RIO DE JANEIRO -- It didnt take Inalva Mendes Brito long to react when she got the word at a meeting in a cramped government office in Rio de Janeiro that the home and neighborhood shes occupied for 30 years would have to come down to make room for the 2016 Summer Olympics.
No to Injustice, Yes to Vila Autodromo, declared a sign she unfurled with her husband.
Brito, a 65-year-old schoolteacher, is among thousands of residents of Vila Autodromo and other neighborhoods who are being asked to sacrifice their homes to accommodate Olympic facilities and infrastructure for the 2016 Games.
Widely regarded in Rio and throughout Brazil as an opportunity for this booming country to assert itself on the world stage, the Olympics will carry a cost that will be measured not only in money but also in the uprooting of decades-old communities of homes lost and family and friends scattered.
The land doesnt belong to just a few people, Brito said. Land belongs to everyone, especially those of us who are working and built on this area and who stayed in the city and took care of this land. And now we are going to pay the cost of the Olympic Games? The cost of this should not be our houses.
That cost might be particularly hard on Vila Autodromo, known in Rio as a favela, or shantytown. Favelas are infamous in Rio and beyond for their poverty, drug gangs, violence and slums. But not all favelas fit the stereotype.
Occupying a choice site on a lagoon, Vila Autodromo is home to about 4,000 people many of them employed, many small-business people, many who live in modest homes with small gardens that wouldnt be out of place in one of Rios middle-class neighborhoods. What makes it a favela is the fact that it isnt served by public utilities and was founded by squatters.
On a recent visit, little girls played on chalk-drawn hopscotch courts while teenage boys congregated on porches. Televisions and computer monitors, albeit clunky and outdated, were seen in many homes, and refrigerators were stocked with homegrown produce and self-caught fish.
Life here is very calm, said Wanessa Christine Quintiano, whos 17. Its a very nice place to live. There are no fights.
For almost two decades now, the fate of the residents of Vila Autodromo has been uncertain. In 1992, they were told they needed to move because their homes were an environmental risk. The city then expressed interest in taking over the area for the Pan American Games in 2007, hoping to show the world what it could do if given the opportunity to host the Olympics.
By mobilizing and enlisting the support of campaigning groups, the residents of Vila Autodromo were able to foil these attempts to evict them. When Brazil was awarded the 2016 Olympic Games, many residents were conflicted.
I was happy in a way because I knew with the World Cup also coming in, it would give me a lot more work because I am in construction, said Antonio Carlos, 37, who makes doors, windows, shower stalls and mirrors at his workshop in Vila Autodromo. But I also think they are going to do everything they can to take us out of here.
Brito maintains that the city keeps changing its story as to why they need to move now. Originally, they were told that their land had been designated as an Olympic news media center. Then they were told it was to be part of the security perimeter. Most recently, they were told that their neighborhood is blocking the path of a new highway meant to accommodate visitors.