Lockdown Stories

Grassroot Media Making in the favelas
of Rio de Janeiro

André Constantine

André Constantine – ‘Favela Tour Social: contra turismo safari’ – Favela of Babilônia

Hi! My name is André Constantine and I live in the Babilônia favela located on the south zone of Rio de Janeiro. Babilônia is situated on a hill in the Leme neighbourhood of Rio de Janeiro, separating Copacabana beach from ‘Botafogo’, one of the most famous and expensive areas of the city. It is important to highlight that, in contrast with European cities, in which people who live on hills have purchasing power and high standard of living, in Rio de Janeiro, we are the ones who occupy the hills. We: the blacks, the immigrant people from the northwest. We, who built this city with our cheap labour force and that, today, are unable to enjoy this city.

André's Covid-19 Story

I was infected and my symptoms were shortness of breath, tiredness, and difficulty to speak. I would like to highlight that it’s impossible to separate COVID-19 from our president Bolsonaro and the problems that this disease is causing. He is denying science and trying to impose an extreme-right program in the country by using the new Pentecostal church and the paramilitaries groups in Brazil.

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André Constantine – ‘Favela Tour Social: contra turismo safari’ – Favela of Babilônia Cont’d

I’m 43 years old and I am part of two social movements: the ‘Favela Não Se Cala’ movement, that exists since 2011, and the ‘Babilônia Utopia’ movement, that we started to plan last year. I’m a trained tourist guide and my tour is called ‘Favela Tour Social: contra turismo safari’. I add ‘social’ in the name of the tour because when I receive the payment for my tours, I give back half of it to the territory. I do that because we can’t consider the possibility of having favela tourism without aiming to transform favela social conditions.

I’m against the ‘predatory’ tourism in which tourist guides from outside or inside the favelas include in their tours some kind of safari tourism in which ‘poverty and misery’ are part of their touristic package. In our tours, we do not allow participants to take photos of our people or of precarious conditions of their families. This social favela tour is a way to show people around the world the potential of the favela and this is the image I want to promote. I’m not interested in images about shortage of water, but images that shows our potential! This favela tour is a political tour to raise awareness about the challenges we are facing in our daily lives.

 

 

We have this understanding as an ethical standard in our tourist offer and we explain that what is earned in our tours is used to joint efforts to transform the territory. Our tours are a tool to improve our lives in favelas.

André’s Covid -19 Story Cont’d 

People say that it’s a democratic virus, because in Rio de Janeiro, for example, the biggest number of infected people are in the richest neighbourhood. But I say that it is not at all true. In these places, families have access to good hospitals, exams and to a healthy diet which is fundamental to recover from COVID-19. The favelas are facing not only this virus but other sanitarian crisis such as the shortage of water, hygienical supplies and hand sanitizers, for instance.

I would like to emphasize that we are facing the same storm, but we are not on the same boat. Rich people are going through the storm on their yates, while other people are on a lifeboat and the people in the favelas are just left alone in the ocean. This shows Brazil class struggles. 

In Brazil, especially in the favelas, I have to say that all the actions that helped to combat COVID-19 were organised by ourselves. Our volunteers distributed food, hand sanitizers, and other hygienic materials. We created a small leaflet about the importance of social isolation.

It’s really difficult to respect social distance when a big number of residents live in small houses very close to each other. It’s a territory with high population density, poor sunlight and lack of air circulation which, in combination, cause the formation of mouldiness and worsen respiratory syndromes. In Rocinha, there is the highest number of tubercules cases in South America. Our organizations focus on distributing hygienic kits since there are another ones distributing foods kit.  We distributed 300 kits to old-aged people and the second action was helping people to pay their rent.

 

If you would like to get in touch or book a ‘Favela Tour Social: contra turismo safari’, please contact me:

+55 21 99030-7685