Human Zoos & Tourists: Rio & Others

“Do you feel like we’re on the Champs-Elysées,” she asked, pointing to "the ghetto."
FRANCK PENNANT/AFP/Getty Images

Folks are flooding the streets and stadium seats in Rio to watch the runners, jumpers, throwers, lifters, and twisters and to celebrate anniversaries, birthdays, lay-offs, and retirements. I urge them to try the ceviche, get a tattoo, grab a Filet-o-Fish out of the McDonalds in Ipanema, and stay the hell away from those tours that take people through the favelas to gawk at those most touched by a fucked up system of supremacy and socio economics (I guess one is a parent of the other, eh?). These tours offer the opportunity to satisfy that bullshit need many tourists have to find those whose lives are so bad, they make the tourist feel amazingly good about their own. To not feel so bad about visiting this human zoo, these tourists may buy candy or a tissue from a kid.

Stop fuc*ing going.

Just a few years ago there were busses of wealthy white folks rolling through the Bronx to see how the poor brown folks lived. The guide would take them to see the places where Baby Bruh was shot by Kevin and where Marisol and Luz were broken by a gorilla pimp. “Do you feel like we’re on the Champs-Elysées,” guide Lynn Battaglia asked the tourists while riding down the Grand Concourse, pointing out housing projects. This was called the Ghetto tour.

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You monsters are people.

The uproar was real and valid. Bronx resident, Ruben Diaz said, “To have foreigners come and gawk at a long line of people who are less fortunate than they are and to make money off of that and to view them as they are some sort of entertainment is pretty disgusting.” And all the brown people around the nation who knew of this “Ghetto Tour” given by Real Bronx Tours, nodded their heads in agreement.

These folks are not there for your entertainment. They are not there for you to walk through while a guide tells you how
dangerous they are at night. This is not the fucking zoo. These are lives.

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Enjoy Rio (also: Mumbai, Nairobi, New Orleans, and many other places).

There are many ways to help a community, but treating the people like beasts and televisions is not among those ideas:

Ways To Give Back:

1. Planeterra
2. Project Favela
3. Community In Action

Note: If you plan to still participate in one of these tours, be discerning. Ask appropriate questions. Do good.

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Darnell Lamont Walker, a self-professed traveling foodie, has been found sitting at tables eating baby goat sweetbreads, drinking tequila, and laughing loudly with strangers. The writer, filmmaker, artist, and sometimes photographer puts happiness above all.

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