If you haven't already seen it, there is a new post over on the blog about my experience of touring Santa Marta Favela in Rio de Janeiro. Poverty Tourism is a controversial topic in the travel industry and a concept I have never felt fully comfortable with. It can often be a voyeuristic experience - tourists are herded through slums and poor neighbourhoods as if they are a museum and in which local people are the exhibits. While in Brazil I spent a lot of time researching Favela tours and found that most tours operated in this way, driving through in jeeps or motorbikes with no real interaction but just so that the tourists can gawp.
With 1 in 4 of Rio's residents living in these communities, they are a vital part of life in the city and to ignore them is to ignore the real Rio de Janeiro. Luckily I stumbled upon a walking tour run by a resident of Santa Marta Favela.
Thiago Firmino, a local dancehall DJ, was born and raised in Santa Marta. He set up Favela Santa Marta Tour as a way to showcase the favelas to outsiders, to demystify them and show that they are not just violent slums but vibrant communities.
Aka #Cochineal bugs living on #OptuniaFicusIndica
Native to #SouthAmerica and #CentralAmerica, the Cochineal bug and its favorite host the Prickly Pear cactus have an interesting history. Chances are, you have used this insect and may have even used it today without knowing. For literally thousands of years, Cochineals have been revered for their intense red #naturaldye - of which the compound #carmine is derived. This is the basis for many natural red food and cosmetic colorings (think strawberry yogurt or lipstick). The use of Cochineals dates back to the #Aztec and #Maya. At one point, this prized dye was the second most valued export of #Mexico after silver. The value of Cochineal dye is so high, because they must be carefully hand scraped off the cacti, and takes a sizable crop to produce an amount significant enough to sell.