From April 10th to April 16th 2015 our Research Team met for the first of three site-specific workshops.
The three principal investigators and three researchers from the London School of Economics, The University of Amsterdam and the Ludwig Maximillian’s University of Munich were joined by three guests. Veronica Matilde Hernandeh Hernande, a street vendor from Tepito’s famous market in Mexico City, Trevor Spence, Chairman of the Boy’s Town Association and Sophia Dowes, tour guide at the Culture Yard in Trench Town in Kingston Jamaica.
During the workshop, we were able to map and experience a little of the favela tourism landscape in Rio de Janeiro where Alessandro Angelini, post-doctoral researcher for the London School of Economics, is currently carrying out his fieldwork. Our busy schedule included visits and tours of the communities of Vidigal, Babilônia, Santa Marta, Rocinha, Alemão and Providencia. During our stay, we met with a wide range of local stakeholders including tour guides from both commercial operators and community based organisations, artists such as Mauricio Hora, a photographer and author of Picture a Favela (2012), and community activists. Opportunities were also provided to exchange with local academics such as Bianca Freire-Medeiros who has carried out extensive work on favela tourism. Meetings with government officials included a presentation and Q&A with Antonio Roberto Cesario de Sá, Sub secretary of Operational Integration and Planning at the State Security Department, and Philipe Campello, Deputy Secretary of Tourism. Both meetings brought to the fore the entanglements between violence, security and tourism, providing insight into the specific Brazilian context as well as an opportunity to compare these realities with the other research sites. Furthermore, we experienced first-hand the developing hospitality cultures of Vidigal, and how this participates in the complex relationship between pacification, favela tourism and gentrification.
Overall, this activity based workshop fostered opportunities to stimulate discussions and exchanges between participants, enabling us to highlight similarities and differences between community tourism in Rio, Kingston and Mexico City. This comparative approach shed light on the themes and common questions that underscore all three research sites. It allowed the researchers to confront and recalibrate their topics list, as well as bring together actors who are rarely connected – creating connections between Trench Town, Tepito and Rio de Janeiro.
We look forward to the next workshop to be held in Mexico in September 2015!