Are Slum Tours A Good Idea?

Friday, October 1, 2010

I guess it’s simmers down to someone’s personal comfort level. For example, I would not go white water rafting. I don’t like baths, I don’t like swimming, I sometimes find beaches rather boring. I know it’s kind of lame.

While in Buenos Aires, I heard about villa tours — “villa” being the common word to refer to a slum. But, I was not in the space nor level of comfort for exploring these suburban landscapes. Reading an article in the New Zealand Herald about a favela tour in Rio de Janeiro opened my mind:

Although we can’t see them, hidden inside a concrete bunker on the opposite side of the street, sit gangsters with guns. Residents have set up tables selling various handcrafts and paintings at the van stop. The tour has provided an opportunity for favela residents to start their own business right next to the drug dealers.

Fear is a funny thing. Sometimes, it hinders us from moving forward and breaking through barriers. Instead, we put up fences to maintain our comfortable living. By doing this, sometimes we alienate a key aspect of what it truly means to be social creatures. In politcal jargon, they would call this act marginalization.

Personally, I can’t help but blame mainstream media for this mindset. I remember a handful of people telling me to not go to Mexico City because our national news — owned and operated by only two major corporations — headlined how two Canadians were killed on some coastal resort. Right before we left, governments issued a general warning for travelers thinking of hopping the border. We still flew south. Exposure has a powerful impact.

Some may argue that slum touring is exploitation and some think it will open our doors of perception. Personally, an open door is always more inviting.

By Brit Weaver


About the Author

Toronto born and based, Brit is an avid leisure cyclist, coffee drinker and under-a-tree park-ist. She often finds herself meandering foreign cities looking for street eats to nibble, trees to climb, a patch of grass to sit on, or a small bookstore to sift through. You can find her musing life on her personal blog,

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