Testimonials

Testimonials

 

What visitors are saying about Zezinho’s Favela Rocinha Tours:

** Guests to Rocinha have left their email addresses for a reason. If you have questions, feel free to email them and they will respond to your inquiries!

 

December 2012, yes we are still here making visits to our favela! I stopped putting up more testimonials because I think people understand our work and I dont think we need hundreds of testimonials.

 

Eva Brems & Family Belgium, Aprl 2013 Eva.Brems@ugent.be.
“I visited Rio with my husband and two sons (aged 10 and 12) in April 2013. I specifically wanted to show the children a favela, so that they would get a more balanced view about real life in Rio than they would get on the basis of Zona Sul. I chose this tour because it is the only one I found that is organized from within the favela and because it invests in projects with young people of the favela. As it happened, the favela tour with Zezinho was one of the highlights of our trip. We walked through Rocinha (just the four us with Zezinho) from top to bottom and had a great lunch at the end in a kilo restaurant. Meanwhile Zezinho explained to us everything we wanted to know about daily life there. He is a warm and knowledgeable guide, who truly loves his favela, and he speaks perfect English. There were absolutely no safety concerns, and people responded positively to our presence, greeting and chatting. I warmly advise this tour to all Rio visitors!
Eva Brems, professor of human rights law at Ghent University, Belgium and member of the Belgian parliament”
Warmest greetings from Belgium,
Eva

 

I did the tour with Zezinho and me and my friend (it was only the two of us!) spent the whole day in Rocinha. I enjoyed it tons and think that this is the absolutely best way to explore the favela. Zezinho knows a lot of people and he takes you to places in the favela that you probably would not see otherwise. He also lives there! It was an awesome day which made me come back 2 times! First for the baile-funk party where we had some drinks on Zezinho’s roof top with the most amazing view over the favela. And then I came to a capoeira class afew days after. That was also a great experience and I got to meet the most lovely people. Do not hesitate to book a tour with Zezinho!
Emma Larsson, Sweden Dec 2010
emmavoilarsson@gmail.com.

 

Zezinho doesn´t like when somebody use the term favela tour. He prefers to call it favela experience. And this is a real experience. Zezinho is somebody who knows his quarter very well because he lives there since his childhood. You can see that people friendly greet him. He has no problems to answer in details any possible questions about the life in this part of Rio de Janeiro. So when you visit Rocinha you don´t feel like in the safari.
tomas.nidr@mfdnes.cz.

 

Our day with Zezinho in Rocinha was an enriching cultural and social experience. Rocinha is a self organized society that is an inspiration for the rest of the world. 
People in Rocinha are hard working, inventive, friendly and helpful. Zezinho helps you to understand the favela lifestyle and is simply a great source of information.
He is real, tells you the truth without exaggerating or faking. A tour with Zezinho guarantees you of a personal experience in Rocinha. No big groups, always time to respond all your questions and even better: we just sat down on his roof terrace and talked for hours! Prejudgments (whatever those were) disappear the moment you step inside of the favela culture. 
Architecturallyit is a interesting place as well. The maze like structure is playful and brings interesting compositions. A day with Zezinho in Rocinha should definitely be on your things to do in Rio. Unforgettable experience, thanks a lot!
Caro Roos, Netherlands october 2010

 

“I was visiting Brazil in October 2010, staying in Rio de Janeiro on my own for two weeks. And although I was a little bit afraid, if it would be ok to be here all alone, I loved this city at first sight.
I found Zezinho by his website and I had the most amazing two days of my whole trip to Brazil!! Zezinho did not only take us (four people) to a great trip(six hours !) through Rocinha, he also introduced us to a lot of people, showed us where he lives and made it possible to feel comfortable.
But nearly the best thing: Next day I was able to spend another day with him and two of his great friends at the first gay parade in Rocinha!! There was dancing in the streets afterwards, great party!
I also liked the motor taxis, the food, the history of the place, the view and and and…
I am sure I am coming back here!
Thank you Zezinho for a great time!!
Frauke (Hamburg)”

 

Zezinho’s Tour was awesome, I was looking for a true, up-close and personal experience on what it feels like to live in Rocinha and that’s exactly what I got. I really felt like I was getting the true inside scoop and was more like visiting afriend and getting to walk in his shoes for a day to see what he has been up to and getting a tour of his favorite places in the neighborhood, meet his friends and eat some yummy food. People were so open and kind and Rocinha was beautiful in it’s own unique way.
He also was great about addressing any questions I had about safely and logistics before hand and once I got there I was so glad I made this tour happen. Hanging out with Zezinho was a treat for sure, he is very sincere about what he does and enjoyed a very insightful tour.
Thanks again for the great
tinafawad@hotmail.com.

 

On my recent visit to Brazil I had the pleasure of experiencing a tour of the Rocinha Favela, located in Rio. It was a full day tour and my tour guide Zezinho, was very knowledgeable as he is an actual resident of the favela. I came into the tour well knowing all the stigmas that are associated with the favelas of Brazil but I rarley let those affect me. I like to make my own mind up on things, so that being said I showed up on the day with an open mind and was ready to immerse myself in the history and the current workings of the favela. Zezinho was an great tour guide, he is very personal and was kind enough to introduce me to his friends and welcome me into his home. We sat on his rooftop and just chilled and chatted for a while before heading out to get some lunch. The eatery was clearly the most popular place in the favela just by the amount of patrons. Before we knew it, 6 hrs have gone by and it was time to head home.
This experience alone was one of my highlights of my Brazil trip. If anyone wants to really understand the workings of a Rocinha, there is no better way to experience it than with a true local. Yes, other companies to do tours here but I don’t believe they get to show you the actual core… what makes this community actually tick, and function. These tours are usually large groups that do the cliché 2-3 standard look out points which really only skims the surface… With Zezinho, the groups are small (max. 8 people), when I went it, it was just me and Ze. This way you really get to know how the heart and soul of the place. Yes there are always going to be negative activities associated with such place but what this tour has showed me is that the residents of the favela live a normal life, raise their families and go to work and trying to earn a living like everyone else.
Thank you Zezinho for a great day. I have no hesitation on recommending this tour for anyone. Don’t let the tattoos fool, Ze is a top bloke!
Paolo Valle
paolomvalle@gmail.com.
Australia

 

It is impossible to really get to know the amazing city of Rio de Janeiro within a few days – or even weeks or months. But what should definitely be part of your visit to Rio is a day in Rocinha. Preferably spent with Zezinho – he is from the community itself (which somehow seems to be a rare thing in favela tours), loves the place and its people and has a tremendous amount of information he can give you. Spending time with him wandering around the streets of Rocinha actually feels like hanging out with a really well-informed and hospitable friend. Zezinho doesn’t stick to a tight programme schedule, he won’t check his watch every minute – and you’ll have the time you need to explore one of the most fascinating places of the city.
Zezinho, thanks for a great day!
Nora Holzmann & RainerMostbauer
Vienna, Austria

 

Zezinho offers a complete tour of a significant place in Rio de Janeiro that you are not normally going to see. I came to Rio last year for my second visit. I met Zezinho for his tours. He is wonderfully “simpatico” and has complete charge of your entire time during the tour. I came to Rio as his guide, and I left Rio as his friend, with unforgettable memories. Ze is totally “simpatico” — if you have any fears of going to a favela, he will guide you through everything in Rocinha. It is more than his neighborhood, it is his birthplace. Zezinho speaks both Portuguese and English fluently from birth.
Check him out. You will not be disappointed.
garyreesenet@aol.com.

