A new image
Excluded and excoriated for years, Rio’s hilltop favelas –the pacified ones, especially– will now vie with Sugarloaf and the Corcovado for tourists’ attention. With this in mind, Sebrae, a non-profit agency funded by federally-mandated payroll deductions and dedicated to small business entrepreneurship issues, is spearheading Rio Top Tour, a tourism project in Botafogo’s Santa Marta (also called Dona Marta) favela, the first to be “pacified”, in 2008. Sebrae is working together with the state business credit agency Investe Rio, the Rio de Janeiro state tourism agency and the tourism ministry, at the federal level, to map locations and develop events, get the word out, train guides and foster small businesses aimed at tourist pockets. The Botafogo favela will host a five-night jazz festival next month, featuring well-known Brazilian performers. Plans are under way for a hiking path there as well as in Alto Leme, the new name of the Morro da Babilônia favela next to Leme, a neighborhood at the end of Copacabana. The state tourism agency will also hold a competition for the best New Year’s Eve celebration in each of the 12 “pacified” favelas in Rio; the views are spectacular from the hills. Next on the tourism agenda is Ipanema’s Pavão-Pavãozinho favela, where a new room-size elevator connecting “asphalt” to “hill” has drawn an average of 4,500 tourists a month since it opened three months ago.