"It seems as though the most beautiful view is only for those that can pay for it"
Now living in
The black guy sang a song of revolt in the air
In the Quilombo of Palmares, where he was a refugee
It was the struggle of the conspiracy to break the chains
It was to no avail
And in war there is peace, in peace there is war
All the people on this earth when they can sing, they sing of pain
It’s like this… all this takes away a little bit of the peace of your spirit. For me, it was very difficult. This semester, for example, I’m having a very difficult time. I’m almost locked in the university this semester, because my life is very troubled, it is very difficult to stay afloat. Because it’s funny, but at least with me, it seems like everywhere I go, everything here goes with me. It’s difficult for you to separate it. We have to learn to separate these things. But it’s difficult, because you live through something so intense, that when you go to other places you start remembering the meeting that’s going on, you end up remembering what’s going to happen. You know? It’s quite crazy. I’ve never been through anything similar. So that’s what it’s like… everything is very new and very intense.
My name is Nathalia Silva, and I’ve been a resident of Vila Autodromo for more than 20 years. At the moment, I’m a student on an arts course.
[How old are you?]
I’m 29. All my belongs are in the chapel, here in this church, since the house was demolished on 8 March this year. ALERJ nominated 25 people – who I can’t remember well at the moment – and one of these tributes was to my mother, who received this diploma on 8 March. And coincidentally, the house was demolished on that day too. In the morning, the house was knocked down, and at night, my mother, who is already well known because of the struggle of Maria Penha, got this medal at ALERJ. Everything was very contradictory, but it seemed as though this prize came along to soften the blow of that morning, which was also just crazy.
We tried as much as we could, but the time came when we couldn’t do anymore. The judge signed off the demolition with this argument that it was going to be for public purposes, only this is a designated area for social purposes. We have a law from 74 which says: “This area is designated for social purposes, for housing purposes.” So it’s very contradictory all this, isn’t it? You’re in an area which, in principle, is for social purposes, and then suddenly it is appropriated by City Hall who say it is needed for public purposes. So everything is very contradictory, very crazy.
With the arrival of the mega events, such as the World Cup, the Pan American games, the threats intensified. And with the arrival of the Olympics in 2016 the threats intensified even more, and they got the funding for this eviction. So from the beginning of 2013, it became clear that this eviction process was going to happen. But the threat was always there.
The evictions started in March 2014. As we knew that at some moment it was going to happen, because of everything that had been going on, with the justice system, etc… I personally prepared myself a lot psychologically for this. You can prepare, but you don’t know how you’re going to react when the time comes. But I tried to prepare myself as much as I could. The first things I went to get were my documents. It was my biggest concern, taking my documents out of there. Because at the time when you’re hurrying, when everything is going on, it’s very difficult to remember the important things. For me, the most important things were the documents.
It is difficult and I prepared myself to see it through until the end. I saw my house being built, I helped to build my house, it took years to get built. In fact, when we came to live here I was only seven years old. I dug earth, I carried bricks, I mixed cement paste… I can remember all these things. My father worked a lot, my mother worked a lot. My mother was a cleaner, and always got that salary counted for expenses, to build. My father was always underemployed too, so it was always really difficult. Our house was built through a lot of sweat, a lot of difficulty. Saving here, saving there.
I think I managed, somehow, to be strong at that moment. On the day itself, I held it in well. I watched it all, but I didn’t cry when they demolished it.
On the 13th or 14th of April this year, we signed an agreement. In this agreement, City Hall said they were going to tidy up the community, with the amount of families that were still here and wanted to stay. For us it was a very important step, because it was our struggle up til now, wasn’t it? The struggle to stay.
It can’t just be putting down asphalt. All we see is asphalt! It seems like their major concern is putting down asphalt, asphalt. You won’t see a tree, you won’t see a single shadow. You walk.. you know? Your brain boils, your feet burn. The heat is unbearable, because there are no trees!
In the community we had a lot of this. At the entrance to the community, alongside the wall of the old autodrome, all there were were trees. We had trees which were hundreds of years old, that were here a long time before we arrived. The entrance… that’s what I miss here the most. It was a house on one side, trees on the other. This is what I miss a lot, nature itself. I had a very beautiful view. When I looked out at the lake, it calmed me. Look over at the lake, feel the wind, feel the breeze. From the terrace that I had, this was very strong, very intense. This vision was what gave me comfort. It seems as though that view is only for those that can pay for it now, you know?
There’s a resident here who every year, on 12 October, used to throw a children’s party. It was a whole day of events. There were toys for the children, attractions, theatre. There was a ping-pong tournament, a football tournament with medals, prizes… the children used to wait for it. The 12th was a very happy day, this community life. I think with the evictions, communtiies are losing a lot. Everyone stays in their space, in their little life. You don’t have this life together anymore, in unity.
What kind of city are we leaving for future generations? I’m even afraid that one day we’ll have to pay to go to the beach. If they could put in a turnstile they would, to stop poor people from going to the beach. Because one of the joys of the poor is going to the beach, isn’t it.
Reporter: Jessica Mota
Photographer: Jessica Mota
What song reminds you of your old house?