 

“I had the good fortune in early February, 2011 of visiting Rocinha under the guidance of Zezinho, a native and resident of Rocinha. He not only is knowledgeable about life in Rocinha, as only a resident can know and appreciate it, but also speaks impeccable English. He lived in California for 15years before returning to Rocinha.
He pointed out to us the challenges facing Rocinha’s 300,000 residents and how they not only cope, but lead an active rich community life. To be sure, the drug gangs create underlying tension, which cannot be denied, and the absence of a police presence is plain. Yet, you can see as you walk the back streets with Zezinho that people cope and life goes on with an active commercial area along the main street, internet, cable, satellite TV and other services seemingly very much available. He took us to an apartment high upon the mountain which provided magnificent views of the favela, the mountains and sea in the distance. Zezinho explains how the schools work trying to bring the low literacy rate up to give youngsters the tools to be productive adults; how people with no formal mailing addresses get their mail; the informal transportation system that gets people from the bottom to the top ofthe favela, the government investment in new housing near the base of Rocinha and plans for its future. Whatever question you might have about life in Rocinha, he can answer it. I felt very comfortable and safe on the tour because I was with someone who live sthere, knows the community well and is known to the community. All along our route, people would smile and greet their neighbor. If you plan to visit a favela when you are in Rio, I would highly recommend a visit to Rocinha with Zezinho.
Don Hilliker
Chicago,Illinois”

 

The Favela tour was great as you got to interact with the locals rather than just visitng the area as a tourtist attraction. Everyone wants to be happy no matter where they live and the people here are no different. It was amazing to see the way society operated here, definitely worth a visit.
Rob Johnston
robbo_kiwi_20@yahoo.co.uk.

 

 

Jeffrey & Pauline Wong, Vancouver, B.C., Canada, 14 May, 2010 jeffrey0509@gmail.com.

Pauline and I sincerely thank you for the insightful Rocinha experience. We feel very fortunate to meet you on our second day in Rio because we learned to not be fearful of the favelas and realized that the favela public vans were the safest and most reliable mode of transportation around Zona Sul (24 hrs a day)! Anyways, below is our brief “FAQ-style” review of Rocinha.

Q. Why visit a favela?
A. The favela is the birthplace of Brazil’s national identity e.g. Samba, Capoeira, Funk and Football Heroes. It is important to actually visit a favela early in your trip because you will immediately learn that favela residents are friendly and helpful people and NOT a personal security threat! Moreover, you most probably will return to the favela for lunch/dinner, souvenir shopping (the lovely & eco-friendly art work from the local artists are reasonably priced ~ R$10-25), surf lessons & hang-gliding! There’s much to see and learn from the favelas, so you’ll lose a lot if you don’t visit Rocinha with Zezinho!

Q. Am I going to die and get robbed?
A. No! Robbing and murdering are probably the last thing in the favela residents’ mind. In fact, the favela residents are probably the most hardworking people in the city, as they make a living outside in the city to pay off their monthly bills.

Q. Is life in the favela miserable and impoverished?
A. No, you’d be so surprised to see how many joyful smiles and warm greetings that you will be exchanging with the residents – You don’t receive the “alien” tourist gawk. Hint: Your basic/survival portuguese phrases come very handy =). The favela has access to municipal water and electricity, as well as Internet LAN houses, supermarkets, clothing stores. During my Rocinha visit on May 14, 2010, I have not seen anyone beg for money nor hassle me to buy their art work. This experience just proves that the residents are not hopeless nor helpless and they constantly strive to improve their lives.

Q. I’m excited but yet anxious. What should I do now?
A. Send Zezinho an e-mail to clarify your doubts and please be very clear on your expectations & intentions for your visit. Please be aware that Zezinho will not entertain any form of socially-ill/illegal activity requests for your visit.

Q. I would like to contribute to a good cause, but I don’t have extra cash to donate?
A. When you visit Rocinha with Zezinho, you will have the opportunity to visit an Art school and Rocinha Sports Complex. The art school accepts paint brushes, stationery, and souvenir pins. For the sports complex, you can donate inflatable exercise balls, flying discs and etc. You can also donate Lycra clothing and even donate your unwanted or broken surf boards to the Rocinha surf school! Please ask Zezinho for more suggestions.

If you have specific questions about my favela visit, please contact me at: jeffrey0509@gmail.com. Otherwise, feel free to check our photo slideshow on youtube here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zmRKXviuvq8

 

Siyuan Chen and Eunice, Singapore 8 May 2010 mayhemics@gmail.com.

“Zezinho is someone who has lived in Rocinha for a long time and is a familiar and trusted face to its people. Favelas are a mystery to many; even locals in Rio do not really understand much about them, and come armed with many preconceptions. With a deep first-hand knowledge of his home, Zezinho is all about narrating — and showing you — the real situation in Rocinha. With him, you get to walk through the becos and streets of Rocinha, and you even get to visit his home for one of many spectacular panoramas of the town. If you’re keen on learning about this cultural aspect of Brazil, and if you’re a photography enthusiast, a tour with Zezinho meets those needs.”

Siyuan and Eunice
Singapore
Harvard Law
May 2010
mayhemics@gmail.com.

 

Cliff Fortier, New York City, 2 May, 2010 fiddlerrules@mail.com.

I’ve visited Rocinha two times with Zezinho, and each was an enriching experience that delivered more than I expected. The first visit was a group outing to get to know the views that the favela has to offer, both of the community itself, as well as the surrounding parts of the city. Zezinho was caring in his responses to the group’s questions and curiosities, and caring towards the community members to whom he introduced us, and who graciously had us as guests in their homes and art studios. The views were wonderful, as were the people we met. Not that I was at all surprised, but I never felt in danger or even unwelcome throughout my afternoon in this city within a city. There are rules in Rocinha about where it is acceptable to take pictures and where taking pictures will result in a confiscation of your camera. We respected these rules, enjoyed the day, and have good pictures to show for it.

My second visit with Zezinho was to an art school for children where he is involved. I spent an hour talking with the founder and director of the school, Tio Lino, and was impressed by the man, the project, and the art. I learned more about realities of life in Rocinha, positive and negative, and felt more than welcome to return and become involved at the school. Once again, an enjoyable and enriching experience in Rocinha. This community, like any, is much more than what can be read in a newspaper or seen in a film.

 

Luiza Serpa – Rio de Janeiro, Brasil 2 May, 2010 luiisa@mail.com.
“Zezinhooo!!!!
O passeio foi incrivel!! Uma das melhores coisas que ja fiz na vida!!!
Depois vou postar as fotos!
Beijos e muito obrigada!!
Vou te indicar para tds os meus amigos que vierem!”
(translation)
The tour was incredible. One of the best things that I did in life. After I am going to post the fotos. Kiss and thank you very much. I am going to tell my friends about you and they will come (to Rocinha)

 

Carl Oley – Tampa, FL USA Feb 13, 2010 oley@mail.usf.edu.

