If you google "Rio African Culture", the very first search result that appears is a link to a CNN World video in which Carlos stars as a guide to the city's African heritage. (Want to see? You can view it here.)
Carlos offers first timers to his city the chance to see the city’s famous highlights: Sugar Loaf, Copacabana and Christ the Redeemer, but his tours also offer visitors the chance to go beyond Rio’s tourist sites, and to get a sense of how the city’s past influences its contemporary culture.
For travelers wanting to understand more about Rio’s Afro-Brazilian culture, a good place to start is on a North Zone Favela tour, which will take you safely and sensitively through one of the city’s favelas. These densely populated parts of the city – which some might call “slums” – are places where tourists rarely visit, but they’re not recent additions to the urban landscape. There are over 950 favelas in Rio, and some have been in existence for over 100 years. Combined, they house 20% of Rio’s inhabitants.
Carlos wants travelers to understand the social and cultural reality of life in the favela, where most of the residents are Afro-Brazilians. He has close ties to Oca dos Curumin a community-based organization that is improving the lives of children, young adults and seniors through grassroots education programs. Travelers with Carlos can meet the people who run this organization, providing another lens through which to understand this part of Rio.
Looking back to the roots of Rio’s African heritage means learning about the reality of the slave trade; in the 18th century, Rio was the site of the world’s largest slave market. (Brazil was the last country to abolish the slave trade, with an estimated four million slaves shipped across the Atlantic over 300 years.) Carlos will take you to places like the Pedro do Sal in the Saúde neighbourhood, which is widely considered the center of the area known locally as “Little Africa”. Hundreds of years ago, this infamous place saw slaves unloading salt from trading boats; today it’s transformed into the birthplace and beating heart of samba and choro music in Rio. Here you can also learn about Candomblé, the highly musical Afro-Brazilian religion that grew from a mixture of traditional Yoruba, Fon, and other West African beliefs.
Want to dance or just feel the Afro-Brazilian beat of samba music with the locals? Carlos can arrange samba lessons for those who want to dance, and also accompany travelers to the nightclubs in Lapa where you can feel safe, confident, and a part of the thriving local music scene.
Above all, enjoy discovering Rio de Janeiro! There’s absolutely nowhere else like it on earth.