A five-part travel series to encourage spending your travel dollars with black-owned businesses abroad.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, affectionately nicknamed the “Cidade Maravilhosa” (“the Marvelous City” in English) is known for beautiful beaches, samba and the Cristo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer) statute (among other attractions). It is a popular destination for tourists. Brazil is home to the largest Black population in the African Diaspora with more than 55 million people identifying as Black or of mixed race, many of the cultural attractions we love about Brazil have African influences.
The Value of Black Dollars
Like any other city, Rio too has its fair share of problems and challenges. Disparities in wealth and income abound. A disproportionate number of Black people in the city are poor or lower working class. As a result, black businesses can be hard to find in Rio for the typical tourist. Relatively speaking, many black businesses lie outside of the typical tourist stomping grounds of Ipanema and Copacabana. Rio and Brazil as a whole are often embattled in race and class warfare, not unlike what we experience here in the U.S. The recent murders of Black Brazilian youth by law enforcement, with impunity, is a reminder that the fight to end racism and inequality exists across the Americas. In 2018, Marielle Franco, a prominent Black Brazilian politician was assassinated along with her driver while sitting in her car following a political event. Franco stood for the rights of Black people, poor people, those living in favelas as well as the LGBT community. At the time of the publication of this article, no one has been brought to justice for their murders.
Some media outlets have advocated for Black people to stay away from Rio due to the injustices that occur. Unfortunately, abstaining from visiting Rio will not change or challenge the system of oppression or automatically make right the wrongs that occur. If it were only that simple. The system that perpetuates injustice against Black people does not need our money to continue doing what they’ve always done. The good news is that there are many people and organizations in Rio who have been on the forefront, fighting and advocating for Black people. It is these organizations and small black-owned businesses that can use our dollars to continue the fight for justice and equality. So, instead of an ineffective short-sighted boycott of Rio that will create no change, we advocate for travelers who visit Rio to spend their money with black businesses and/or black communities and with those who are standing up against injustice. By doing this, you can help people and families provide for each other and also sustain community activism. This is how we use our dollar to bring about the change we wish to see.
If you’re planning on a trip to Rio and want to support black businesses and have no idea where to start, let us help. Listed below are some black businesses to spend your money with on your next trip to the Marvelous City.
Você quer aprender Português? (Do you want to learn Portuguese?) Learn from local Brazilians. Thanks to online free tools such as Skype, you can schedule Skype lessons with locals so you can pick up a bit of the lingo and culture of Brazil before you go. Check out Conrado Consulting for language lessons. Learn a bit about the Brazilian culture and the Carioca (those born in Rio de Janeiro are called Cariocas) way of life. Cariocas also pronounce words slightly differently, so they can teach you those nuances so you sound just like (well, maybe not just like) a local. It’s always a good idea to learn a few words and phrases before you go.
Eat and Drink
Just outside of the popular Zona Sul (South Zone of Rio where the majority of tourists visit) is Dida Bar. Not only is the food absolutely delicious, but the ambiance and vibe are also phenomenal. A great place to grab lunch or dinner.
If you’re a beer lover, check out Pretas de Cervejeiras. Pretas de Cervejeiras is a group of Black women beer brewers who meet at Dida Bar. I highly recommend checking out their Facebook page for their next beer tasting event.
Just minutes away from Copacabana beach, in the Botafogo neighborhood, you’ll find Acarajé de Botafogo, a street vendor serving traditional acarajé. Acarajé is a fried black-eyed pea bean patty, a popular Brazilian dish, typically filled with coconut milk and shrimp stew. The vendor is usually only there in the evenings, so stop by after 5 p.m. Definitely, a must try. How to get there: Take the metro to the Botafogo station and exit the metro on the side of Rua Voluntário da Pátria. The Acarajé de Botafogo stand is located in the Nelson Mandela square. Of course, you can always take an Uber or a taxi.
In beautiful Santa Teresa neighborhood, lies Nega Tereza Bar, another great option for dinner and drinks. Here you’ll find great food and music.
Maybe you’ll enjoy a personal chef. Marina Paulino, offers personal chef services as well as private and group cooking classes.
No visit to Brazil is complete without a tasting of cachaça, the national spirit of Brazil. Clovispinga is a cachaçaria that specializes in artisanal cachaça. With flavors including lime, chocolate, bubble gum, piña colada and mango, you’re sure to find a cachaça that you enjoy. Though Clovispinga does not have a physical location, you can find them at events around Rio, check their Facebook page for event updates.
Pop Up Shopping Events
There are many shopping pop up events throughout Rio where black business owners come together to showcase and sell their items. You’ll want to catch at least one of these events. You’ll find unique items for yourself, great gift ideas and meet some amazing people.
Encontro Preto Consumo Diferenciado is a monthly event that showcases Black entrepreneurs and artists who have sustainable, ethical products. You’ll find clothing, accessories, art, home decor and beauty products at this event that is held in the Lapa area of Rio.
