Rafaela Silva dos Santos

"My house there was humble but I could beat my chest and say that it was mine"

Coming from
Vila autódromo Vila autódromo

Now living in
Minha Casa Minha Vida Parque Carioca - Estrada dos Bandeirantes, 7276 Minha Casa Minha Vida Parque Carioca - Estrada dos Bandeirantes, 7276

I lived in Vila Autodromo since I was born, for 29 years. When I was born, there were just fishermen here, my mother lived in a shack, there wasn’t even any electricity. She used candles. Afterwards, bit by bit they built their home, and then they gave me my piece, that was my house, which was just a piece of land at first. It was my mother, my brother and me, everyone in their own corner, but my mother gave me mine because I had a child young, I had my son at 15, so my mother said now my dear, you’re going to have your little corner. She gave me a bit of land alongside her which I built on.  My mother lived alongside me, and she went because she was told a public road was going through her house – it was the same for my aunt, for my grandmother – practically everyone in my family.

February, 2016

Here was my mother’s house, and behind my house was my brother’s house, next to my mother’s house, because her garden was here, there was a passageway which went there, and you could climb up the steps to my brother’s house. My mother left and got her compensation, my brother left and took an apartment, but I stayed as I didn’t want to leave. I don’t trust the apartments. Because what happens is you go to the apartment, but you don’t have any documents in your hands for the apartment. They said it would take 10 years for the document to arrive in your hands. So what happens – what guarantee do you have, if you go to an apartment, that that apartment is yours? Let’s suppose, City Hall pays for the apartment today, because today, they are paying, but if they lose the election, who is going to pay? Let’s suppose we don’t pay, because City Hall told us this was an exchange, we were in our houses and got an apartment. In an exchange, you don’t have to pay anything, do you? Let’s suppose they don’t pay and we have to pay, and the Caixa Economica [bank] serves an eviction notice on us, and we don’t have anywhere to live. So for me, it was never a guarantee. For this property, no one has any documentation.

[Your mother doesn’t have any paperwork?]

She just has a dossier that she made, which she gave to a lawyer, but it doesn’t count for anything. It is just a document that proves it was all done through the Caixa Economica, involving City Hall and the resident, but it’s not the paperwork that proves everything. That paperwork will only come out in 10 years’ time, according to City Hall. You don’t have any guarantee at all. So I said I’ll only leave my house if you give me money which is enough to buy another house. A decent house for my children, you know? I wouldn’t leave here to to go an apartment which I don’t know if it will be mine tomorrow. Here, at least, it’s mine, and I will fight for as long as I can.

July 2016

If it was down to us, my husband and I, we wouldn’t have left. We would still be there, fighting. What happened was that City Hall lied to people. As I had four children, and a baby, she was only a month old, they said they would send the Civil Defence into my house, and I would get a fine, if I didn’t leave Vila Autodromo. City Hall had its own lawyers, and they said if we didn’t leave, we wouldn’t get anything, so a lot of people did leave. We fought and fought, but the time came that we had to think, either I leave, or I’m sacrificing my children. I could have stayed till the last minute, and they could have taken me out roughly, with municipal guards and everything. But I thought about my children, and decided to make a deal with City Hall. They said we would have the right to go back to Vila Autodromo, but it wasn’t fulfilled. We are still here, our names were on a list for a house, but we aren’t on that list anymore, as far as we can see.

For our deal that we made with City Hall, we saw four apartments, and they agreed to R$33,000 in compensation. But the four apartments, one was in my husband’s name, another was in the name of my mother-in-law, and the two others, we didn’t put in anyone’s name. As I already have a property in my name, I couldn’t put another one in my name. So for now, these aren’t in anyone’s name. I haven’t received any paperwork for these apartments. If the bank wanted to take it back, we would end up in the street, because the compensation of R$33,000 won’t buy a house anywhere.

My house was basic, yes, but I miss it a lot, because it was mine, I could say this is mine, with my hand on my heart. Here in these apartments, we feel a bit insecure. If it’s mine, or not. I miss that unity, because a lot of people in Vila Autodromo helped me. Everything I needed from them, they helped me. I felt safer with my children there in Vila Autodromo. They could walk along the street, you could leave your door open and nothing would happen. Here we don’t have that safety anymore. You have to grab your children where they are. There, they played, climbed the hill, and we weren’t worried about so many things.

For me it was great, and I intend that it will be, because I intend to go back. It’s difficult when you leave a place that you have lived in since you were born, and brought your children up in – even her, we were still living there when she was born – to go to a place that you still haven’t got used to. to an apartment with four children, which isn’t a great place to live in with children, so you have to get used to the new place, you know.

Reporter: Mariana Simões, Lara Norgaard

My journey

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