Reporter: Giulia Afiune e Natalia Viana · Photographer: Giulia Afiune | Edição: Giulia Afiune
"It feels like your heart is being destroyed."
Maria da Conceicao Queiroz da Silva, nanny, 41, ex-resident of Vila Autodromo
I was evicted from Vila Autodromo because of the Olympics. In fact, my dream was actually to have stayed on there, and got one of those houses, because I never would have had to leave. But also, there was so much pressure, there really were some problems. I resisted and resisted, but I ended up giving in and coming to Parque Carioca.
At the beginning, we didn’t believe Vila Autodromo really would be removed, because several mayors had already tried to remove it. This story has already gone on for 40 years, the struggle in Vila Autodromo. It was the Olympics actually, they came at us hard to really take it out. The first thing they offered us was the apartments. They made the first condominium here to remove all the families from Vila Autodromo and put them in Parque Carioca. City Hall came and called everyone from Vila Autodromo to see the project they were trying to do. It was a marvellous project, because when you the model, something which looks well done, you think you are leaving the mud and dust for a better life. I think this was our mistake, to have gone to see this project in Rio Centro with City Hall.
Immediately, more than 100 people went. 100 families came here. And afterwards, no one else wanted to come. So they came at us with the next step, offering compensation. Ah, you don’t want to go to an apartment because it’s small, so we’re going to offer you compensation. So more or less 50 more people accepted compensation. It stopped, but throughout this Vila Autodromo ended up with fewer people in it every time. After that, City Hall came back again offering compensation and apartments. Another mass of people went too. In the end, only a few people were left, 30 people, and City Hall started to offer more money, pressuring people to leave.
That was when I left, and when they knocked down Penha’s house, and when they decided to reform Vila Autodromo, but they had never given that to us as an option: “ah, if you stay, we are going to urbanise the community.” For sure, if they had said that to us immediately, Vila Autodromo would still be a much bigger community than it is. I lived in Vila Autodromo for 19 years. After I got to know my husband, when I lived in a kitchenette, he said “let’s buy some land” and we bought some land. And we really built out house our way. But we were always afraid, every time we wanted to add a floor above, someone would say “ah, the community is going to have to go.” We didn’t have much money, and to build another floor, we would have to invest. But my house was very nice, a lot of people came to our parties and they adored it there. We had an American kitchen – everything was big. Good lord, my house was very beautiful.
At the side of my house, if you can get there, was the “Ocupy Vila Autodromo” space. We held events there, all alongside my house; I made food for them, people used to use my bathroom.
When I used to get home from work, after being stuck in traffic,for me it was like being in a summer house. There was a lot of fruit trees, you could put a chair outside and chat to the neighbours. You could have a barbecue right outside your door. Every year, we used to get together hold a quadrilha [traditional country dance] party, we used to put that table outside and put sweet potatoes on the fire. It was funny, it was a lot of fun. We used to make cooked corn, canjica, and you would eat what other people brought along, and they would eat what you had brought along. You know, that real family thing.
You would see that someone had made a deal, and straight away they would come to knock down the house. They would even come with a battalion of police who would surround everything. It was a lot of pressure, all those men were armed. Sometimes they would knock down the house next door to you, and there would be a mountain of rubble, like something from another world, It came out in a lot of newspapers, you saw how it was.
We didn’t have water, or electricity. There was a lot of dust, there was a lot of rubble. Sometimes, you would find a snake in there, hidden away. So it became a lot of pressure for those of us that stayed, you know? So a lot of people came here from there, because they felt threatened, because he sent a lot of people from City Hall who came and said a lot of things to you. If you don’t go out in a good way, it will be in a bad way, these kinds of threats, you know? Ah, if you don’t go you won’t get an apartment, you will end up without a house either. In the middle of the street. There was a time when City Hall would call me 19 times a day asking me to turn up there, and I wouldn’t go. I only went there eventually at the last minute, to make a deal, because everyone who went there said they weren’t allowed to go in with a telephone, in case you recorded it when you were threatened in there. People left there and then the following week they would already be there wanting to make a deal. These are just the things I heard, you know? But they didn’t threaten me, because I only went there once.
Very sad, I have to tell you. You have your own land, build your house your way, it is shocking when City Hall turns up with that tractor. For so long, we were building it, then to demolish it is so fast. It is a crazy thing. The tractor comes, knocks it down, and it feels like your heart is being destroyed. It was too much, so sad.
[Did you see your house being demolished?]
Ah, my house, and my neighbours’ houses. Really, I should have stayed there, I loved that place so much. I never liked living in an apartment my whole life, and I’ve ended up in one. You hardly know your neighbours. You come home from work and you’re inside, you make your dinner and go to bed. In Vila Autodromo it wasn’t like that. You would get home, and even if you were tired, before you could get in the door a friend was already there waiting. Hey! And you would go to the little shop or the bakery, I don’t know what. You already had a bit of gossip, or someone would say they had made a cake or a canjica, you know. Before you knew it, it was already 10pm. Here, you just get up and go to the bus stop, and get back here, and where are you going to go? I would have preferred to have stayed in my house by a thousand times. I like plants, I liked taking a guava plant off the tree, or a lime, or banana, tomato, all of this is gone to hold a mega event. It irritates me that for every big event, something which lasts a month or two, they take someone out who is 40 or 50 years old, living there. Everything ends up abandoned and they finish off our money, our taxes.
Even though we left, it was a huge struggle to resist for Vila Autodromo to stay where they were, even if its only 20 houses. It’s still there in our memories, the history. An event as big as that, when you go past you can see how much it’s changed. That viaduct, everything, those little houses will be there, it will turn into a tourist point for the city. Vila Autodromo, the community which beat the Olympics. That’s the way I look at it. I was part of this struggle, but what a struggle it was.
Rua Nelson Piquet, 8, Vila Autódromo
Now living in
Minha Casa Minha Vida Parque Carioca - Estrada dos Bandeirantes, 7276