Vila Autódromo had its origin in the 1960s, as a fishermen colony that settled on the banks of the Jacarepaguá Lagoon. In the following decade, the population grew and diversified with the period of construction of major architectural projects in the region, such as The Riocentro Convention & Events Center and the motorsport circuit Autódromo de Jacarepaguá – which inspired the name of the community.
There were also two resettlements at the site, carried out by the Housing Secretariat: one from residents of the Cardoso Fontes favela, when it was evicted, and another from some residents of Cidade de Deus, in a period in which a segment of this community was evicted.
Since the 1980s, the residents’ efforts to consolidate the community could be clearly seen. In 1987, the Vila Autódromo residents and fishermen association (AMPVA) was formed. There were also attempts to regularize electricity, water, garbage collection and telephone services. This collective work has become a hallmark of Vila Autódromo and has proved to be fundamental to the resistance of residents over the years.
The 1990’s were marked by an increase in eviction attempts against the Vila Autódromo community. However, on the other hand, important achievements were made during this period which ensured its permanence in a legal manner.
In 1992, the State Government of Rio de Janeiro, under the mandate of Leonel Brizola, initiated a socio-economic registration through the then-Extraordinary Secretariat for Land Affairs and Human Settlements (SEAF), which initiated the process of land regularization of the Vila Autódromo community.
In the following year, though, the City Hall, under the administration of the then-mayor Cesar Maia, filed a Public Civil Action (ACP) for the eviction of Vila Autódromo, alleging urban, aesthetic and environmental damage. The political group of Cesar Maia and Eduardo Paes – who at that time held the position of sub-mayor of Barra da Tijuca – continued the political pressure in favor of the eviction of Vila Autódromo over the years.
The community, nevertheless, managed to resist. In 1994, an important achievement was obtained: through a social program called “Meu pé de chão” (My piece of land), the State of Rio de Janeiro granted 85 titles of real land-use concession, for a period of 30 years, subsequently extended to 99 years and renewable for another 99 years. Between 1997 and 1998, the State – then under the government of Marcello Alencar – granted 162 more terms ensuring the residents’ staying.
In the 2000’s, the mega-sporting events agenda changed the urban policy of Rio de Janeiro, affecting not only Vila Autódromo but countless other communities.
In 2002, the city of Rio was chosen to host the 2007 Pan American Games. And in the planning phase, the racetrack area was chosen to accommodate a sports complex that gave way to the Velodrome, The Maria Lenk Water Park and The HSBC Arena multipurpose stadium.
Such a project represented a new risk of eviction. During this period, there was also an acceleration of the urban expansion process on the north of Barra da Tijuca, around Abelardo Bueno Avenue, Salvador Allende and Ayrton Senna Avenues – which increased real estate speculation. Despite all that, Vila Autódromo continued to resist and, in 2005, it became an Area of Special Social Interest under the Complementary Law 74.
But with the broad support of private capital and the mainstream media, a new threat of eviction came when, in 2009, the city of Rio de Janeiro was chosen to host the 2016 Olympic Games. The eviction of low-income communities was a hallmark of the then-Mayor, Eduardo Paes’ administration (2009 – 2016). In the Strategic Plan announced in January 2010, Vila Autódromo was among the 119 communities that would be resettled by the City Hall decision. By 2015, it was estimated that more than 20 thousand families had been evicted due to the 2014 World Cup and the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. In Vila Autódromo alone, more than 500 families have been evicted under the justification of the construction of the Olympic Park, the Media Center and the urban mobility reforms.
In its resistance, Vila Autódromo had an enormous capacity to articulate with the academic environment, the Public Defender’s Office and the press, especially the international and alternative ones. The community also made important use of social media as in the #UrbanizaJá (Urbanize it now) campaign, actively participated in protests and held cultural events that gave even more visibility to the cause.
One of the main instruments of resistance was the Vila Autódromo Popular Plan (PPVA), made with the assistance of NEPLAC / ETTERN / IPPUR (Experimental Center for Conflict Planning at the State, Labor, Territory and Nature Laboratory of the Urban and Regional Research and Planning Institute of UFRJ University) and NEPHU-UFF (Center for Studies and Housing and Urban Projects at Universidade Federal Fluminense, UFF). In December 2013, PPVA was the winner of the Urban Age Award, promoted by the Deutsche Bank. Until 2016, the Plan underwent updates according to the new community reconfigurations.
In 2016, after several constraint situations a few months before the Rio Olympics event, Mayor Eduardo Paes announced the urbanization of the area through the construction of 20 new houses and the demolition of the remaining ones. Although the new constructions represent only 3% of what was once Vila Autódromo, it is essential to ratify the importance of this achievement, given that this community managed to remain in its territory in the face of repeated eviction attempts – especially after a mega-event like the 2016 Olympics.