Horto Continues to Live

Brazil has a serious shortage of housing (about a 12% of the population has none or lives in jeopardized structures). Historically, companies and other entities adopted a policy of providing housing for their employees as a form of incentive in order to be able to attract them to uninhibited areas. Such was the case of Horto in Rio de Janeiro where Emperor Dom Joao IV decreed housing for the employees of his newly constructed gun powder factory in the early 19th century. The factory later moved and the housing was appropriated to the enclosed botanical garden‘s employees.

Those employees are long gone but the houses were passed to their descendants that are currently forging a longtime legal battle against the government, which claims that those houses and land are public property. Added to the drama, in the 200 years since construction, Horto and the Botanical Garden neighborhood became one of the most beautiful and lucrative areas in Rio (with houses appraised in millions) so there are many interests involved in this story. The media also loves getting involved and paint the residents either as reckless invaders of public property or  as poor souls fighting against the evil capitalist apparatus. I don’t know who is right in the cases of legal justice versus social justice but passing through the area, it’s  common to encounter a peaceful demonstration or a colorful mural representing their struggle like the one below.

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