Just wanted to drop you a note and tell you that I had a great time in Rio over Carnaval 2010. One of the reasons we had a blast in Rio was due to the tour we went on with you in Rocinha. It was absolutely fabulous and exceeded my expectations. From taking the moto bikes to the top of Rocinha and over looking the entire favela, meeting random people in the street, taking down a few cold ones on your rooftop over looking the favela at dusk to the baile funk party.

I found that you were very helpful in understanding the favela culture and lifestyle. Also, it was nice that you customized our tour to what we were interested in and that you spoke superb English. I would recommend this tour to anyone that is interested in learning and seeing the favela culture.

Carl Oley – Tampa, FL USA
Date of Tour: February 13, 2010

 

Richard Hunter, Philadephia PA, January 18, 2010 ricardoghunter@gmail.com
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Rochina was one of the most interesting, inspiring, and memorable places we have ever been in all our travels. Unfortunately, so many people visiting Rio de Janeiro do not have an opportunity to see the hillside favelas and their superlatives. In Rochina, we experienced much of the best of Rio- the best views, the best food, the best people.
My journey started in Ipanema, where we met Zezinho. We hopped aboard a small privately-run bus bound for Rochina. We later learned that these buses, offering rides to the general public and forming a vital part of the public transit infrastructure of Rio de Janeiro, were provided by druglords operating out of the favelas. We arrived at the foot of the Rochina hillside and visited a municipal administration building, where we learned about the extensive preparatory steps taken to be ready for the Carnival festivals. We then saw the recently-completed sports and recreation complex built by the city at the entrance to Rochina. We were able to stand at the bottom of Rochina and gaze up at the neighborhood we were about to explore.

One of the most exciting parts of our tour through the favelas was the ride up to the highest point in Rochina. Since Rochina is built on a hillside, we chose to start our tour at the top of the hills and work our way down. We didn’t realize it at the time, but it required a trip on the back of motorcycles at breakneck speed uphill through the winding streets of Rochina. The trip was surreal- like something out of an action movie- and an amazing amount of the neighborhood flashed by us.

And then we got to the top… and saw the view. Looking down from Rochina, we could see many of the things we saw from our hotel in Ipanema- except from even higher and with a colorful arrangement of houses below us. We journeyed downward by foot and saw the array of businesses and homes. We saw and briefly interacted with a variety of interesting people (though we spoke little Portugese). Zezinho knew his way very well through Rochina, alternating our journey through the city by way of the main roads and narrow alleys.

Life in the favelas isn’t incredibly different from life in most other places. We saw internet cafes (cheaper and with better computer equipment than we later found in downtown Buenos Aires), attorneys’ offices, post offices, and other establishments. We also found that the people of Rochina had a way of adjusting to the things that made their neighborhoods different from ours. We could see how the lack of street signs could make finding one’s way around pretty difficult. But in Rochina, mail delivery was often centralized to a few businesses or residences which were easy for mailmen to find. The owners of those properties would be paid several reais per month in order to receive and store mail for others. We also noted that the provision of utilities could not be incredibly easy given the close proximity of the houses, the rate of construction, and the lack of underground access. Most residents of Rochina receive electrical power via the tangled wiring networks strewn high above the neighborhood- and most of them pay for it!

One of the last things we did was to eat one of the most enjoyable meals we had in our travels in South America. For about $15, we had a delicious homestyle meal of beans, noodles, and chicken. We felt very welcome there- and look forward to visiting again

 

James Roberts and Carly January 15, 2010 jamesroberts1984@hotmail.com
.
“We enjoyed our whole time in Rio and especially the tour of Rocinha. We were unsure what to expect but after the 6 hour tour we came away with a real understanding of the people and the whole community. Zezinho was an excellent guide and is very knowledgeable on all aspects of Rocinha. We met a number of people during the tour who were all friendly and welcoming. We would recommend this visit to anyone going to Rio and one day we would like to return.
I have attached a picture for you from our trip too. We hope all is well with you and one day maybe we can meet again. We loved our time in Rio and we have already discussed about returning sooner then later (maybe for the World Cup in 2014)

James and Carly – England”

 

Luciano Maia – Portuguese Instructor luciano.maia@yahoo.com
.
“Zezinho” from the “comunidade” showed us in a 3-hour tour the real Rocinha, a community whose great majority of inhabitants simply strive to live honestly and with dignity, contradicting the often badmouthing unjustly heard about this “town” inside Rio de Janeiro . Rocinha is part of Zezinho, which is literally written on him (see some of his tattoos!) He has an in-depth knowledge of its beauties and problems, working tirelessly to make a difference there, and he’s helping make Rocinha a better place. I encourage you to visit Rocinha with him when you get a chance. Obrigado Zezinho!

 

Shiela Laughton Edmonton, Alberta Canada, January 4, 2010 smlaughton@shaw.ca
.
One of the highlights of our trip to Brazil was a tour of Rocinha, one of Rio’s hillside favelas, with private guide and long-time resident Zezinho. Our foursome had set up the full-day tour online with Favela Adventures before our departure, and Zezinho was extremely efficient and helpful in making all the arrangements. True to his word, he was waiting in our hotel lobby at the appointed hour, eager to introduce us to his world.

Getting there was a bit of an adventure in itself. Rather than hailing a cab or waiting for a city bus, Zezinho flagged down a van headed for Rocinha. It cost next to nothing, stopping anywhere, anytime, with a “conductor” manning the sliding door and collecting fares. These vans are the most popular form of transit for residents of the favela.

When our van reached the end of the line we got our first look at Rocinha, climbing up the hill in what seemed like a jumble of old building blocks. From the road we could see a new sports complex, which the government in its wisdom had decided should be a priority in a community where not every household had running water. After a quick peek inside the samba school, which was deserted at that hour, we climbed on motorcycles driven by residents for an exciting ride all the way to the top of the hill. While we took in the amazing view, we had some unexpected entertainment. Someone was playing his boom box in the street at top volume, while nearby a fellow named Marcelo was demonstrating his skill with a soccer ball, in a bid for inclusion in the Brazilian equivalent of the Guinness Book of Records.

For the next five hours or so we explored the neighbourhood on foot, gradually making our way down the hill via the busy main road and pedestrian-only narrow winding alleys called becos. Beforehand we had been concerned about feeling a bit like voyeurs on such a tour, but the people we encountered obviously knew and trusted our guide, and faces were friendly and curious. The children were real charmers. We saw no idlers, panhandlers, or drunkards- everyone seemed purposeful and busy and with the everyday concerns of life. Zezinho made no attempt to downplay the drug problem, but emphasized that most of the drugs sold go to outside the favela, in a business that the police are profiting from as well. We saw several drug dealers, some of whom were toting guns, but Zezinho was careful to have us put away our cameras when we were near a rendezvous spot, and we never felt threatened.

