Community members of the Zacarias fishing community located in the municipality of Maricá in Rio de Janeiro State and members of the Rio de Janeiro State Legislative Assembly (Alerj) gathered in Zacarias on Saturday June 18 for an Arraial de Resistência. The resistance-themed traditional June party was held in response to the human rights violations related to the upcoming development of a luxury resort in the area. At the event, government representatives officially presented a new report on those violations to the Zacarias community.
The Arraial da Resistência celebrated the Zacarias community’s resistance against real estate developers looking to remove the residents there in order to build a resort. The event consisted of several activities during which people from the community and supporters came together to play soccer in the local field, participate in mandala building workshops, canoe racing, and documentary screenings about Zacarias’ resistance. The day ended with a night of traditional forró and square dance in celebration of the community’s long history and thriving culture.
Zacarias is a traditional fishing community of approximately 150 families that has thrived on the coastal Restinga Reserve located 60km east of downtown Rio de Janeiro for the past 200 years, first appearing on maps in 1790. The people of Zacarias have fought against the threat of eviction for the past 73 years. The most recent violations in the area have been committed by a private real estate company IDB Brasil, a group owned by Spanish firm Cetya.
At the resistance gathering, Neighborhood Association leader Vilson Correa stated: “We are strong. We are resisting.”
The event was also an opportunity for government representatives to officially present the report on human rights violations in Zacarias by real estate developers who received special environmental licensing. The report was compiled by Cecilia Viera de Melo and state government representative Flavio Serafini of Niterói under the State Commission for the Defense of Human Rights and Citizenship, presented on April 30 at Alerj. Serafini spoke at Saturday’s event, saying: “Our mandate does not think that people who have lived for hundreds of years on the same land should be evicted as soon as someone with money wants to expropriate their land.”
The report claims that environmental licensing to develop the area “puts the traditional fishing community in a vulnerable situation of pressure and potential violence.” The intimidation and presence of representatives of IDB Brasil in Zacarias before any environmental licensing was issued fragmented the community and cut off routes for fisherman to access the ocean with boats.
Serafini also stated that Zacarias is not the only traditional fishing community at risk of being removed due to real estate speculation. Earlier this month, a 23-year-old man was killed in his home in Trindade, Paraty in Rio de Janeiro State over a land dispute between developers and the traditional residents who are fighting to stay. Moreover, exceptions and violations of environmental law are widely overlooked in Rio State’s Costa Verde region, with wealthy squatters commonly building houses in protected areas.