Held on the first and second Saturdays each month, A Conexão Carioca (the Carioca Connection) is another shopping event where you can find handmade items made by black Brazilians.
No visit to Rio is complete without a stay in the Santa Teresa neighborhood. Santa Teresa is the “hippie” artsy neighborhood of Rio. Our pick, hands down, for a wonderful stay in Santa Teresa is Casa Cool Beans. Not only is this place beautiful, but they also serve an awesome breakfast with second to none service. It’s also LGBT-friendly with rates that fit nearly any budget.
A mere three blocks from the famous Copacabana Beach is an Airbnb apartment with lavish accommodations in a beautiful and busy Copacabana neighborhood. You’ll have access to Copacabana and neighboring Ipanema with ease. Offering one bed with a private bath, you are steps away from the beach, nightlife and great food.
Want to know what's going on in Rio? Looking for Afro-Brazilian cultural events? Check out Instituto BLACK BOM’s Facebook page for events and other happenings. Additionally, they have a coworking community and suite of creatives in Central Rio, you will find meeting space, shops, art and more.
Other ways to stay in the know of what is happening in Rio is through Fundicao Progresso,* which hosts events of interest to those looking to experience and learn more about Afro-Brazilian culture. Additionally, Afro Reggae Groupo hosts a variety of events and activities to explore the world of Afro-Reggae, samba and other shows. Check their social media pages and website for details.
Why not get your clothing for your trip to Rio while in Rio? Where’s your first stop? AfroCriadores located in Ipanema Harbor. A collection of fashion designers, they offer Brazilian and African-inspired wearable items here. It’s also home to Afro Beach Brasil, a swimwear company for women with curves, so don’t worry about bringing a swimsuit when you can buy one here.
Located in the Catete neighborhood, you’ll find Savana Rio, a collective of small and black-owned businesses. Not all businesses here are black-owned, but Savana Rio is black-owned along with some of the vendors in the establishment. Under the roof of Savana Rio, treat yourself to jewelry and clothing as well as home decor items. Enjoy a coffee as well as dessert at their onsite cafe and bakery.
A collective of Black women entrepreneurs, Espaço Yaya is a concept store that will offer apparel, home decor, accessories, sweet treats, books and more. All items made by Black women who are seeking to bring about change in their communities. Coming soon to Rio, you can follow and receive updates on Facebook or Instagram.
Soul Bamba sells modern affordable Afro-Brazilian fashions for men and women. Here you’ll find T-shirts, T-shirt dresses, headwraps and other cool items. Head back home with a new wardrobe.
Tours and Guides
Don’t leave Rio without a tour of Pequena África (“Little Africa”). Book a tour to get a glimpse into the history of the Brazilian slave trade, Quilombos, the history of samba and more. One tour option is Conectando Territórios, “a community-based tourism agency that seeks to connect people through unique experiences when in contact with the knowledge and practices of traditional Brazilian communities.”
Check out Airbnb Experiences and book an experience with Gabriela. You’ll “visit important spots as Pedra do Sal, Morro da Conceição, Largo da Prainha and Valongo's Suspended Garden” during your tour of Little Africa.
While you’re in Little Africa be sure to stop by Instituto de Pesquisa e Memória Pretos Novos (New Blacks Research Institute and Memorial) to learn about the history of Blacks who arrived to Rio from Africa. It’s a small space but definitely worth a visit, they also have a library boasting over 600 books about African-Brazilian and indigenous culture, history and the arts, along with an art gallery.
Speaking of art, how about an art stroll in the Lapa area of Rio near the Selaron steps? Deborah will help you leave your mark in Rio with her curated tour of Santa Teresa's Graffiti Community Walls. You’ll also have the opportunity to do your own sketch/graffiti painting on the community walls. You can book with Thais, Gabriela and Deborah via Airbnb using the link provided.
Odds and Ends
Like thrifting? Blackchó offers upcycled, thrifted unique pieces. Follow on social media to see the inventory.
Take a stand against racism and injustice with a Maria Chantal statement T-shirt. With sayings such as “My Hair Did Not Ask for Your Opinion” and “Curly Hair is Beautiful,” these tees are sure to be a conversation piece wherever you go. You can find her items at Casa Naara.
If you’re looking for a gift idea, look no further than Afrontosa, a line of notebooks featuring Black girls and women. While Afrontosa does not have a physical location, you can contact her and she can deliver notebooks of your choice to your location.
Emaye Ama Mizani offers Kemetic yoga classes in the park at various locations throughout Rio. Follow their Instagram page for upcoming yoga classes.
Traveling to Rio with a group of friends? Why not throw a grand party? No party is complete without the drinks. Contact Se7Raiz to bartend your grand Rio festa.
Rio is a beautiful city with amazing people and a robust culture and heritage. Tourists have the opportunity to use their time there by spending their dollars (or Reals, rather) to be a force for social good and have an amazing time.
Note: *Fundicao Progresso is not a black-owned establishment, however, they host events and other functions celebrating Afro-Brazilian culture and identity.