A journey inside Lisbon’s contradictions, a city with a skyrocketing touristic growth, a journey inside a wild and proud community on the edge of society
Quinta do Cabrinha is a neighbourhood in the first outskirt of Lisbon, Portugal, a social housing project that relocated some of the habitants of Casal Ventoso, an old informal neighbourhood known in the 90s as the “biggest drugs supermarket of Europe”.
Lisbon is a city in a fast spiral of transformation: the shiny historic centre, the “Erasmus hype”, the rising art scene, the corporations’ fiscal paradise, the touristic “hottest” capital of Europe. There was no way all these changes had not a dark side: people that spent their all life on Lisbon’s steep streets are fighting to enlighten the hyper touristification, a gentle term for the devastating gentrification of the city committed by mass tourism, the skyrocketing rents, the subtle evictions, the emptying of the city centre, the endless peripheries.
A very different narrative from the one you see on glossy magazines. Cabrinha is an excellent example of the contradictions deeply-rooted in the city and in the Portuguese society: a modernist colourful housing complex inhabited by a community on the edge of the society.
All the narratives entrenched since the time of Casal Ventoso created an aura of wilderness around the neighbourhood, a collection of stories very difficult to disperse. The modernist architecture of the social housing is a good metaphor of the community: a brutal physical presence externally embellished with bright colours. Quinta do Cabrinha represents a group of people that have always lived on the edge of the Portuguese society, with all the pride and pain associated to that condition: but there, on the limit, on the border, on the margin is where you find unexpected passion, joy and rapture. An overwhelming mix of contradictions and resistance that makes informality so interesting and shifts the notion of public, associated with top down decisions of the ruler, in to the notion of shared.
This work tries to scratch these engraved urban prejudices, meeting the kids that now inhabit Cabrinha without having never saw the reality of Casal Ventoso, but with the same granitic sense of community of their parents and grandparents. It is a first approach, a first conversation with young humans, in the age between kids and boys, that will decide one day what it will be of their roots, their community. It is a conversation I am committed to continue on the long term, through the years, following them in their growth, anxious to discover how they will face with remarkable weight, how their personalities will develop: will they open to the world forgetting Cabrinha? Will they continue their life between these four high buildings or will they ferry the community in a different growth that will not lose its origins and peculiarities?