WORLD

Slum’s great, wish you were here

ALEXANDRA SHIMO June 30 2008
WORLD

Slum’s great, wish you were here

ALEXANDRA SHIMO June 30 2008

Slum’s great, wish you were here

ALEXANDRA SHIMO

Rio de Janeiro: a city known for its Carnivale, the statue of Christ the Redeemer and Copacabana beach. Now, for thrill-seeking tourists looking for something a little more gritty, a Brazilian tour company offers a truly sordid experience: the chance to visit armed drug dealers. For $55, Private Tours offers a four-hour tour of Rocinha, the city’s largest favela, or slum. Part of the package includes a visit to the “bocas de fumo,” a popular spot where Rio residents go to buy their cocaine. According to tourist accounts, the gangsters are pretty friendly and are happy to give the lowdown on their lives as drug dealers, or even pose for photos, complete with bags of powder and Russian machine guns, as long as their faces are not shown.

This latest, if bizarre, addition to Rio’s tourism trade builds on a growing interest from tourists in experiencing the seedy underbelly of a society where they are vacationing. In the 1980s, guidebooks suggested ways to sneak a peek at the favelas without actually going in. By the 1990s, tour companies began offering visitors the chance to talk to locals, visit social projects and buy art from “authentic” Brazilians.

The latest tour takes it one stage further, thoroughly into the realm of the extremely dangerous or totally tasteless, depending on one’s viewpoint. However, the tours may not last. Brazilian state tourism secretary Ruben Medina has said Private Tours may be stripped of its licence and shut down after a report in a Brazilian national newspaper revealed what was going on. Take a drug tour, while they last. M