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Poverty Doesn’t Equal Culture

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So many World Cup tourists will rent out homes in Rio’s slums hoping to save money and acquire an artificial adventure. I appreciate that people want to immerse themselves in Brazilian culture, but I’m not sure that poverty equals culture.

This CNN article mentions how various slums are still not clear of drug lords, gangs, and gun violence. I’ve personally seen what it’s like when foreign thrill-seekers face “danger” – in the case I witnessed, a camera was stolen, which is not that dangerous – and they freak out! I don’t want to imagine how these people would have reacted had the bad event been actually dangerous, life-threatening.

So if you want to learn about Brazilian culture and can afford to stay outside of a favela, visit a samba school, eat at local cafes (and not McDonald’s), talk to people, etc. But don’t expect that you will truly experience what it’s like for a Brazilian to live in a slum. Why? Because you get to leave. And assuming you don’t live in a favela, you won’t know what it’s like to receive visitors who find your lack of space quaint and lack of public services exciting-living.

For those who decide to go slumming in the favelas anyway, only go where you are invited. Try to recognize who is being genuine with you versus who just wants your money. And don’t assume you are happier than those who live there.

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