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都市の「シェルター」をリサーチするプロジェクト「Shelter Studies」。サンパウロ、カラカス、ボゴタ、ニューヨーク、ジュネーヴ、パリ、ロンドン、イスタンブール……世界の都市を巡り、そこに住まう人々への30のインタヴュー|Shelter Studies is project to research various 'Shelter' by Keisaku Fukuda+Robert Schmidt+Gonzalo Velez. They interview 30 key persons living in vulnerable urban space.|Powered by MT 2.65Syndicate this site

Name: Marcelo Armstrong
Profession: Tour operator / Tour guide
Nationality: Brazilian
URL: http://www.favelatour.com.br/
Date of Interview: Oct. 17th, 2006.

At first glance, Marcelo offers the image of a rich Brazilian kid who has decided to spend his days under the sun surfing, but after five minutes one learns he is well spoken and educated. Marcelo walks a tight rope, constantly balancing his rehearsed words between business entrepreneur (providing a service) and social educator/activist (providing funding for a local school/teaching tourists a more inclusive social perspective).

He speaks of various positive actions his tour brings to the community, and how different the mentality and framework of his tour is compared to the other operators. However, in the end, I believe Marcelo has evolved into a full businessman, who may have started his business 15 years ago with good intentions. When we took the tour, we were part of a group of 30 people split into 3 smaller groups of 10. Along with the other tour operators hitting the "major stops" in Rocinha, we were like a herd of cattle being ushered into to see any other tourist attraction in Rio (the difference was that the operators don't have to pay an entrance fee).

If Marcelo was a true social educator, I believe he should be searching for alternative methods to revise his approach to truly make a difference in the communities. For example, it is what could do to really connect tourist to locals in a more conducive way. Whether or not Marcelo initially started his operation with good intentions, it is irrelevant. Today, he doesn't operate with that in mind. His semantics may suggest that, but the reality of the tour suggests something completely different (from my personal experience).

What is your background before you got started?
I worked in the tourist market for about 20 years, and about 14 years ago I decided to start this tour.

Because I believed there were tourists who wanted to have a better understanding of Rio, and to see Rio from another perspective. To offer them a better physical view of Rio and the society through the favelas.

What are the positive/negative aspects of what you are doing?
The first action I took was to go to the favela, and ask the people if they wanted me to do this tour, and they were very enthusiastic about that. I am bringing people there, who have an honest interest in the area, and how things are there. These people are a true exception, most people want to stay away, and critize from a distance, to perpatrate the idea of a favela as a "no go area". However, the tourism somehow breaks this law of exception. It allows the tourists to understand the favela as something different other than what they have heard from the media (negative perception). I beleive the first action to solve a problem is to understand the problem exists versuses just staying away.

If everyone maintains this negative stereotype, they will be favelas forever, and they will be seperated forever. The tourists are changing their mentality/point of view, and for the people of the favela there is a change in mentality of what's possible.

Do you feel there are any negative aspects to it?
Many of the operators now, offer tours as a way of making money. They offer tours as another tourist sight, and have no social comment to the favelas. They treat it just as another tour like going to the beach, or to see the monkeys.
To them I ask, what is your background, interest, effort to propose such a tour? What is your commitment to the area? To me, these are "traps" for tourists. They should give something back to the communities. If they want to treat like a tour site, they should pay something to get in there. They believe that just taking tourist there, and letting them buy stuff that is good enough creating movement in the local economy. I believe this is far from enough, and worse yet, they leave the responsibility of giving something back to the tourist.

What do you give back to the community?
Besides the possibility of tourist buying things, the possibility of changing mentalities/perspectives, we finance a school project in a neighborhood for 75-80 kids. If there is no tour then the school closes. They have no money to be self-sufficent.
We invest in education, because it is the only way out of poverty.

Many people can say, currently, it is a fashion or trend to visit these kind of places (favelas) how do you see youself sustaining the business if this is true? Do you see these tours as a sustainable thing?
I'm interested in attracting tourists with a geniune interest, not because everyone is going to the favelas so we have to go to the favelas too. I never propose tours for large numbers as 50 people or so. I always do small personalized groups, and most of the people on the tours have read in the guidebook about us and have a real interest in learning. Not as part of an incentive trip, people who have no idea of why they are there, and it is just another stop as part of a larger package tour. I don't want to make it a must...you must go. this is what i expect. I understand the invasiveness of large groups, "cattle herds".
I try to make the tourists who are not aware, understand the profile of what is going on there. The tour is not to showcase social problems. Some people come with very different expectations, could i see a drug dealer with a machine gun, or it's not as a poor as i thought...could i see something poorer? This is not what we are offering, we are trying to provide a more responsible understanding of the environment.

What is your hope/dream for the future of favelas and the favela tour?
For the tour, I just want to keep it the way it is going. I don't want to bring 100 tourist everyday. I would like to do it well with less people, then badly with a lot of people.
For the future of the favelas, I feel like it's making a difference for the people of the community. There are people coming from all over to understand their life.
The favelas are an economic problem, and unfortuntely I don't see a very good future for this. Because the only way out of poverty is education, and the government doesn't invest in education. Our president, is a guy who came from a very poor education and background, and almost says proudly I don't read books, I never read books. The image he presents is that you don't have to read or study to be somebody like me someday. That's not the proper image to sell. Over the last 15 years the favelas have gotten better, but they have gotten much bigger, the population is growing.