Helena Lopes

"If it was up to me I would stay in the Centro. Here everything is easier."

Coming from
Avenida Francisco Bicalho, 49, centro Avenida Francisco Bicalho, 49, centro

Now living in
Quilombo da Gamboa Quilombo da Gamboa

My name is Helena Lopes, and I’ve got eight children, you know? We lived in the Quilombo da Gamboa occupation, it was good there. There were no drugs or anything like that, the children could play as much as they liked. I lived there for seven years, I went to live there in 2003. I left because the people from City Hall took people and put them out the back, where they started using drugs, killing each other. When they went to take them out of there, they had to take us out too. They didn’t tell us a lot, they said that we would have to go as the building was falling down. They didn’t do anything with it, it’s all the same as it was before.

A lot of people got given apartments in Santa Cruz. But a lot of those who got apartments sold them, and those who didn’t sell are trying to. There was no way I wanted to go there, everyone knew that. I wouldn’t even think about going to Santa Cruz. They’ve been sending the poor out there, so as not to give anything to the poor here in Centro. I wanted to stay in Centro. Everything is easier, you know, for someone with children. I can trust people here, because I know everyone, I wouldn’t put my children in a place where I didn’t know anyone. There is no supermarket there, nothing nearby, you just have to go there to see. Those that could went to rent a place, if they could afford it. The money they gave us wasn’t enough to pay for anything – 400 reals. I have to support my family, and to pay rent as well… I thought if they were going to take people out of there, mainly those with families, they should give them housing. It’s difficult, for people like me, as I am mother and father to my children. I’m not going to live in a favela with my children.

I was paying rent there, of 300 reals, but the house was falling to pieces. So I came to live here. It’s good here. I like it here, it’s close to my work, I can even get there walking. If they were to give me a house in the Baixada, I wouldn’t go, because I couldn’t get to work on foot. My work is in Catete, you know?

I miss the Quilombo, you know? But what can I do about it? I can’t go back there again. It’s difficult, very difficult.

Reporter: Lara Norgaard

Photographer: Lara Norgaard

My journey

Paint the wall

This wall is for everyone. Upload photos and images about the olympic removals, or write your message on our wall: just select the type of pixo you want on this form.