Lia Melo

"Foi uma guerra desleal porque eles usam a força e as pessoas só têm como arma o direito de morar ali"

Coming from
Rua José Carlos Pace, 4, Vila Autódromo Rua José Carlos Pace, 4, Vila Autódromo

Now living in
Rua Herculândia, 143, Curicica Rua Herculândia, 143, Curicica

Lia Melo, 40, hairdresser

I end up with the feeling that the Olympics are more important than people`s stories, because they were human beings that were there, building the stories of their lives, that erected their houses there, but they don`t give any importance to that at all. When I arrived in Vila Autodromo, my son had been born 25 days before, today he`s 16 years old. After that, Ana Luisa was born, who is 15 now, and they were brought up in Vila Autodromo, they rode their bikes through those streets. It was where I brought my two children up without any fear, it was very peaceful there, they could walk around it alone. They knew everyone there.

The piece of land where I lived, I had the titles for it. That document gives you the right to live there for 99 years, then it can be renewed for another 99 years. I wasn`t there in an illegal way. It`s very tough having to fight for a right which you already have, which is already yours. I bought a house, and afterwards I started to build another one, on the same piece of land.  I used my first house as a beauty salon. I lived in the other one.

I discovered myself professionally and I felt fulfilled in that space. You had to ring up before Friday or Saturday to try and get a space. There was a phase when it was very good, it was always full. The only income I had really was from this work that I had in Vila Autodromo. The time came when they started going after businesses there, and you either had to legalise it, and as that wasn’t possible, they would start charging you a daily fine. Because if you take out the businesses, you destablise the community even more. It`s a way of weakening it.

Two years ago, it intensified a lot, when City Hall started to put psychological pressure on us, and a struggle really began, a war.  The riot squad arrived, on this day they arrived, and trieed to knock down a house illegally, and these residents stood in front of the house, arm in arm, to defend this resident and not let the house get demolished. With that, the municipal guards advanced towards the residents, and started to hit people. People left there hurt, older people, I thought to myself, this is a war scene. An unfair war, because they use their force, armed force in fact, because they have batons, and unfair, because those people there, the only weapon they have is their right. The right to live there, that`s all.

I decided I was going to stay, I was going to stay, that I was going to unite with those people, not just to defend my rights, but theirs too. It was a collective job. The time came when they realised they couldn’t convince us, and City Hall showed us their project for Vila Autodromo. I was obliged to leave there, yes, but not by City Hall, because they didn`t manage to oblige me to stay, but because of the situation with my family. They didn`t want to stay in a container until the houses were ready, for safety, as they were afraid. They didn`t know if City Hall was really going to fulfil its promise. That`s why we left.

At the time, they offered me 400,000 as a first offer when I said I wouldn`t go to a Minha Casa, Minha Vida government home. I started to make a report of the values of the homes here in this region, Curicica, and saw that I could buy a house here. They increased the value of the proposal, to 770,000. My house there wasn`t so big, but it was comfortable. I had a project, I already knew how I wanted it to be. In relation to the structure, this didn`t satisfy me, you know? What I liked was being with people I liked. To live somewhere you feel good, the way I lived in Vila Autodromo. I miss my neighbours a lot, my friends, and that calm, peaceful place. I feel the absence of that togetherness, that harmony, it was a family in truth. The moment when they were demolishing it, I was going past there on the bus, I was told about it, and I avoided it because I didn`t want to go. It was mainly because I bought my house with a lot of sacrifices. With a lot of strength, I worked a lot to be able to buy it. I worked 18 hours per day for it. To see all of that falling down, that took me so long to build, it would have been very painful. It is very painful, they took down in just a few minutes what took us years to build, so I didn`t want to see it happen.

If you go there now, you`ll see a huge space, where nothing has been done. The justification that they were going to need it for the works for the Olympics was used, for access routes, which was never convincing. Now there is proof. It didn`t have to be done that way, you could have had all those access route without taking all those families out of there. When the political  interest is there, and there is real estate speculation, it turns into a war, because you have to fight against the powerful, big business, and we know that the bigger part of the pressure comes from them. That`s why it`s a war, you have to fight for your rights, with all the weapons that you have, to not lose.

Reporter: Giulia Afiune | Edição: Giulia Afiune

My journey

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