(28 Aug 1995) Portuguese/Nat

The oldest red light district in South America is about to become extinct.

Plans to further expand Rio de Janeiro would mean the demolition of Vila Mimosa, a 200-year-old compound where two and a half thousand prostitutes live and work.

No deadline has been set for the disappearance of Vila Mimosa, but its tenants are determined to protect what they call an important part of Rio’s cultural legacy.

Vila Mimosa is all that’s left of what was once Rio’s oldest prostitution zone known as “Zona do Mangue” (The Red Light District), dating back to two centuries.

The expansion of the city into the area reduced it to what it is today – a closed-in street with 53 houses and 19 bars.

The Vila remained intact until two years ago when the Cidade Nova – or New City – expansion projects were started.

And this time, Vila Mimosa will not be spared.

Should the Vila shut down, the 25-hundred women who are said to work here will have to find other means of survival.

Unofficial reports claim the city government has offered to remunerate the owners of the buildings in the area with a total of 100-thousand reais (approximately 107-thousand US dollars).

But the president of Rio’s Prostitute Association says compensation is not enough for the years of service they’ve given to the area.

SOUNDBITE: (In Portuguese)
“We don’t want compensation. First of all, because compensation does not buy dignity. Compensation does not buy everything we’ve done for Vila Mimosa. Vila Mimosa today, in spite of being isolated, (it) has become a historical part of Rio de Janeiro, well known in all countries around the world.”
SUPER CAPTION: Euridice Coelho Reis, President of Rio de Janeiro’s Prostitutes Association

Brazil’s economic crisis has forced many women into prostitution – their only means of survival.

They roam the streets of Rio de Janeiro and other large cities to earn a living for themselves and for their children.

The prostitutes of Vila Mimosa say they’re afraid they could lose custody of their children if they don’t move out of the complex.

Coelho says they want to find another area of town to move the Vila, instead of shutting it down.

But the area they are looking at is privately owned and costs 600-thousand reais (approximately 650-thousand US dollars) – an amount which they cannot afford.

What will be the fate of Vila Mimosa and its girls is still to be determined, as neither side has provided a final solution to the problem.

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