We enjoyed a good lunch at a local restaurant and visited Zezinho’s new home. Only a week earlier he had moved from his digs in a beco to a bigger apartment with a view, and he took us in for a look. Still mostly unfurnished, and very small by North American standards, it was clean and quite adequate to his needs. Not far away, a friend had a rooftop terrace from which we could survey the neighbourhood. Farther down the hill we toured an art “school” in 2 tiny rooms of a house, where a retired lifeguard spends his days providing arts and crafts activities for the children of the favela. Their motto is Paintbrushes Rather than Guns.

Throughout the day, Zezinho kept us engaged with impassioned discourse on everything from the workings of the power grid to the appalling misconceptions about Rocinha on the part of Rio’s city dwellers. If you want an up-close–and-personal tour with an intelligent and articulate guide, Zezinho’s your man!

Date of tour: Jan. 4, 2010

 

Allen Thayer San Francisco, CA, allenthayer@gmail.com . December 29, 2009
I recently came back from a trip to Rio with my wife and we went on a day-long visit to Rocinha with Zezinho from Favelatour.org. We really enjoyed Zezinho’s perspective having grown up in the community of Rocinha. I would definitely reccomend checking him out. His trips are very fairly priced and you’re gonna get more than a few photo-ops but a real taste of what life is like in Rio’s favelas. You can feel free to ask questions and dig deeper – Zezinho knows just about everything about what goes on in Rocinha!

 

Eddie Keogh, England, Reuters Photographer, contact@eddiekeogh.com . December 6,2009

Zezinho

Firstly my aplogies for the reply, too busy travelling and enjoying ourselves I guess.

The visit was excellent and Nildo was a lovely man to show us around Rocinha.
I visited with my wife and 3 girls aged 13, 15 and 17. It was an unforgettable experience for us all because we learnt so much about the favela and the people that live and work there.

We spent 8 hours in the favela and never felt in any danger at any time. In fact we were all touched by the genuineness of the welcome here. Nildo knows everyone and every street and will occassionally ask you not to take pictures in certain streets. Even in these streets you’ll still get a smile for a smile and a thumbs up that you are welcome.

Our day was made even more special as the favela’s most popular football team Flamengo won the league championship that day. The bars were full of people watching the game on tv and the whole favela erupted when they scored the winning goal. Fireworks were followed by a procession of cars and bikes tooting horns and waving flags. We spent the evening in Ronaldo’s bar with a few beers, some tasty food and a quick samba.

I would heartily recommend this visit, in fact anyone’s trip to Rio is not complete without it.

Our thanks again to Nildo.

Eddie, Cathy, Sophie, Molly and Emily.

 

Yuri Serfontein, South Africa December 29,2009 yuri@mweb.co.za .
“I partook in one of Zezinho’s favella tours on December 29th 2009 and was impressed by his enthusiasm and honest portrayal of life in Rocinha.
Rather than being a mere spectator,you’ll be guided through the inner workings of what is in effect a vibrant,energetic community with a generally positive outlook not often picked up by the outside world”

Yuri Serfontein,South Africa

 

Matt Levitt Boston, MA mattlevitt1@gmail.com . Nov 28, 2009

Hi Zezinho!

Sorry I haven’t written back sooner.

We had an amazing experience with Nildo in Rocinha. Though we didn’t get to see a Samba School show (they were closed), we saw so much and were so exhausted that we were ready to sleep anyways. Nildo was very informative and incredibly warm and friendly – actually, everyone that he introduced us to along the way was too! It felt good to be walking around with a local from the favela because we were not treated as tourists; we were treated as friends and guests of Nildo. We met so many people as we explored the labyrinth that is the favela, and saw so many different parts of it as we winded through the streets and alleys that it would have been IMPOSSIBLE to see on our own ( or with a regular tour guide) without getting lost. We saw a few incredible views, had some drinks at Ronaldo’s Bar and later Rosa’s Bar, and we had an excellent meal along the way. We saw such a vibrant community inside Rocinha, that when we came back to our street in Ipanema, it felt so quiet and lonely. In Rocinha, it seems like there is constant music and people getting together through the night. We have a much greater appreciation and understanding of the favela now that we have seen it with our own eyes, having experienced an insider’s view of the place. It was amazing to witness a place that was so poor that it even has an open sewer running through it, and yet it contains a fully functioning society that is mostly happy and enjoying life. Thumbs up to Nildo, thumbs up to Rocinha, and thumbs up to you for doing these tours the right way. I’m sorry we didn’t get to meet you, but perhaps some day we will be back.

Nildo’s english was fine. No problem.

Worth the money? Of course! It was worth more than we spent, when you consider how much time Nildo spent with us giving us a private tour.

He came to meet us in Ipanema at 2pm and we got home at around 1 AM. 11 hours, approximately.

Thank you so much!

-Matt and Erica, Boston, Massachussetts

 

Sasja Van Der Knapp, Netherlands, s.vanderknaap@live.nl December 5, 2009

Thank you for your advise to go on tour with Nildo.
Carola and I had a great day. Nildo is a very nice and sweet person. He picked us up from the hotel and from there we went with the 3 of us to Rocinha.
He is very enthousiastic and gave answer to all of our questions and we had many:). We thought the tour was 2 or 3 hours, but eventually we stayed 9 hours. He took all the time for us and brought us to special places. He really showed us how the life is in the fevela. It made a big impression. We really have a different positive view of the fevela. It was just like we spend a day with a friend. So compliments for Nildo! A very special experience…
So thank you and Nildo once again and I will send some pictures later on.
Sasja & Carola

 

Tania Marcello (Australia) taniamarcello4@gmail.com
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“The tour that I took with Zezinho was one of the highlights of my travels through South America. Not only did he make us feel safe, he welcomed us into his home and introduced us to his friends. We felt like visitors to Rocinha instead of tourists. He didn’t even mind the time, and after what became a 9 hour tour, I felt like I had gotten a real insight into favela life, and also made a friend in Zezinho.”

 

Victoria McSherry (Glasgow, Scotland) Vic.McSherry@monoconsultants.com
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Oi guys! Sorry i haven’t got back to you sooner but ive been having problem with my emails as my computer got a virus. But its all sorted now so im back on line!! Yahoo!!!

I had a totally fantastic time in Rocinha. It was by far the best thing we did when we were in Rio. Yes, Ipanema is cool to hang out on the beach and people watch, the handgliding was exciting, the views from the Redeemer were amazing, the bars in Lapa are lively and the Gay Parade we saw on the Sunday was ‘ totally rocking’ even in the rain! But the Rocinha trip we did was by far the best thing we did. Its certainly the thing we will remember most about our trip to Rio.

Firstly, I have to say that Nildo is an excellent tour guide. He such a nice guy. Hes so warm and friendly and just a really nice genuine funny person who is a total pleasure to spend time with. He made the trip really interesting for us and basically took us everywhere! He told me to tell you that he got us all the way up to the French Quarter, and yes, my leg muscles were aching the next day! Although the tour was only suppose to last a few hours, we ended up staying out with him for 13 hours, only getting home at about 3am in the morning!

