After two busy days in Curitiba it was time to come back to Rio and do some more research in the favelas. We left in the morning to visit Vila Autodromo, a favela in the West Zone. In order to get to Vila Autodromo we had to drive through an area named Barra da Tijuca. Most of Barra’s infrastructure is no older than 30 years old and has been referred to as the “Miami of Rio.” It is an area that doesn’t leave much room for poverty as most of the houses are expensive high-rise apartments. It is also where the majority of the Olympics are to take place. Vila Autodromo is to be the 2016 Olympics’ closest neighbor, and is at the center of a major struggle for survival right now.
When we arrived in Vila Autodromo, the contrast from the rest of Barra and the favela was stark. Vila Autodromo is a smaller favela and on flat land, unlike most favelas in the South Zone. We spent about a few hours in the community being led around by two of the community’s leader’s, Altair and Jane, and meeting with them to talk about the struggles they face. We learned that Vila Autodromo is unique in that they have been fighting hard and mobilizing against evictions. Vila Autodromo is 40 years old but the current eviction threat has been going on for 3 years now, especially with the Olympic Park being built right next to the favela. In fact, when we climbed out of the van upon arrival near the Villa Autodromo neighborhood, we could see how close the construction was to the favela. During our meeting with the community leaders, we discussed the importance of getting out the word about the truth behind the evictions (with a media monopoly hanging over their heads), the importance of fighting for rights and how the community is using technology to organize groups to come together to protect their rights. According to the community’s leaders, there is no legal case to be used against them in regards to forced relocation or eviction, and they are not going anywhere. Walking around the community, I also hope they don’t go anywhere. It’s quiet, peaceful and according to Altair much safer than Copacabana, the wealthy area in which we are staying now. This is the type of favela that if given the opportunity could provide a better and different image than how favelas are now seen by the locals (as unsafe and problematic areas).
Later after the visit to the Villa Autodromo, we went to an “all-you-can-eat” Brazilian steakhouse, called a “Churrascheria,” for dinner. The servers came out with skewers of different types of meat and cut it onto our plates. The meat ranged from steak to beef tongue and even chicken heart. I think it’s fair to say everyone was stuffed by the end of the night!