complete that there is no typical favela. A popular brazilian saying is "Cada favela é um mundo" (each favela is a world).22

Moreover there exist favelas which have been termed neofavelas because they have medical service, schools, their own newspaper, radio etc.

Some favela residents earn more money than an average houshold in many regions of North-East Brazil. There also differences within a favela: in Rocinha, one of the most biggest favela of Rio there exist several small favelas inside Rocinha.23 The variation of illegal housings make clear that favelas are not defined by a clear set of physical characteristics but defined by their history and development.

3.2. Development of Rio's favelas and favela politics

Favelas began as unserviced and unplanned settlements arriving from an informal real estate market and progressed through years of diversification and consolidation.

The emergence of the slum as a form of urban settlement in Rio de Janeiro is linked to the housing crisis of the 19th century and political crisis such as the Armed Revolt (1894-1895) and the War of Canudos (1896-1897). According to Mauricio Abreu, the occupation of the Santo Antônio and Providência hill was by order of the government, to house soldiers returning from these military campaigns.24

Even by the beginning of the slum settlement in Rio two factors that would shape slum expansions were already established. First the formal housing sector was not well structured to provide housing for the working class and poor residents, second the owners of informal housings started to control the access to their terrain and gain profit of it. While the first factor always has been clear, the second factor is more subtle. Informal landlords have started to control over unoccupied land to extract rents from the poor people in exchange for permission to build a house or occupy space.25

In 1927 a Remodeling Plan of Rio de Janeiro called Agache Plan, which was not put in practice, was developped by the urbanist Alfred Agache. The purpose had been to transform Rio into a monumental-type city. The Agache Plan was the first document that mentioned the issue slum. In this decade slums were viewed as an aesthetic and social problem and where the only solution would be to eliminate the favelas. In 1937 the Building Code of the city recognizes the slums officially and with and the purpose was the elimination of the favelas and the construction of new residences was prohibited.26

When the Estado Novo governmen (1937-1946) ended, official discourse began to treat the favela as a fundamental problem due to the rapid growing up and the fear that favela residents would not resist the communist temptation. During the 60th there were a lot of government and academic studies were dedicated to find a solution to the favela problem in parliamentary commissions, legislative projects and the image reflected in the medias.27 After he military dictatorship that took power in Brazil in 1964 and ended in 1985, the conflicts intensified. During this period the military declared the obligatory removal of illegal settlements. The millitary removed eight slums and expelled almost 140.000 favela residents from the hills. U.S. Organizations supported the military financially. As consequence more slums were destroyed to make room for industrial and real estate expansions.28

Between 1962 and 1974 80 favelas were destroyed completely and more than 140.000 favelados expelled from their illegal homes. Only later on politicians became reasonable and decided that they should create a human future.

The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) supported the urbanization project with 600 million dollars and 250 million were invested by the Brazilian government29 Between 1968 and 1973 the number of small favelas increased 74 % and the number of the favelados grew 36,5 %. A lot of favelas were located to the middle- and upperclass neighborhoods like Leblon, Ipanema and Copacabana.

During the 80s the police actions against the favela inhabitants started to be repressed and thanks to several programs the basic infrastructure of the favela were created.30 If the favela areas were not legal settlement that appeared on the maps the consequence was that the government of Rio de Janeiro was not responsible for introducing public transport, education, healthcare or organizing cultural activities. The first time when the communidades gained infrastructure and rights was in the 70th.31

The Master Plan for the city of Rio was formulated in 1992 and the purpose was to integrate the favelas into the legal neighborhoods.

From 1994 to 2000, the Favela-Neighborhood program of Rio tried also to integrate the slums into the rest of the city through works which involved access to urban facilities, furniture, sanitation and urbanization. Unfortunately the results of this plan were limited by several factors, especially by armed criminal groups in the favelas.

The favela residents felt ignored by the state government and were obligated to create their own rules. Of course the absence of police and laws had extreme consequences. Criminal groups, most of them armed drug traffickers dominated the areas and the violence grew. Acts of violence were not only restricted to the favela areas- the violence spilled over from the favelas and started to disturb many different actors from society.32 Only at the beginning of the 21 st century a new law were introduced that turned favela residents into owners of their land.33 In 2008 the government started a Pacification program called Growth Acceleration Program, (PAC).34

4. The different facets of the favela, stigmatization, segregation and crime vs. popular favela culture

4.1.Segregation and race

How did such negatives connotations of the favela become so dominant? How became the favelados linked to negative images?

By portraying the favela culture in literature and movies the favelas of Rio de Janeiro have acquired a public image in which they represent these urban settlements throughout Brazil. Therefore a simultaneously and homogenizatized and stigmatized image of the favelas is produced.35 In this chapter I would like to discuss the negative connotations of the favela, as well the cultural aspects how the favela became a trade mark. To understand adequately the link between urban space and poverty we have to consider the topography of Rio de Janeiro, because the link between poverty and race occur differently in different areas. Urban sociologists have observed that topography is the keyelement that leads to the heterogeneity of residential segregation.

The proximity between favela areas and middle- or upperclass-neighborhoods explains often the high percentage of urban violence and fear of crime in the media and in the popular imagination.36

For a lot of time the social and racial segregation between the favela residents and the rest of Rio's population were not always clear and visible but nowadays due to the rolezinhos the segregation became visible-not only in Brazil, also on an international level. Rolezinho means stroll and refers to the phenomenon that boys gangs hanging out in the shopping malls and having fun there.