It was a total adventure. We met loads of people and all of them were just so lovely to us. The people I met in Rocinha were about the most friendly people I have ever met in my travels anywhere. Everyone says Thailand is where the most friendly people are, and yes, the Thai people are great, but the people we met Rocinha were amazing! We went visiting Nildos cousin at her house and went up to her roof terrace to see her fantastic view and we got chatting to Val who owns the bar Ronaldinios (which has the best Caipirinhas in all of rio, belive me, i tried them all!) and she invited us up to her house to show us where she lived. What a lovely lady! She even has a racing tortoise! She was just so nice to us it was almost embarrassing!

We popped into the nursery to see the kids which was great too. They had been making Halloween ghosts and were all very excited to see us. The whole time we were walking about Nildo was telling us the way things work there like the electricity and how the streets got cleaned and how much you pay in rent to stay there. We were talking about music, politics, religion, everything! I couldn’t believe it when we looked at time and realised that we had been there for 12 hours and it was time to try and catch a bus home! We also felt really safe in Rocinha, we were not at all worried about our safety. Id say we were pretty street wise anyway, but Nildo took really good care of us and i can honestly say I felt much safer in Rocinha than I did in Copacabana! The sense of community spirit in that place is just amazing. I’ve never seen such a tight knit community before and it really seems that everyone knows everyone.

While Rocinha obviously has its social problems with drugs, violence and poverty, i dont think those problems are more severe than the problems you see in any big housing estates in Europe. The problems Rocinha has are just slightly different and only the bad points seem to have been the focus of the press. I come from Glasgow which is the 2nd biggest city in Scotland and its known to be the ‘Murder capital of Europe’ and knife crime, alcohol and gangland related violence and heroin are the main problem. Like Rocinha, Glasgow has a really bad reputation. I hope that more people go and visit places like Rocinha with an open mind so that they can see for themselves the good points and not just listen to the bad press. I would certainly recommend it to anyone as a trip they wont forget! Its certainly an alternative trip and in no way main stream or commercial.

Nildo. Im really sorry we didn’t get to meet up with you in Lapa on Saturday! But i couldn’t get in touch with you as my emails were broken ;0(. We went to lapa on the Saturday night and had a great time and i thought we might bump into you but when we got there we realised there were just too many bars and no chance the we would just ‘bump’ in to you. Would have been great to see you there though. thank you so much for your time in showing us around. And please pass on our thanks again to your cousin and val the next time you see them. You really are a total star! x

Now my computer is fixed i will get my photos downloaded and emailed over to you in the next day or so. Theres a few really good ones of us in the bar, and of you cuddling a rottweiller!

Please feel free to use any part of what i have said. I will also post it up on virtual tourist. And sorry Zezinho, i know you said you want a ‘short testimonial’ ….. but i had a bit more to say than just ‘we had a brilliant time’. If you need anything else, just let me know.

Muito obrigada.
Tchau tchau and big love,
vic and dave xx

 

Charde’t Durbin, USA crdurbin@gmail.com. Nov 5, 2009
Nildo answered all my questions and I absolutely loved the visit! He was such a charismatic, and informative guide! I feel as though I really got to know the community. I truly believe the way Nildo conducted the visit is so much more enriching than many of the tours set up by agencies. I’ve already recommended the tour to a few friends and will certainly continue to do so!

At the end of my visit, I thought that it would be wonderful to experience more of Rocinha and asked Nildo about volunteer opportunities. He had mentioned that it might be best to teach English to some of the children in Rocinha. I’m going to follow up with this.

I’m just so enthusiastic about my visit and the possibility of somehow contributing to Rocinha.

 

Justin Maniar haahg@yahoo.com
. Nov 24, 2009
My visit to Rocinha was fantastic, both the first time, when I went with Nildo and the second time when I went with a friend just to hang out! Nildo took me around starting around 1:30pm or 2pm and we walked all over the favela, seeing all different parts, a school, the group of ladies that makes clothes and gives skills training, the fantastic views from the top, and eating dinner at one of Nildo’s favorite places. Good food! He then took me back down and we spent a little time shopping and buying DVD’s. I really enjoyed my time there, and felt very comfortable. I guess I went thinking that I would feel out of place, being an outsider and a gringo. However I felt very welcomed there. Although the presence of the drug traffickers is not ideal, people still manage their lives to the fullest and its a place of hope. The visit also greatly helped me out with my studies, allowing me to see how the biggest favela in Rio de Janeiro and Brazil, functions normally.

 

Jensyng (Australia) feb 9,2009 9:33am

A couple days ago, a friend and I visited Rocinha on Zezinho’s Favela tour. I was hesitant at first for a few reasons- the main reason being that I feared the residents would not like people viewing their homes as a zoo and it would be dangerous for me to be there. Now, I am very happy that I chose to go on the tour.

“Tour” is almost an inappopriate word for this experience. It was more like a friendly visit. I was able to talk and interact with many of the residents of Rocinha, and they were very welcoming and interested in my background as well. We entered people’s homes and shops while learning about their respective lifestyles. With respect to safety, I am more concerned when walking around Copacabana than at Rocinha.

Zezinho, being a resident of Rocinha, is very knowledgeable on every aspect of favela life. He surpassed my expectations with respect to providing useful information and answering my questions. In addition, Zezinho has built solid relationships with his fellow residents, and those people treated me as his welcomed guest. I will definitely be recommending Zezinho’s tour to my friends who plan on visiting Rio: the tour is worth the small amount that we paid, and the money is going towards a great cause. I look forward to following Zezinho’s progress with his DJ school project!

 

Tee Cardaci (San Francisco, CA) feb 11, 2009 10:57am teecardaci@gmail.com
.

After reading all the comments in this section, I feel obligated to add my 2 cents.

*note* if you are only concerned with my recommendation for a tour guide, please scroll to the bottom….or email our guide at info@favelatour.org.

It was not until my 3rd trip to Rio that I ever embarked on a ‘favela tour’, although I hate to even use that term. I would describe my personal experience as a cultural encounter as opposed to a ‘tour’. I was turned off, to say the least, by the way most of these tours are handled (ie: gringos in the back of jeep being lead by a guide that usually had no real connection to the community being visited, gawking at the impoverished inhabitants while getting a very superficial view of the favela). Your whole experience is completely dependent upon who you go there with and choosing the right guide is crucial.
First, I would like to address the issue of why one should even consider venturing into a favela.

1) In Brazil, the populations of favelas are now growing at a faster rate than that of the cites they are a part of. To see Rio and not visit a favela is to miss out on seeing where a huge number of Rio’s residents live, work and play. That being said, if your only interest in Rio is sand, surf and sun or you generally aren’t even concerned with the plight of the poor in your own communities, maybe this isn’t for you.

2) To dispel the myths and preconceptions that you are likely to harbor upon your arrival in Rio. If one were only to listen to the media reports or the advice of the residents of the ‘asfalto’ (or non-favela parts of Rio), it would be easy to believe that favelas are nothing but war zones inhabited solely by criminals and addicts. This is absolutely not the case.

