The botanical garden poised to swallow a Brazilian favela | Land Portal

By: Angela Almeida and John Surico

Date: September 6th 2016

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation


RIO DE JANEIRO (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Inside Rio de Janeiro's Horto favela, half-paved roads connect scattered homes, as monkeys comb through the trees above, and water streams through aqueducts, built by slaves centuries before.


Scrawled on the wall to its entrance is a mural of a man, made of leaves, with painted flowers spelling out 'Horto Lives', alongside another phrase that has come to embody the struggle of this storied community: 'Horto Stays'.


On Aug. 10, with the Olympic Games underway, a Brazilian federal court ruled that the tract of land where Horto lies would be transferred over to Rio's Jardim Botânico, the lush botanical garden that sits at the foot of Corcovado Mountain.


For the more than 600 families who live in Horto, the decision meant they would face eviction within 90 days by federal police, reviving a land rights dispute long fought by residents, who argue that the area is rightfully theirs.


In 1808, King João VI invited laborers and slaves to work on the Garden's grounds, and settle on its outskirts. Although a small percentage of the Horto community still works there today, many residents have ties tracing back years.


"All of my family has a story in Jardim Botânico," Jacqueline Alves da Silva, 46, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.


Outside her home, Alves da Silva flipped through old photos of her father, scaling the royal palm trees found at the Garden's entrance. Her father, who worked as a seed collector there, later died after falling from one of the trees, leaving her mother to raise da Silva and her siblings alone.


Alves Da Silva said her family received their first eviction notice nearly 20 years ago, but were eventually allowed to stay. The fight, she added, has yet to end.


"We want to live here, and be able to continue our roots. You can't just come and cut them," she said. "It would be a human deforestation to take us out of here."


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Photo source: Tambako The Jaguar via Flickr/Creative Commons (CC By-NC-ND 2.0). Photo: © Tambako The Jaguar

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