|Rocinha favela, Rio de Janeiro|
Rio's favelas are the most well known in Brazil first because Rio is Brazil's primary tourist destination and second because they are so visible. Rio's unique geographical and topographical structure means that the richer neighborhoods carpet the flat land stretching back from the world-famous beaches, while the favelas are perched right behind them, precariously clinging to almost perpendicular mountainsides. Because of this, neighborhoods of million dollar homes have a view of the sea out of their front window and often a view of a nearby favela out the back window. And residents of the vertical favelas often have the best views in town.
In the past two years, in the run-up to the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics, Rio's politicians and civic government have used Brazil's military police forces to "re-occupy" many of the city's favelas, which had ignored for decades and left to the drug gangs to run. In favela after favela an initial police invasion began the process, followed by the return of municipal servies such as garbage collection, establishment of governmental offices and restoration of municipal water and energy services. The term used for this process is pacification.
Up to today, the government has had some major successes in pacifying various favelas, although their ability to root out drug-related crime in the long run remains to be seen. Nonetheless, in those favelas which have undergone the process, pacification has meant a reduction in levels of intimidation and violence, an increase in property values, and a overall reduction in tension.
One ancillary effect of pacification has been that favelas, which were previously strictly "no-go"zones for non-residents, are now becoming accessible to non-favela inhabitants, residents of Rio and tourists alike. Several tour companies now offer favela tours, as do community-based non-profit organizations. Curiousity is part of the attraction, of course, but there are those who realize that the favelas, poor and crime-ridden as they were, have always been hotbeds of popular culture, whether in music, literature, cinema or art. Smart enterpreneurs in Rio's most well-known and accessible favelas, such as Rocinha and Vidigal have begun to take advantage of the new atmostphere to create new business opportunities.
In today's edition of the F. de São Paulo newspaper there's an article detailing the dining options in Rio's favelas. Such an article would have been unthinkable even a year or two ago. The article points out how favelas, and their bars and restaurants, are slowly but surely becoming part of Rio's tourist circuit.
The article does note that there are still significant obstacles and hurdles for potential restaurateurs in favelas. Because of irregularities or deficencies in the water and sewage systems in many favelas, it's difficult to get health permits to operate a restaurant. And restaurants who have become used to using only free pirated electricity and gas, and not paying employment taxes and benefits, find that it's impossible to keep the same cheap prices as before now that they must pay such costs. Also, public safety, or the public perception of the lack of such, still keeps numerous potential clients away.
For those who do want to try favela cuisine, which the article points out can be very good, often a mixture of northeastern and carioca styles, the paper offers a few pointers. First, it's best to arrive and depart by taxi, mini-bus or bus. Driving private cars on the steep streets of favelas is not recommended, nor is arriving by foot. Also, one should be prepared to pay cash for the meal, as most favela restaurants don't accept any form of plastic currency - debit or credit.
|Carne de sol at Barraca do Tino|
For adventurous readers of Flavors of Brazil, here is the paper's list of recommended restaurants in Rio's favelas:
BAR DO DAVID
ladeira Ary Barroso, 66, Chapéu Mangueira tel. 21/8156-3145
BARRACA DO TINO
rua Alm. Alexandrino, 3.780, casa 7, morro dos Prazeres tel. /21/2225-5780
BAR DO ZEQUINHA
rua do Mengão, 14, Dona Marta; tel. /21/8229-9968
avenida Presidente João Goulart, 759, Vidigal, tel. 21/3324-1767
PENSÃO BELA VISTA
rua Hortaliça, 12, morro do Pavão-Pavãozinho, tel. 21/2513-2288
TAPIOCA DA LENI
rua Armando de Almeida Lima, casa 6, Vidigal tel. 21/3322-0323
RESTAURANTE ALTAS HORAS
rua Euclides da Rocha, 13, Ladeira dos Tabajaras, tel. /21/3208-0017
avenida Presidente João Goulard, 625, Vidigal
travessa Kátia, 31, Rocinha tel. 21/3324-3040