3) To be inspired by the hidden beauty of these communities. In my home country, poverty can become synonymous with misery and despair. You might be amazed at the general level of happiness you witness among the inhabitants of these communities that have so little in terms of material positions yet have so much in other ways. Let us also not forget that it is the favela communities that have provided us with so much that we (and Brazilians) consider the cultural icons of Brazil: Samba music, Capoiera, Feijoada (the national dish), Baile Funk and, not to mention, the number of footballers that come from the morros, or hills. It always angers me to hear an upper or middle class resident of Rio dismiss these neighborhoods while missing the irony as they pay R$30 to hear samba at the Rio Scenarium or ask their cooks to prepare them a feijoada.

4) To simply educate yourself as to how a vast segment of our global population currently live. It is estimated that over a BILLLION people world wide currently live in slums. To see the vast reaching implications of first world economic policies as well as the failed policies of the Brazilian government, you could do worse than visiting a favela. A visit can also serve as a ‘wake up call’ to our own futures unless the issues of economic disparity are addressed in a more serious nature.

5) To have fun! This may come as a shock to most but a visit to a favela with the right guide can yield much interaction with the residents and you just might actually find yourself having a good time with them as you educate yourself as well.
Now, if you are still with me to this point and have been convinced that this is an experience worth having, I would HIGHLY HIGHLY recommend our guide, Zezinho, who can be reached at info@favelatour.org to arrange a tour.

Zezinho was born and raised in the community of Rocinha, the biggest favela in South America and the location of his guided ‘cultural encounters’ (again, I hesitate to use the word tour). He spent over four hours with our small group, exploring Rocinha from it’s highest peeks to it’s deepest alleys. He went to great lengths to provide intelligent and informative answers to our groups myriad of questions on everything from infrastructure issues to the hierarchy of the drug faction that controls the trade in Rocinha. We visited some friends of his’ art studio where we viewed some amazing work (well beyond the typical ‘favela paintings’ and experienced zero pressure to buy. We entered other friends of his houses where we were allowed to share in the residents private vistas (whose beauty was beyond words!). We explored the ‘becos’ or alleys of the section of Rocinha were he grew up; something I would venture to guess would never be an option on a tour lead by some one outside the community. Throughout the whole tour, Zezinho was constantly greeted by members of the community who he often took the time to introduce us to. His enthusiasm and true love for HIS community was infectious to all in our group (as you might be able to tell by the length of this post ;) . Yes we saw armed drug dealers. Yes we saw piles of trash in places. But more importantly, we saw a beautiful, vibrant community filled with music and smiling faces getting by the best way the can in a city and state that, for the most part, has abandoned them.

For anyone that considers themselves a traveller as opposed to a merely a tourist, a tour from Zezinho is an absolute must on your visit to Rio de Janeiro, this cidade marravilhosa!

*some nuts and bolts footnotes*
Price wise, I found Zezinho’s experience to be almost half the price of commercially advertised tours.
Zezinho speaks perfect English and is really able to communicate to you, in the greatest detail, every aspect of this community that you would care to know about.

At the beginning of the tour, he met us across from the favela, leading us in as well as escorting us out at the end….even going so far as to point out a van that would take us back to Ipanema for R$2 instead of a R$18 cab ride. (a bonus cultural experience!)

Expect to do a lot of walking and leave the Havaianas at home. Wear some comfortable shoes.
Safety was never an issue during our tour and there is nearly 0% chance of being robbed. Fear not, fellow gringo :)
BRING YOUR CAMERA!!! You will be treated to vistas unrivaled in all of Rio and smiling faces that are often more than happy to oblige a photo op.

Zezinho is also a DJ in his community and he told us the money he earns from his tours his being saved to open a DJ and music production school for the children of the community. The fact Zezinho is a DJ would also be a huge bonus to anyone with an interest or curiosity in the funk carioca (or baile funk) genre of music indigenous to the favelas of Rio. He even invited members of our group to return on the weekend to attend a funk party…something I definitely plan to do!

 

Matro77 (Pittsburgh, PA) feb 11, 2009 6:06pm mattan.r@gmail.com.
Zezinho took my friend and I around Favela Rocinha for a day. He said the tour was about 3 hours but that he’d put the whole day aside for us, so we ended up spending 6 hours together! He really knows a lot about the favela, much more than many of the other tours, because he grew up there, is involved with the community there, and lives there now! The other tours are generally given by people that don’t live there. After all the information & stories Zezinho told us, and being able to answer all our questions, I can’t imagine having the tour from someone that doesn’t live in the Favela! He showed us many places, introduced us to a couple friends, and it was easy to see he’s very passionate about Rocinha. It was an incredible day and well worth the time & money! I hope to go back if time allows…

I was in Rio for most of January and February. I’m part of www.couchsurfing.com and saw a post from Zezinho about giving tours through Rocinha, although I don’t think he uses the website too much because I’ve seen few posts from him. He said he can take 2 people up to groups of 10 or so. I thought 2 would be better than more people, so I went with just one friend, Lauren. He said it would last 3 hours but we could stay as long as we’d like. We stayed for 6 and left around nighttime.

My opinion on these types of tours…Someone has to be wary of this kind of tourism because driving through a favela in a jeep, is not a real favela tour. Also, the tour HAS to be given by someone that has lived there for a long time. For example, when I show people around my city in the US, I know many places to take friends, and people to introduce friends to, that I didn’t know until being there for 3 years. It takes time to really get to know a place. You ask someone that’s been there for 10 years, they’ll know MUCH more than me. With that being said, Zezinho grew up in the favela so I think he has it covered, even though he moved away for a while. We saw a number of tours being given by wealthy people that were obviously not from the favela – that, I consider taking advantage of the favela along with not being a real favela tour. Especially since they can try to create an image that the tourist expects, therefore not telling “the whole truth.” They don’t all create the image but its still not the same. Even when they hire tour guides, they make LOTS of money off the tour guide and pay them very little. If you pay someone a low wage, you can say you’re helping by providing them with a salary. But truly helping someone includes helping them in the future, not just the present. Aka, profits should be going to people in the favela, and it should be organized that while the outside person still makes profit, someone in the favela should have part “ownership” and help run the operation. Even if an outsider gives “proper” tours and doesn’t lie, without truly helping the community, its not fair to take advantage of a poor area. And just giving money doesn’t cut it. Without building an infrastructure, whether that just be instructing people in the favela on how to run a business and giving them the opportunity, or doing something more intricate with the community, money alone won’t help the community. Look at the loads of money being given to Africa…

With Zezinho, we took a mototaxi up high in the favela and walked our way down in and around the favela. He had his spots that he takes people on during the tour, but we also ran into people and things going on that he didn’t know where going on at the time. When this happened, he introduced us and let us talk to the people. We ran across number of interesting things on the street. One was an organization setting up for a party at night with music and I’m not sure what exactly. The organization was doing something to help the community in the favela, and was run by people in the favela. After talking to one of the ladies helping get the place ready, she insisted a few times that we come back in a few hours cause it was going to be
a lot of fun. During this Zezinho was off talking to someone else. It was very relaxed and spontaneous, not a typical “setup” by a tour guide to give us an impression of the place.