Since last year in december the Rolezinhos gained international attention, after one rolezinho ended by the prohibition of entering a shopping mall in São Paolo. But there were not only rolezinhos going on in São Paolo, also in Rio de Janeiro, mostly in Leblon, where a luxury mall is located. For not-Brazilians it must sound surprising that 82 % of São Paolo inhabitants are against the rolezinhos.

Just a few month before the World Cup the protests are going on, so the question is: What lies behind the rolezinhos? Many newspapers reported that the rolezinhos are a kind of demonstration and others, on of them The Economist says that the kids just want to have fun.37

In the research of Dr. Lucia Scalco and Rosana Pinheiro-Machado from 2009 the attention was drawn to the status of consumption in the Brazilian's society and the social inclusion in the context of extreme poverty. In the center of research are the strategies of young people, how the acquire their desired products. Especially in developing countries consumption is the key point for understanding poverty and the concept of the new middle- class in Brazilians society.

The motivations of the young boys from the favela is mainly to dress up, having fun, checking out the new brands and impressing the girls with wearing brands. Many of these boys make a great effort to buy the brands: they work or buy second-hand- clothes. Even if most of the kids don't want to scare people the shop owners were frightened that the kids would steal something.

But for some, the rolezinho was more than just fun - one boy told me he wore the best clothes and brands so he could go to the mall and be seen as a citizen, as a human being. In other words, through clothing these young people are trying to solve a deep tension regarding the visibility of their existence.38

A lot of costumers of the shopping center don't like that favelados dresses up with brands because they don't want to be compared to them:

“we are embarrassed by this appropriation phenomenon of our brand by those thugs”. When I played “Material Goods”, a funk song produced in the peripheries that worships expensive brands, to a class of students in Brazil, one person from the upper social layers commented: “when we see the dude all geared up, branded logo printed and all, we can already tell it’s a favelado nigger39

Moreover a lot of people say that it is ridiculous that poor people buy goods, such as televisions, because they should rather focus on nutriutional requirements. Pinheira- Machado sees the act of going to the shopping centers also as a political one, because the favela kids wants to go to places and to acquire goods that the Brazilian society denies the.


1 Rio Ruide (2003). Rio Pefeitura, page 3

2 Delic, M. Jacqueline ( 2011): Trends in Slum Tourism. School of Hospitality and Tourism Management. University of Guelph. page 2


4 Ibid., page 2-3

5 Ibid., page 3

6 The Observer (British newspaper); Newsweek (American newspaper)

7 The book tourism ethics (2006) describes the moral concepts and issues of tourism through research from many different disciplines including psychology, geography, biology and philosophy)

8 Selinger, Eva (2009): Ethics and Poverty tours. In: PPPQ, Vol. 29., N ° 1,2. Washington DC: George Mason University, page 3

9 Ibid., page 4

10 Ibid., page 4

11 Ibid., page 5

12 Loic Wacquant (2013) “A Janus-Faced Institution of Ethnoracial Closure. A Sociological Specification of the Ghetto.” In: Petersen, Hans-Christian (ED.) Spaces of the poor. Perspectives of Cultural Sciences on Urban Slum Areas and their Inhabitants. Bielefeld: transcript Verlag., page 28, line 9-13

13 Inhabitants of Rio de Janeiro.

14 Costa Vargas, João H. (2006): When a Favela Dares to become a Gated Condominium: The Politics of Race and Urban Space in Rio de Janeiro. In: Latin American Perspectives, Vol. 33, No.4, Race and Equality in Brazil: Cultural and Political Dimensions. USA: Sage Publications, page 59 and 60.

15 Rial, Gundo and Costas (2011): Spaces of insecurity? The “ favelas ” of Rio de Janeiro between stigmatization and glorification. Frankfurt: Vervuert Verlag., page 116

16 McCann, Bryan (2014): Hard Times in the Marvelous City: From Dictatorship to Democracy in the Favelas of Rio de Janeiro. Durham: Duke University Press, page 22.

17 Nacif Xavier, Magalhães ( 2003): The case of Rio de Janeiro. Understanding Slums In: Case Studies for the Global Report 2013 (UN-HABITAT). London: Developing Planing Unit, page 14.

18 Ibid., page 8.

19 Ibid., page 8, line 40-45.

20 Ibid., page 8, line 14-21

21 Ibid., page 8, line 27-37

22 McCann (2014), page 25

23 Gundo Rial and Costas (2011), page 116

24 Caixeta Carvalho, Fernanda and Damasio Silva, Flavia (2012) : Toursim and slums: A study about Favela Santa Marta and the role of the Pacification Police Units in Rio de Janeiro. In: Revista de Arquitetura e Urbanismo de Proarq. Volume 19. Rio de Janeiro: Cadernos Proarq, page 5, line 1-6

25 Ibid.

26 Ibid.

27 Freire-Modeiros (2009), page 581

28 Ibid.

29 Davis, page 60

30 Freire-Modeiros, (2009), page 581

31 Williams, Clare, page 492

32 Caixeta Carvalho (2012), page 6

33 Gundo Rial and Costas (2011), page 118

34 I will explain the Pacification Program in the next chapter.

35 Ibid., page 115

36 Costas Vargas (2006), page 65.

37 Pinheiro-Machado (2014): Rolezinhos' : youth and segregation in Brasil.

38 Ibid.

39 Ibid.

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The Globalization of poverty tourism. The favela carioca as a touristic destination
University of Applied Sciences Fulda  (Sozial-und Kulturwissenschaften)
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Rio de janeiro, favela, favela carioca, slums, poor people, poverty tourism, exploitation
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Carina Zimmermann (Author), 2014, The Globalization of poverty tourism. The favela carioca as a touristic destination, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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