Cristiane Alves de Paula

"It was as though they had put a muzzle on my mouth."

Coming from
Vila Harmonia Vila Harmonia

Now living in
Condomínio Terni: Estrada dos Caboclos, Campo Grande Condomínio Terni: Estrada dos Caboclos, Campo Grande

Cristiane Alves de Paula, 39, unemployed

When I got home, it was written on my door. A number, and some letters. I said to my ex-husband, “what’s going on?” He said “we’re going to have to leave. The bus rapid transit (BRT) line is coming here.” They gave us a deadline, it was one week. I went to the mayor’s office in Barra, because I wanted to know what was going on. The deputy mayor spoke to me, very clearly. He said, Cristiane, I’m going to be clear with you. There is 4,000 for you. Either you take it, or you go without it, because your house is going to be knocked down. Take it or leave it. If you want it, take it, go into the world with this 4,000. It’s enough for rent for two, three or four months. Or you can go to a house in Campo Grande. I said you are not giving me the right to anything, you are just chucking me over there. Go or go, it was like that. You have to go.

Where we lived, it was a small community. It was “villa” Harmonia, it was small. It had these buildings alongside, and the favela in the middle. Then Recreio started expanding, luxury condominiums. So “let’s take out the favela people, put the BRT there, beautiful.” Everything masked for the Olympics, like putting make-up on it. But that bit where I lived, it was being regulated. We were paying electricity bills, we weren’t those kinds of people – what did he say again? You are invaders. No. If you enter the Justice system, it will take years, he said. So I took it, and went away.

The move came along, with half of the children,  I had a dog which couldn’t come too, they didn’t let me take my little dog. They were breaking our things, throwing them around. It was like having a muzzle over my mouth, as if they were ripping everything apart, in the most tragic, cruel of ways. All I could do was cry, when they came and started breaking everything and taking everything out. I said what are you doing, my mother gave me that, and -bam! – they threw it in the bin. I said my God, what’s this, why don’t they care, we are human beings. It was all very fast. Arriving in Campo Grande was like arriving in a desert. Horrible. Horrible, in every way. There was no supermarket, there was nothing, the supermarkets were built recently. There was nothing here! It was a desert. So we went back to City Hall. So, how is the school going to be? Some of the children went to school nearby, others at the front there. They said you’re going to have to find a way, find a creche, find this, find that. I said but wasn’t it you who took us out, you said there was going to be a school nearby, there would even be this, that… Various unfounded promises, and none of this was real. When we got here, it was a deserted place, this highway was deserted and dark, this school didn’t have vacancies for all the children who came. We had to fight to get a vacancy. My son was seven, I had to put him in a school there at the start [of the community]. I work, I thought, how am I going to get my kids to school in the morning? In the end, the children lost a year of school and had to repeat it. Vitor, Mariana, and Sueli. They all did.

Conclusion: Sueli left school with my son. Before, we had a good life, we worked, we had a good structure. This one did a theatre course in Recreio Shopping [mall]. They used to do their little courses. Here, what is there? We had our life, and then we came here and there was no structure. We can’t sell this house because we don’t even have documents here. There are families all the time getting letters from the bank, saying they have to pay for the house. The debt wasn’t paid by City Hall itself. It was supposed to be Minha Casa, Minha Vida [My House, My Life, government housing scheme], but it’s nothing to do with that. You have to pay, they didn’t pay for it. There are some families here who have got these letters, but thank God I haven’t received one. It wasn’t worth it at all to get this house, which apparently is based on a lie. You know? My house was small, pretty, everything was done my way. We had just built a balcony on it. We had just done works on the house, and had built a stairway. My ex-mother-in-law lived alongside us. We had our little room, our kitchen, our bathroom. It was luxury, it was pure leisure. I woke up in the morning early, we would get that smell of the sea, we woke up like children, and on a day off, it was like, let’s go to the beach? Let’s go. and the children would stay on the beach until 7pm. When the sun went down, it was that light, you know, it was so good. It was really good in every way, that beach near Recreio Shopping, the children used to play, without any danger at all, some would have a beer, others would play dominoes, there would always be a little party, but here there is no way of doing that. There is no leisure here. Even the square here, they destroyed. Just sadness.

Reporter: Mariana Simões, Natalia Viana

Photographer: Mariana Simões

My journey

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