When you talk about the police, I don’t know exactly how the system is. Zezinho showed us a place where the police “patrol” and then walked us past drug dealers lined up on the road and drug lords with machine guns on the road too. He said the drug lords pay the police to “patrol” but in reality the drug lords are still completely in charge. From the people carrying guns, the people smoking marijuana on the streets, and the number of drug dealers we passed and gave a thumbs up too, I believe Zezinho when he says the police don’t do anything. I actually felt much safer in Rocinha than when I walked around Rio for the 2 months I was there. Zezinho made a good point that with Rocinha, where the drug dealers have their stuff together, petty crime isn’t worth the risk of a drug lord coming after you.

There’s a lot of points to cover with Favelas and I know I didn’t cover a fraction of them so if you’re interested in any other specific thoughts or details from me, let me know!

Good luck,
Mattan

 

G Murphy (Ireland) feb 13, 2009 7:58am

I did a tour with Zezinho and it was great. Im volunteering here in Rocinha and he showed me around for a few hours. He doesnt care about time so the tour can pretty much last as long as you want. He gives lots of info and takes you to some great places. I recomend going with him, its also cheaper than the others.
G Murphy

 

RioLover777 (Rio de Janeiro) feb 14, 2009 9:02pm

Thanks Zezinho and Teezo for the posts and for letting everyone know that most people who live in the favelas are far of being criminals. Will definitely refer Zezinho to whoever is interested in doing a favela tour.

 

Mari67 (San Diego) feb 19, 2009 10:51am

As some one who has taken many trips to Brazil and seen the state of economics there, I see nothing wrong with favela tours if presented in a respectful way to the community. That means that the guide encourages interaction between the visitors and residents. I would never want to do one of these jeep tours where you drive in take a few photographs and then your out. I want to feel like I have opportunity to get to know the place while I am there.

For the haters out there who do not like it, too bad. If there is a demand for people to see who these communities operate there will be business for it. The government of Brazil does very little to help these communities.

What attracted me to wanting to visit a favela was first wanting to see a samba performance live. Second was to see how these communities exist outside of formal government control. I enjoyed myself and made friends that I will be able to visit anytime. Rocinha is a place of constant activity and awesome views!

Tee Cardaci gave a great write up of Zezinhos tour and why not? If I spent 6 hours hanging out in a community and got see more than the average tourist, I would love it too. If somebody has a great experience why not write it up.

Rocinha is still a favela. And a huge one at that! I am sure you know this, but as much as some do not like favela tours, favelas are here to stay. The only thing that will change that is when the upper and middle classes pay their help better wages. How can one move out of a favela if they are paid such poor wages. So as long as the system embraces this slave wage you will have favelas!

The average Brazilian who lives outside of the favelas does not want to admit this but I saw it everyday in Brazil the prejudice and discrimination against black or darker skinned folks. There is still a slave – master mentality in Brazil but nobody likes to admit it. Just look at who is selling you stuff on the beach or who is driving your taxi. And rarely on Tv do you see darker skinned in telenovellas. All the stars are white. The only time I saw darker skinner folks was futebol games or entertainers/singers.

Heres a guy (Zezinho) who LIVES there in Rocinha and experiences his life in a favela every day wanting to share his life with travellers, good for him. He has created a job, is not robbing, or conning some innocent foreigner. And he is part of the positive things happening in these communities. And he is proactive in wanting to open a school in his community with the funds he his earning with his tours. I dont see any people here who have complaints about favelas doing anything to help.
So, why are there people who want to criticize this guys creativity. If you do not like the idea of favela tours, fine.
I would certainly go back to a favela as I had more fun there than when I was in Lapa where I felt everybody was trying to impress each other.

Good luck to Zezinho and his favela Rocinha tours!

 

C. Madsen (Marin City, CA ) Mar 4, 2009 1:12 pm cmadsen45@gmail.com.

All I can say is that I had a great time seeing and hanging out with Zezinho’s and his friends. Zezinho is a great ambassador for the favelas. I was apprehensive at first about taking a “tour” to a poor area, but I was curious after others had mentioned about Zezinho’s hospitality. It meant more to me that Zezinho is from Rocinha, because I feel he did not hold back and was honest with me when I asked him questions about his community. Well worth your time if you are interested in somebody who really knows his favela. I hope he is able to build his dream community center. Hopefully after school, I plan on visiting again and doing some volunteer work in Rocinha.

 

Courtney Ford (Traralgon, Australia) Jul 9, 2009 court.ford@gmail.com.

I had one of the best experiences of my 6 months traveling with Zezinho when he took three of us on an amazing (and personal) tour of Rocinha. He made me fall in love with the place almost as much as him! For anyone concerned about safety, you must know that I left my bag unattended in a restaurant, because theft is pretty much unknown there. Any concerns u have will quickly be obliterated and replaced by an enlightening and fantastic experience. See Rocinha yourself!!!

My friends and I met Zezinho with no idea how much insight we would have into the Rocinha community and the amazing people we’d meet who live and work there. Zezinho put the whole day aside for us and my two girlfriends and I ended up spending 9 hours with him! It was one of the safest, most vibrant, and certainly most interesting places we went in Brazil. Any preconceptions we had were quickly evaporated by Zezinho’s thorough knowledge of his home turf and by his genuine desire for people to better understand Rocinha.

Many people in Rocinha are working hard to give children from the favela an opportunity to show how capable they are. We saw first-hand that Zezinho is already an integral part of Rocinha and his impact will only increase once his community centre is up and running. Your contribution to his cause – whether you go on a tour, or stay in Rocinha yourself – I’ve no doubt will be outweighed by what you gain from the experience.

After reading some of the other testimonials on this page, I completely agree with pretty much everything people have written, and particularly that ‘cultural exchange’ is a much better way to put it than ‘tour’. Also, favela culture is so important to Rio than you really do miss out if you don’t venture into one – I can’t think of a better guide than Zezinho. Just do it!

If you have any questions about my experiences in Rocinha with Zezinho, feel free to get in touch with me personally at court.ford@gmail.com.

 

Yvonne J, (Toronto, Canada ) Jan 5, 2009 5:20pm

And this from Yvonne, from Toronto, who went to Rio after Christmas, and was so inspired by Zezinho’s activities, she’s helping him with his website for fundraising activities:

“First, I was in Brazil for Carnaval just to relax and hang out. The idea of going to a favela was not something I thought about. I was not interested in going on some zoo type tour to see poor people. There is enough misery in the world never mind seeing it up close. I am certainly not a heartless person, but I feel that the invasion of tourists in favelas is kind of strange. My first question is what does the community get out of this?

So, while at my hostel, I met up with some Europeans that wanted to go to the favelas. I asked them why would they want to go and they responded that all the interesting culture is there. So, I kind was more interested in what they meant by that. I did some research online and found some tour companies but, I did not want to go in take photos and then leave. I certainly did not want to sit in a jeep to do a tour. I figured if I was going to go, I wanted to go to a party or see something of interest then just looking at people and poorly built housing. In our hostel there were flyers advertising favela tours too but I wanted more information.

