Photo Credit: Bibiana González
Bibiana González: The Afro-Colombian Woman Behind This Brazilian Eatery
Being an entrepreneur is something that Bibiana González has in her blood. Coming from a family of entrepreneurs in Colombia, the 38 year Afro-Colombian woman is managing a successful restaurant in Rio de Janeiro.
Named Estrelas da Babilônia, the restaurant ranks in the top 20 list of the best restaurants in Brazil— according to TripAdvisor— and boasts a stunning panoramic view of Copacabana Beach and Christ the Redeemer.
González’s story as a Black entrepreneur in Rio started eight years ago when she decided to leave Colombia. Originally from Chocó Department, situated in Western Colombia and known for its large Afro-Colombian population, the former political scientist made the decision to explore a new life overseas.
“I have always dreamed about moving to Brazil, and when I arrived in Rio, it was love at first sight,” Bibiana González told Travel Noire.
The idea of opening a restaurant came when she and her friend, who is from Belgium, realized that it could be a great opportunity to run something that would make a difference in the community.
“I decided to open this business as a matter of survival. I arrived in Brazil where I already had a friend who lived in the Babilonia community, and we thought… ‘Why not set up a business together?’ But we wanted to open a different business. So, we decided to look for some houses in the community because we wanted to open an inn, but it did not get through. So, we found that there was a space to set up a restaurant at the Babilonia viewpoint, and we thought it would be a good idea.”
Since then, Estrelas da Babilônia has become a staple in the community, mainly because it was the first of its kind to offer food from other countries in a favela. The restaurant is not fancy, although it features Colombian decor.
Besides the astonishing view, the menu offers Peruvian, Colombian, Mexican and Argentine cuisine, such as tápias and patácons. Colombian coconut lemonade, natural juices, and organic beers are a big hit, too.
“As an environmental activist, I offer a menu based on organic food. We don’t have anything industrialized, and we make what I call ‘slow food’, which is food that is cooked in real time, with real ingredients and a Colombian touch.”
Estrelas da Babilônia also hosts cultural events where Latin rhythms rule all night long in the place. She also invites other Latin-American chefs to share their cultural experience with her patrons.
With its many positive reviews, Estrelas da Babilônia is considered a very successful Black-owned business. However, despite its popularity, Bibiana González said that many clients are surprised when they learn the restaurant is owned by a Black woman.
“Some people, when they arrive at the restaurant, ask to talk to the owner. They are surprised when they learn that one of the owners is a young, Black Latina woman. It is not easy, because people are not yet used to it. But with hard work, good food and drinks, very pleasurable customer service, along with this amazing view of Rio de Janeiro, we are achieving great success so far. ”
Because of the pandemic, some activities in the restaurant had to be suspended. But with the advancement of the vaccination rollout in Rio, things are steadily getting back to normal.
So, if you are in the city and want to enjoy Estrelas da Babilônia, it is recommended to contact the restaurant first on its Instagram page.