Francileide da Costa Souza

"I know I went from illegality to legality. But I know I don’t like it here."

Coming from
Metrô Mangueira Metrô Mangueira

Now living in
Condomínio Mangueira 1 Condomínio Mangueira 1

I have been in Mangueira since I came to Rio. I came in 1988, I have always lived round here but I have a lot of pride of where I’m from. But I didn’t want to leave my community.

My name is Francicleide da Costa Souza, I am 45 years old, and I am the president of the Metro-Mangueira Association. I have been in this fight since 2010.

On July 26 2010, City Hall arrived here with a lot of cars and social workers, a lot of City Hall workers entering our houses, measuring things, filming, and graffiting the houses with that “SMH”. On that day I was working, at that time I worked in Copacabana, and my daughter called me, told me what was happening and said I should come, so I asked my manager for authorisation and I came.

When I arrived here in the community, I came across that situation, people not knowing what was going on, people were upset without knowing what was going on. They went into our houses, they did all this…but they didn’t say what they were doing it for. But, just a bit before, that nonsense happened, that Rio was chosen to host the Olympics, and we had at least an idea of what might happen.

And at the moment when we asked the City Hall civil servants why they were doing all of that, and was it because of the World Cup, they denied it all and said it was part of a social programme, and some other things.

So after two weeks of not really knowing what was going on, we got to know that we were going to be evicted. We had a meeting with the deputy mayor Andre Santos at City Hall and he said that we only had three options: Cosmos (a district nearly 700km away from here), a shelter or the street. When he said that, a lot of people started to faint or feel unwell. I was one of those people who didn’t accept it, I told them I didn’t accept it. And so the battle began. I was threatened several times. We didn’t know what to do. After that meeting that Andre Santos held, we didn’t know what we should do. So a child went to the church and asked a priest to pray for us, as we were lost and didn’t know what to do.

And the priest said there was an organisation called Pastoral das Favelas, amongst other organisations, so we went to a meeting and formed a commission, of which I was part, and the battle got started. And through Pastoral das Favelas, together with other communities, we got a meeting with Pierre, who at that time was the deputy housing mayor. He said that our residents’ association president was making a deal with our community.

We took a video of the meeting to the Association and took the president out, and put another one in. This new one was even quicker – within a month, he was already going to City Hall by himself to try and make a deal over the community with them. So, by the time we entered the Association, about 100 families had already gone to Cosmos. So we managed to hold a lot of meetings and to control it, make it so that families had the strength, the courage and the will to fight not to leave the community. But with all this, we didn’t get any sleep.

I even went as far as Brasilia to talk to the Minister of Land Reform, but when I got there, he said something I’ll never forget: we had something big against us, the three powers are united – state, municipality and federal.

Nevertheless, we didn’t give up. We stayed put in the community. And soon after, in 2011, Mangueira 1 arrived. They opened it up even before it was ready. People started arriving, and when they switched the water on, all their furniture got wet. There were a lot of leaks, Mangueira 1 had a lot of problems, it still does.

Up until the end of 2012,  they put people there, and the rest they sent to Triagem. I know I went from illegality to legality. But I know I don’t like it here. I would prefer, as I asked Eduardo Paes, that our community was regenerated. I don’t know, but there I felt that, even though it was illegal because we didn’t have the land deeds, it was mine. That there was mine, this here is not mine! As we haven’t been resettled, it could be that we don’t have to  pay the rates for the Minha Casa, Minha Vida programme. However we never really know what’s going on.

Reporter: Lena Azevedo

My journey

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