Marketing executive Ike Okonkwo is a Black expat in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, originally from San Juan, Puerto Rico. Before living overseas, this 27-year-old moved to Boston to attend Harvard University to study Neuroscience and Economics and then went on to pursue an MBA/M.A. at the Wharton School of Business and Lauder Institute, in Philadelphia.
However, even before becoming an expat, traveling is an activity he has been experiencing since he was a child. “I would call myself a life-long traveler. As a kid, my family moved from Puerto Rico to Miami and then to other parts of the United States. We eventually settled back down in the Tampa Bay area. So far, I’ve visited 7 countries: Brazil, Colombia, China, Poland, Hungary, Canada,” Okonkwo told Travel Noire.
Currently owning a Travel agency, Okonkwo has shared with Travel Noire his experience as a Black expat in Rio.
Here are the excerpts from Ike Okonkwos interview with Travel Noire:
Living in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
I chose to live in Rio de Janeiro for two main reasons: 1) The natural beauty of the beaches in Rio speaks to me in a way that is unlike anything I have ever experienced. 2) Rio has become a favorite hotspot for my friends and I who work and travel across Latin America. 3) Rio has a rich Brazilian jiu-jitsu scene which I enjoy as an avid hobbyist that trains and competes.
A good place for Black Expats?
Brazil has the largest afro-descendant population outside of Africa so it is not difficult to find places where you fit in as a Black Expat. Brazilians are generally known for being very welcoming and easy-going, so it is great for Black Expats to come and experience the culture.
Good things about Rio de Janeiro
One great thing about Rio is its fitness culture (e.g. great gyms, beaches, and healthy food options). On top of that, there are seemingly infinite places to go out, enjoy samba rhythms, and see different views of the city.
Bad things about Rio de Janeiro
A common issue that foreigners will encounter in Brazil is that of security. Growing up in different neighborhoods, I’ve learned how to be street-smart; Brazil is definitely a place where one has to always be vigilant of their surroundings.
Connecting with the African Diaspora
I’m very passionate about Afro-diasporic cultures in Latin America. My father is from Nigeria and my mother, is from Cuba, so I grew up learning about West African traditions and seeing how they manifest in Spanish-speaking Latin America. After learning Portuguese, Brazil presented a new lens for me to appreciate these cultures. If you are interested in learning about West African religions, cuisines, language, etc. Brazil is a critical destination to engage with.
Running a business in Brazil
I make a living running a travel website – Well Trip. We connect expats like me to curated tourism experiences across Latin America (e.g. Spas, Beach Clubs, and much more). I have been fortunate to spend many years traveling Latin America and I’m passionate about sharing what I’ve learned and the places I’ve been with others.