Sun, Nov 09, 2014 - Page 14 News List

Portugal’s ‘favela’ stakes survival on image-fixing tours

By Brigitte Hagemann  /  AFP, LISBON

Police raids are frequent by night, but Cova da Moura is considered safe to visit — with a local guide — after sunrise and the gangs seem to have reached a tacit decision to leave tourists alone.

One dealer even had an abortive go at a new career as a tour guide — before he was sent to jail for driving without a license.

Judging by the German tourists’ reaction as they clap and cheer to a local rap video shot to denounce police violence, the public relations operation is a success.

For Sabine Oster, a pharmacist from Frankfurt, Germany, the tours “show you the other side of Lisbon, instead of just visiting the same old monuments.”

“Exploring Cova da Moura is more than worthwhile,” she said.

So how bright does the future look for the neighborhood?

Although new waves of immigrants continue flooding Cova da Moura, new construction is banned.

“When a local resident dies, if his children live far away, the town demolishes his home,” Spinola said, gesturing at a patch of newly cleared land. “They want to knock down the neighborhood. It’s a gold mine for developers.”

In the middle of the 2000s the government tried to bring local crime under control, while funding a major literacy campaign, but in 2011, on the verge of bankruptcy, the state pulled out.

“The authorities are no longer doing anything at all for Cova da Moura,” said sociologist Elsa Casimiro, who has studied the close-knit community. “But the area will survive, because there is a great solidarity here.”

This story has been viewed 2437 times.

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.

TOP top