In 2012, Connect2: Brazil parishes sent a petition to the São Paulo local government with 3,000 signatures, supporting families living in the Mauá building who were facing eviction. At that time, the government agreed to suspend the eviction order, and to look into converting the building into social housing. They also agreed to convert a former textile factory, Prestes Maia, in to flats. The process since then has not been smooth, with the 378 families in Prestes Maia facing another eviction order just last year, in September 2015.
Finally, a month later, following 15 years of campaigning and advocacy by homeless families and our partner, APOIO, the local government of Sao Paulo signed over more than £4 million for the compulsory purchase of the Prestes Maia building. This abandoned building in the centre of Sao Paulo hosts the second largest occupation in Latin America. This community has lived through 26 judicial eviction orders, only two of which were successful. The news of the compulsory purchase represents a fantastic victory for APOIO and the 1000 strong community, as the building is now planned to be converted into social housing.
Throughout many years of this struggle, CAFOD and Connect2: Brazil parishes have been supporting the community in Prestes Maia. Our APOIO partner, Manoel del Rio, captured the significance of this moment in the following words:
“The compulsory purchase of the Prestes Maia building has been an extraordinary event. It is a symbol of the people’s struggle for 20 years for the right to housing in the centre of the city. There has been widespread celebration. Many thank God, others thank those people who joined the struggle in recent times. However, to really learn from this experience, we must look at the forces and people at the heart of this struggle for the last 15 years. The human effort and steps taken that have led to this significant moment: the compulsory purchase of what is perhaps the greatest symbol of real estate speculation in the city of São Paulo.”
“The Prestes Maia building met many of the needs of the homeless families. As a large building it enabled hundreds of families to unite, creating social strength. Additionally, this building abandoned for nearly 20 years, polluting the city, while generating no tax, did not have the correct legal papers. All of this was documented and handed over to the Courts, helping to bring about this victory.”
Manoel del Rio concludes: “This victory is the result of vigorous human social effort. Scores of leaders have put their energies into this process. This history must be told for the good of the social struggle.”