Best view in Rio? Pushing limits of slum tourism

Mon Mar 16, 2009 9:26pm EDT
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By Stuart Grudgings

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Rolf Glaser zips his motorbike up the twisting alleyways of Vidigal slum, past a bunch of cheerful, gun-packing drug traffickers, and emerges at a cliffside plateau next to some demolished shacks.

A scrawny dog barks angrily from a nearby rooftop.

This, the German developer says with a straight face, could be Rio de Janeiro's next tourist hotspot.

"Can you imagine sitting up here on a terrace with a glass of wine?" he muses, motioning toward the sparkling azure Atlantic Ocean that filled the view on a boiling summer day.

"Do you think you would miss anything?"

Many Brazilians, Glaser admits, think he is missing something by planning to turn one of the hundreds of Rio slums -- whose names are synonymous with violence, drug-dealing and poverty -- into a trendy new spot on the city's tourist map.

Slum residents, many of whom clean the streets and tidy the homes of the rich, are often criminalized in people's minds purely by association with the "favelas," which are often controlled by drug gangs armed to the teeth.

But blond-haired, blue-eyed Glaser is one of a small, bold band of foreigners going where most Rio residents fear to tread, catering to tourists who want to see the "real" Rio beyond the sleazy Copacabana beach district and trips to the Christ the Redeemer statue.   Continued...

<p>German entrepreneur Rolf Glaser looks at the view from his house at the Vidigal slum in Rio de Janeiro March 5, 2009. REUTERS/Sergio Moraes</p>