Favela hotels serve up different view of Rio


Oct 25, 2005
This isn't about Argentina at all, but it may be interesting to ex-pats in Argentina:
With her thick-rimmed glasses and sparse, rotting teeth, Alzenira Bento is hardly a typical hotel owner. She has spent her life carting firewood up the mountainsides of Rio de Janeiro and washing the clothes of Copacabana's rich "madames", and now, at 70, lives in a three-storey home at the heart of the Chapeu Mangueira shantytown, which peers over Rio's famous beach.
But as the driving force behind the "Rio Culture" pousada (inn), Mrs Bento is part of a new wave of favela hoteliers offering stays in Rio's redbrick shantytowns at rock-bottom prices.
"Foreigners are tired of seeing that postcard, that washed version of Brazil," said her 40-year-old daughter, Patricia Bento, who also chips in at the family-run guest house. "If you just stay in the [five-star] Sofitel you leave with no notion of the extent of the misery in this country."
Favela tourism is nothing new to Rio. Since the 1980s, guidebooks have suggested that tourists take fleeting trips past the 800 or so shantytowns now scattered across the city's undulating landscape.
Dozens of tourist companies offer Jeep excursions into such areas, which are notorious for their cocaine fuelled conflicts.
But with half a dozen favela hotels having opened their doors in the past 12 months, tourists keen to get a taste of the city's impoverished underbelly - or economise as they make their way around South America - can now check into the favelas day and night.