Maria de Fátima Lima

"My house came with a bitter taste of more than anything, humiliation."

Coming from
ladeira do farias, 125, morro da providência ladeira do farias, 125, morro da providência

Now living in
Rua nabuco de freitas, 125, santo cristo Rua nabuco de freitas, 125, santo cristo

My name is Maria de Fatima, I’m 38 and I’m from Ceara, and I’m studying tourism management at CEDERJ [university], I’m fighting and working in the tourism area, cycle tourism.

In Faria [ladeira do faria, in Providencia], I went there around 2007, 2008. It’s a system of occupation there, people occupy it and when they don’t need to anymore, when they’ve found something better, they pass it on to someone else. So the residents always help each other.

One of the residents living there had the luck to get a house in some other part of Rio and left. As I needed somewhere, at the time, I went there, just me and my mother. They claimed there was no choice, the occupation was at an end; that it was as a result of the cable car, the improvement works of the World Cup and the Olympics. Back then, the World Cup still hadn’t happened.

It was terrible. Not because of the competent authorities – in that case, the Housing Secretary – or City Hall, or any other representative, such as the residents’ association. Afterwards, they all showed up, as the most senior authorities who could take some sort of action and make demands.

They were rumours, at the beginning. People in the streets came up to you and: “Did you know that you are going to be evicted?” And from that point on you started to notice different activity, activity of building works. And the time came where they didn’t deny it anymore, and the displacement of people started, the disappropriation of the residents of those properties.

One fine day, you wake up, 6am or 7am, with a deafening banging sound, you look, and there are millions of City Hall workers removing rubble. This time, they put a truck in the road and the workers were seven, eight floors above throwing down rocks and rubble which they found, bits of wood – anything dirty they found in that place.

It took some time before someone in a suit and tie arrived, wanting to talk to me. I was fed up with life as well, and I didn’t want to talk. I just told them to get away from the front door: “Get out, I don’t want to talk to you.” I already had that “mark of the beast” as we used to call it, the letters SMH and a series of four numbers. Anyone who had that number on their door knew they were lost, that there was nowhere to escape to.

It was perverse, it was cowardly. Like that, that kind of intimidation tactic, you know? It was this: they intimidated you until you couldn’t take it anymore. I wanted to resist it, my mother didn’t want to, we made an agreement and left. We were in luck, because only 34 families got taken to this address. The others, they went to Frei Caneca, and others I don’t even know, because there were people I never saw again in my life. You want to sort something out? Go to Porto Novo, don’t bother with City Hall.

It’s the company responsible for litter collection, street cleaning, water, I don’t know what else. They charge you, order things to be cut off, order things to be planted, order things to be lit, order lights to be turned off… it’s them.

He got frustrated with me because I said: “Fuck, the cable car ended up working fine and the houses stayed there.” Because the excuse at the time, according to the rumours, was the cable car. The justification was the cable car. There were people who thought it was better to get the social rent, and damn the rest. Because 400 reals… who is going to do what with that? Where would you go? Because to start with, you’re not going to stay here in Centro. Here you won’t find anything for less than 800 bucks.

So we managed to stay in the same street, in Rua Ladeira de Faria, through some friends from Ceara that we’ve got, that have some kitchenettes there. So we stayed here. Truly, we managed it with 400 reals because there are just four rooms for me and for her.

It was a three-year wait, without knowing what was going to happen. It was just too distressing, the most powerless I’ve ever felt in my life, to have my future decided by someone I think has the worst character, but anyway.

Today, I feel a bit lighter, but for selfish reasons, because their situation is still very bad. The housing situation in Providencia is still very serious. There are still a lot of people with their houses marked that don’t know what is going to happen. Those who are still on social rent, without having been accepted either here or in Frei Caneco, don’t know what’s going to happen next.

The feeling that I can say I really do feel, deep inside, is sadness. Because think about it – there really was a way for people to be housed. So they didn’t do that before because they didn’t want to. It’s that feeling of decades. These people around you and everyone gets fucked. It worked out well for me, at the end of the day, but I wish it hadn’t been the nightmare that it was. It was a nightmare. It was a psychological terror which today, you can’t say “Fuck” My house!” You know? It came with a bitter taste of more than anything, humiliation. So it’s like.. you are already fucked in your life, you are in a favela, in an insalubrious place, mice, centipedes, “shit times four”, two women, and this guy comes and does everything which should have been done, but for his interest, you know? I don’t know how many millions this guy has going through his hands.

That’s the saddest thing, to know what could have been done – there are a lot of people still there, suffering like fuck – and it’s not done, because of lack of interest, because of corruption, because of lack of character. It is us who are lazy and don’t demand from them, you know? They do what they want with people’s lives and that’s not fair.

The favela is like that, as if it were a little city in the countryside, isn’t it. Everything is very closed off, everyone knows each other. So when you leave and you’re thrown into another environment, you end up feeling very lost. For young people, it’s ok. But for those in the age group above 50 it is more difficult. There is the issue of displacement too.

Look, the thing I miss the most is really dignity, because when you are ripped out, even if it if from a bin to a golden chair, you aren’t consulted. So your rights are really curtailed. And that in itself is extremely irritating.

I miss my friends, in fact. I miss the place itself, you know. From daybreak to the end of the day, the noise you generally get at the weekends, the funk musicians who go from here to there, the girls in their outrageous clothes and high heels, you know? That favela gang, that friendly environment, the simple life. Everyone is humble and they’re good people. People who suffer a lot, you know. Suffering brings people together.

Reporter: Jessica Mota

Photographer: Jessica Mota

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