The Camel and the Cell Phone

Andres from Switzerland, his girlfriend, Paola from Brazil and I were riding on camels in the Thar Desert outside of the western Indian town of Jaisalmer. We were in a spot as remote as I’ve ever been, 21 hours by train from Delhi, just 60 kilometers from the border with Pakistan. It’s a flat, arid locale, punctuated by sand dunes and populated by only villagers, … Continue reading The Camel and the Cell Phone

Slum Tourism

My story on slum tourism or “poorism” has been chosen by Ode Magazine as one of its top 10 positive stories of 2009.  It ran in the April travel issue.  This is my first magazine article and it came as a result of stories I introduced on my blog.  http://www.odemagazine.com/doc/62/slum-tours/ http://www.odemagazine.com/exchange/13599/ode_s_top_10_positive_stories_from_2009 For more information about Vicky Collins visit http://www.teletrendstv.com Continue reading Slum Tourism

Blair and the Balloon Boy

My 11 year old son, Blair, wanted to go to Cirque du Soleil this year, but because our schedules were so busy, we missed it.  Instead he went to the Balloon Boy media circus.  Because my husband was traveling and I was a single mom over the weekend I didn’t want to leave him at home while I was working 24/7 for NBC News.  Instead … Continue reading Blair and the Balloon Boy

How People Live

During April I’ve had a photo exhibit running in Studio 13 Gallery in Denver’s Santa Fe Arts District.  It’s called “How People Live” and is a collection of photographs from the streets and slums around the world that illuminate the diversity of people and the condition of the poor.  Photos were taken in Uganda, China, Thailand, India, Brazil, Mexico, and various places in America.  Most of the … Continue reading How People Live

Slum Tourism

Check out Ode Magazine for my story on slum tourism or “poorism” as it is sometimes called.  This is my first magazine article and it came as a result of stories I introduced on my blog.  Thanks to all for reading.  http://www.odemagazine.com/doc/62/slum-tours/ For more information about Vicky Collins visit http://www.teletrendstv.com Continue reading Slum Tourism

Favela Tour in Rio de Janeiro

Rogean Rodriguez builds castles in the sand. For eleven years he has squatted on a little piece of shoreline across from the fancy hotels on Rio’s famed Copacabana Beach. On this patch of real estate he creates fantasies by hand with sand and water. His exquisite palaces catch the light and eyes of tourists who walk along the boulevard. Sometimes they contribute a few coins and photograph his masterpieces. At night a watchman guards the kingdom while Rodriguez returns to the hillside “favela” where he lives. On the mountain above Copacabana beach is Pavao. The shanty town that Rodriguez calls home is a short distance yet a world away from his fairy tale castles. “Favelas” are the slums. Created by squatters they are home to many of Rio’s six million residents. It is the Rio that locals steer clear of and tourists are warned to avoid. But these cities within a city are hidden and unique cultures worthy of exploration. With the advent of specially guided tours http://www.favelatour.com.br/ visitors can travel safely into the “favelas” for an eye-opening look at the other Rio de Janeiro.

Sandcastle on Copacabana Beach

 

Andres LeJerraga picks me up at the Copacabana Palace, one of the most splendid hotels along its namesake beach. I join a vanload of curious tourists for the ride up to Rocinha, Rio’s most infamous favela. When laying out the itinerary for my visit to Brazil I decided I wanted to personally witness the poverty I had heard so much about. The point of the visit was not to gawk or exploit, but rather to get an authentic view of how people live. I learn that there actually is a name for this kind of tourism. It is called “poorism” and it is a fast growing market taking off in cities like Rio, Bombay, Nairobi and Johannesburg. Part of my interest, I must confess, sprung from a bit of defiance. I grew weary of people telling me how dangerous Rio was. Don’t walk off the main streets, leave any valuables at the hotel, watch out for drug dealers, be careful who you talk to, beware, beware, beware.

Favela of Rocinha in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

 

The huge sprawling Rocinha can be seen on a hillside on the urban outskirts of Rio long before we arrive. Andres tells us as many as 200,000 people live in the slum. A Formula One racetrack went through here before Rocinha started developing in the 1940’s. Today the main drag through Rocinha is Cowboy Lane, a busy commercial center with 1300 shops and three bus lines. Stone and brick houses with tin roofs are precariously packed and stacked one on top of the other on the hillside. They were built by construction workers on solid rock. Many have stunning views. From a rooftop one can see the line of demarkation between the poor and the rich who live in high rise buildings on the other side of the road in an area called Sao Conrado. Because these settlements were created by squatters, refugees and displaced people, infrastructure was an afterthought. Many gather water in big blue tanks on their rooftops. There is a chaotic tangle of cables and wires crisscrossing the roads for electricity. Samba music plays in the streets. From eye level it looks similar to urban business districts in densely populated graffiti covered cities but there is a lot more going on in the “favelas” than what meets the eye.

Continue reading “Favela Tour in Rio de Janeiro”