After getting great reviews from some other hostelers, I decided on Zezinho’s tour. The main thing being that he was from the favela and could answer all my questions. The other guests that returned from Zezinho’s tour said it was a highlight of their Rio experience and that if anyone were to do a tour, Zezinho was the best guide. They told me Zezinho knows EVERYTHING about favelas and Rocinha. These other tour companies seemed less personal and too “touristy”. I emailed Zezinho and set up a day. I had two others interested, so three of us met Zezinho at the Post 9 in Ipanema. We proceeded to take vans to the bottom of the favela where we first stopped in the Rocinha Samba School.

All I can say is that I felt like I was visiting a long lost friend. Zezinho is likable and represents Rocinha like nobody else. This guy is crazy for Rocinha, tattoos and all. He has this passion for his community that you can’t help but feel too. He also knows all the best photo locations in the favela. I got some awesome shots.

We took motorcycle taxis to the top where we had great views of the downtown side and the San Conrado side of the favela. Great photo opportunity. Through our visit we met some of the nicest people, kids and adults alike. From the top our tour took us eventually to the bottom right back from where we started but this was after 5 hours. The tour was not rushed. The highlights were going to Zezinho’s house and having the neighbors drop by for a beer. I felt like this was a tight knit community where people somehow managed. It was like I knew all of Zezinho’s friends. There was no judgment of us because we were from some far away place, no prejudice.

I felt like I got a history lesson about favelas and Rocinha. Some information I found interesting was how the houses were built, garbage pickups, recycling, how the residents gain access to water and electricity, and how they feel about existing (or being treated badly) on the margins of carioca society. Favelas, to the average Brazilian are “no go” zones. I was told by many Brazilians before my tour that I would probably get raped or robbed. I constantly heard, “Why would you want to go THERE?” “Favelas are dirty, the people are stupid and “those” people do nothing in society.” So much prejudice against the hillside dwellers. Yes, we saw some guys with guns, but never felt threatened. I never once heard a favela resident say anything negative about people who live outside of favelas. Strange eh?

We accessed areas that other tours do not go according to Zezinho. I believe him because on some parts of the neighborhood we saw other vistors but other areas none. Some of the places he took us were a school, day care, radio station Brisa, TvRoc (cable tv), catholic church, real estate office (yes they have two in Rocinha), the residents association (local favela government), Lan House, Trapia restaurant (awesome food), three diferent roof views, various becos or alley ways that you could easily get lost without a guide, Art school non profit, Casa da Paz community house, Rocinha 1 Fitness, and so much more. I took photos of almost everything. Every place we went, everybody knew Zezinho and treated us like his best friends.

After the tour was over, I was sad because I wanted to hang out there longer and see more of everyday life. It’s also sad in that Zezinho talked of the prejudice that he suffers because of where he is from. He made it very clear that at some point, he wants his own tour company with guides from the favela. He told me “I want people to get to “KNOW Rocinha”. Well I am not sure if I “know” Rocinha but I probably know more now than the average tourist who has visited. The tour was well worth the time and money and this guy needs to advertise because his service is very different from other favela tour companies. The reason I know this is because other hostelers went with Jeep tours and told us “average” stories of their favela experience.

I felt like I will forever remember my experience of Rocinha and Zezinho. His dream is to open a community center where he can have all the talented people of Rocinha teach their art form, anything from Capoeira to ju jitsu and of course his Dj school. I hope he earns enough to buy his building. He and this other guy we met “Rambo da Rocinha” are Rocinha originals.

So, now how do I feel about favela tours? Well, I think favelas are intriguing places and I would love to go back someday to volunteer. Maybe Zezinho can have me volunteer at his community center. I think the experience you will have on a favela tour really depends on the guide. Zezinho lives and breathes Rocinha. He really is trying to make a difference in his community. I think his passion for his favela certainly rubbed off on us!

At the end of the tour, Zezinho made us an offer that if during our stay we wanted to come back for a visit, samba show or baile funk, that he would escort us as friends (no money exchanged). Two of us went back the following Sunday to a funk party that was “off the hook”! lots of fun..With all the bad things the news says, we only experienced good things in Rocinha but we are not stupid, we know favelas do have police invasions and can be very dangerous places.”

Since taking a visit to Rocinha, I have decided to help Zezinho design a website, organize and help run his own tour company. I believe so much in the positive activities that he is doing for his community.

 

Rebecca Najdowski San Francisco, CA rebeccanajdowski@yahoo.com.

“My recent guided trip to Rochina with Zezinho was both insightful and fun.. Zezinho has a passion and knowledge of Rochina that puts the experience beyond surface level. He is very aware of the stereotypes and misconceptions and makes every effort to show the genuine Rochina while benefiting the community positively. Highly recomended for those truly interested in favela life beyond the stereotype. ”

 

Morgan LaManna, San Francisco, CA, MoLaManna@gmail.com.

Visiting Rocinha was the most amazing thing I did while in Rio. Walking around and meeting neighbors, local kids, artists and community activists was a moving way to connect to the city. Everybody knew Zezinho and I felt safer walking around in Rocinha than on Copacabana beach! The motorcycle’s were fun too.

 

Huw Hennessey, England, http://getlost.typepad.com/huguitos-blog.

I visited Rocinha earlier this year. I met Zezinho there too and was inspired by his energy and character. Two things immediately struck me on my tour – one important and one trivial: the important point, which Zezinho has mentioned too, was that Rocinha was a calm, orderly and, well, normal sort of place. People walking around getting on with their daily business, clean streets, safe and friendly. The second, and most instantly eye-catching thing I noticed, is that Rocinha, like other favelas, has superb panoramic views looking down on the coast of Rio’s better half.

 

Gavin, Miami FL littlefuzzy2000@yahoo.com.
One of the most insightful and enjoyable things we did in Rio. What an eye opener and fun. The favelas are so rich in history and culture with Samba and Carnaval and all. I wanted to go to a Samba performance and went after meeting Zezinho online. What a blast and the energy is addicting! Only after talking and learning more about the history, did I decide on seeing Rocinha from the inside. Although the place is huge, I felt like I was in some time warp village. The narrow alleyways and activity were like nothing I have seen before. And such warm friendly people! :)
Zezinho is the only person I would trust to show me a favela. There were other various types of tours we experienced while in Rio, but every place had it’s “people” who only saw us as “dollar signs”. I never felt that way with Zezinho or other people in the favela. Our plan was to visit Rocinha for 4 hours but it ended up being 7 hours. Definately worth the time and money. If Zezinho opens up a guest house in Rocinha, I will be the first one to come back to stay in Rocinha for a month or two. If you decide to want to visit a favela, I strongly suggest going with Zezinho.

 

Pack for a Purpose
We are proud members of Pack for a Purpose, an initiative that allows travelers like you to make a lasting impact in the community at your travel destination. If you save just a few kilos of space in your suitcase and bring supplies for area schools or medical clinics in need, you’ll make a priceless impact in the lives of our local children and families. Please click here to see what supplies are needed for our project/projects. Check out the good work they are doing at their website:http://www.packforapurpose.org.

For more information, please contact us at: info@favelatour.org

 

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