On Saturday night, June 30, Vila Autódromo residents held their annual arraiá, a traditional June cultural festival. The community played host to around forty attendees from neighborhoods near and far. Throughout the evening, Vila Autódromo’s main street swelled with laughter and chatter as children ran around and adults shared good conversation and fond memories over traditional dishes and barbecued meat.
In between serving piping hot bowls of soup, fixing the sound system, and chatting with incoming attendees, event co-organizer Luiz Claudio Silva stopped to share a word with RioOnWatch. Silva has been a resident of Vila Autódromo for 25 years and continues to live in one of the 20 houses comprising the community today. He explained that the community began hosting the arraiá and many other cultural events in the years leading up to the 2016 Olympics as Vila Autódromo was being targeted for eviction by the City.
For Silva, Vila Autodromo’s arraiá is a testament to its enduring community spirit. He noted, “We were able to hold many cultural events even in a period of great difficulty. So why not continue today? If we held this festival through a difficult time, we should also hold it in the good times.”
For multiple-time attendee Pedro Victor Freire do Santos, the festival is a commemoration of Vila Autódromo’s resistance efforts. He noted that real estate values in the area were rising rapidly around the time of the Olympic preparations. As a consequence, property developers were eyeing even deeply rooted communities like Vila Autódromo and envisioning the conversion of the land for luxury apartment complexes. Santos explained, “The permanence of this community serves to remind us of the victories of resistance.”
Santos also believes that the cultural festivities held by Vila Autódromo contribute to broader efforts to reclaim the people’s right to the city. He reflected, “Vila Autódromo’s parties and cultural events not only display their resistance efforts, but these events have also created space for people to meet, sit together, and have fun. Therefore, these spaces serve to help us reflect on and build a different society.”
Late in the evening, attendees of all ages, some dressed in straw hats, plaid shirts, dresses, and frilly skirts, lined up neatly to participate in the quadrilha, or traditional square dance. Joining hands and dancing side by side, community members and visitors danced the night away, basking in joy and camaraderie.