Tourist site in Brazil, home to descendants of slaves, boasts amazing scenery

World Today

Brazil’s Central Highlands are home to the largest community of descendants of runaway slaves in the country. The location provides breathtaking vistas, but its fascinating history is the true magnet for tourists.

CGTN’s Paulo Cabral reports.

The Kalunga Territory is vast area of wilderness in Brazil’s Central highlands, with 2.6 thousand square kilometers an estimated population of 10,000.

It’s a region known for its scenery and waterfalls, with villages formed by descendants of runaway slaves who in the past fled their masters farms and mines to form the so-called Quilombo free-communities.

In the early 1990’s, their rights over the land their ancestors’ lands began to be recognized, and in recent years growing numbers of tourists have been traveling to the region to visit the natural wonders kept by the Kalungas – like the Santa Barbara waterfall, the most popular attraction in the region.

“I am feeling like a kid, totally amazed. I had seen this fall in pictures before but in person I have no words to describe it,” said the engineer Gustavo Murta, taking a break from a work trip to the region to visit the Santa Barbara fall.

The Santa Barbara Fall is so popular that there is a limit of 300 visitors per day and people can only stay there for up to one hour. It has become an essential source of income for the community.

Visitors pay a fee and have to hire a local guide to get to the waterfall. Members of the community took qualification courses to work with the tourists – and created associations to organize the visitors and guides.

Among the guides is 19-year-old Ubirany Maia. He’s been on the job for one year, following in his mother’s footsteps.

“This work is important to me. I can help my family at home and I have money if I want to do something, like studying. Also it’s great to meet people. Tourists learn stuff from me and I also learn things from them,” Ubirany said.

The increase in tourists has encouraged other businesses in the village, like the Santa Barbara guest house and campsite, run by Bel Kalunga. “We are working hard to get tourists to know that the Kalunga Community is not just about visiting the Santa Barbara fall. We have small guest houses and restaurants here,” she explained.

Some in the community believe the increase in tourists has been putting too much pressure on the trails and attractions. The community hopes that sustainable management will keep them preserved, amazing visitors – and generating income – for the Kalungas for generations to come.