favela tourism as a means of reclaiming space

By Emily LeBaron 

some thoughts swirling around my head this morning:

emilylebaron_favela_tourismfrom what i’m hearing and seeing, favela residents in Alemao feel their communities have been invaded and taken over by UPP/BOPE forces. in this sense their daily experience is a military/political occupation, and a dispute over space. but while many external to the favleas see this as a dispute over territory between the cartels and the police, it seems that many favelados feel that their own right to the community is gone too. in other words, since the majority of favelados here have absolutely nothing to do with the drug trade, they did not feel like their community belonged to the cartels before pacification. but now, after pacification, they feel that their communities are being wrested from their control.

i’m starting to see that those who are involved in favela tourism in Alemao are not interested in “capitalizing” on their communities newfound “safety” due to the pacification, but rather many use tourism as a way of reclaiming their rights to their own communities. for instance, here, UPP patrol the streets at all hours of the day and night with their guns drawn. taking tourists into the favela is not only a way to educate others about the reality of the favelas and breakdown discriminatory boundaries by spreading this knowledge; it is also a way to show to the UPP that they are not afraid of them, and that it is their community to display and share with whomever they want, in whatever way they want. in this way, being a guide becomes an act of reclaiming space, a proving of agency, and an act of resistance.

Emily is a MA student at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver and is staying in Barraco #55 from 24 September until 21 October and researches the Pacification project and favela tourism.

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