Tayane Helena Alves Mendes

"They were tearing down businesses because they didn't give monetary compensation to businesses."


Coming from
Notre Dame Notre Dame

Now living in
Favelinha Notre Dame Favelinha Notre Dame

Tayane Helena Alves: We had a bar that was really nice. It was the only little bar on Avenida das Americas where people would stop and have a beer. Lorry drivers would stop, and I made lunch, everything! Our house had bedrooms, a balcony at the front, behind, on all sides. There was a chicken shed, and a garage with space for four cars. There was a laundry room, an office…

I’m 25, I was born there. I moved there 20 years ago. My mother lived there for 30 years.

Tayane Maria Alves: Someone from City Hall arrived, and three days later, at the most, they came back with a document ordering us to leave.

Tayane Helena: They had already knocked us down twice, hadn’t they? The first time, they were just knocking the bars down. Anyone who had a business, they would knock it down, because they didn’t have to give compensation for businesses. So they knocked down the businesses of those that had had them for more than six years.

Tayane Maria: “You’ve got a family here, there’s no way to compensate you.” And I said: “I sustain my family here, how am I going to support them?” They said they couldn’t do anything about it, went there and knocked it down. That was how I ended up without a job or anything to give my children.

Tayane Helena: So after that… I was already 61.

Tayane Maria: You were 65.

Tayane Helena: He built it himself, with his own sweat. The bar and the barbecue that he himself built, they were all on the floor. So afterwards, the second time, my father had died one year before, in 2009. One week before he died, my mother had to put on some music, and do a big fuck off barbecue to raise some money. A lot of people thought we were celebrating, but it was the opposite: we were raising money to be able to pay the costs of the funeral, the loans that we had to take out. We managed to get it together, to get back on top.

Just that one year later, they took it. My mother had a bar out the front, which she had rebuilt, she built out of canvas, because this guy said she could build it, so long as it was just out of canvas and board, while they decided if the road was going to go through it. There was the expectation that the rock wasn’t going to be strong enough for the tunnel to go through it there, and if so there would be a diversion through the Maui. Just that it ended up that that didn’t happen, and they did what they did.

After the people arrived – which I couldn’t believe – cars started to arrive, car after car, and then our house arrived, they had already knocked everything down at the front. I said: “Mum! What now? They are not going to take us out of here!” It was a cry of desperation. And so I thought: “What am I going to do? They can’t put their hands on me. I am going to lie under the house – they can’t touch me there. That way, we can take out our clothes, at least, our documents, something that we can build from afterwards.”

Tayane Maria: I lost everything. I ended up with nothing. What came here was just this.

Tayane Helena: Just this table. So in the end, it was a friend who put us up, my godmother, she put us up in her basement. When you’re living in someone else’s house, it’s great for the first few days. Just that after that goes by, my mother and I said, you can’t open the fridge without asking, you can’t use the bathroom without asking. Even though it was my godmother, and she always let us take anything we wanted. My mother helped too with the little bit of money she had saved. So they offered us a Minha Casa, Minha Vida [government housing] place, and we went to have a look. It was very far away. After a month, they started taking people there.

Tayane Maria: It was 28,000 reals.

Tayane Helena: We managed, with a lot of effort, to get this land that my father had left for us, after 16 days.

I had never eaten if it wasn’t at a table. I had never eaten a long way away from my family. So you start to value these things. We couldn’t bring things like tables here because there wasn’t much space. You end up eating on the floor. I didn’t know how, but I had to learn. We didn’t have electricity here. We had to go and find some water to drink. Unfortunately, we didn’t get what was ours or what was fair, so we came to live here.

We are fighting to regularise this here, to be able to show to the courts, to the government, to everyone, that we might be poor, but we want to regularise our things.

Reporter: Lara Norgaard, Matheus Wenna

Photographer: Lara Norgaard

My journey

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