I thought this graphic blog post by José Smith Vargas was really interesting. I can’t actually remember now where I heard about it – presumably in the blurb in the back of a printed magazine, but it was a few weeks ago now and my mind basically gets wiped every 3 days or so. I like to see cartoons, BDs, graphic novels, whatever you want to call them, being used to tell stories about people’s lives and environments in creative ways. This one has enough palavras desconhecidas in it that I thought I’d translate it into english for the learns.
A Square in the Centre of the City
Demolitions in the Mouraria to make way for Martim Moniz Plaza, 1946
With the urge toward progress and social cleansing, the Estado Novo [Salazar’s Dictatorship] demolished the lower part of the Mouraria neighbourhood
The urban regeneration of the city was working through the plan to link the airport to Rossio Square via an almost straight line… a continuous link.
One of the oldest neighbourhoods in Europe, and the Bohemian centre of the city of Lisbon was thus broken up, stone by stone.
…Which wasn’t interrupted by widespread confusion and difficulties affecting people’s quality of life in ways that were hard to control*
Simultaneously, the artists and poetic icons of the area were depicted in films and in respectable theatres, thus completing the santisation of urban culture.
4500 people left
The neighbourhood was reduced to an insalubrious hill, an open wound that would never heal.
The plans for the square were repeatedly frustrated for a wide variety* of motives
For more than 50 years, this hole was a cadaverous gap in the architectural continuity of the capital.
The Plaza of Martim Moniz was finally ready in 1997.
Having always been a zone of transition since the 70s, a flow of migration, largely from Africa and Asia established itself in the surrounding area to live and work
“Tell me, Shifat, are you still working for your cousin?”
“Yes, God help me!”
“This place is impossible – it’s all blacks and asians**”
The square began to gain its own character in this context – a multiplication of communities using it and at the same time, becoming part of the landscape.
The local council installed a series of kiosks to try and revive the area but, not having achieved much success, the ended up being withdrawn.
Now that the area was less cluttered, the kids started skating, and playing cricket and football there.
And demonstrations took place there for the rights of immigrants, out of which grew the 1st of May Procession organised by the CGTP***
[Documents for Everyone]
And there were also processions for neighbourhood festivals, the procession of Our Lady of Health and the commemorations of the end of Ramadan
Life breaks out however it can and with whomever wants it. But for the local council, the square was still unfinished business
The neighbourhood of the Mouraria, which was still pretty run down, was an obstacle in the downtown area. With tourism on the rise, it was a no-go area.
“Where are we? I don’t feel good here”
In 2011, another enormous plan was put into action by the council using funds from a European program
“This is also a way to combat povery and social exclusion”
The streets were put in order and the construction companies and real estate agencies got to work.
The Plaza of Martim Moniz was a strategic point, essential for the execution of the plan. The Lisbon Public Works Agency, EPUL, tendered for a concession. NCS, a company linked to the entertainment industry was the only bidder.
“Since I was little I has a dream of a world hand-in-hand”
“I know that it’s a naive idea”
“At the time, I thought of being a volunteer in Africa or Asia but then I discovered this plaza that had been thrown out with the rubbish…”
“…and I understood that my calling was the Fusion Market” ****
The result would be to show the multicultural plaza to a younger audience, well disposed and with more money, attracted by the plan to regenerate the city.
The few kiosks that remain in the square were used as a streetfood zone
“This is like any commercial centre anywhere. You go and get some food and sit down here in the middle”
And at the weekends, there would be an arts and entertainment fair and the drinks would be laid on by NCS
NCS had a concession contract with EPUL until 2022.
“Look! the beanbags are free!”
Despite the brutal growth of tourism in the city, Martin Moniz still hadn’t begun to be used for business.
In 2018, NCS had got behind with the rent to the tune of €150,000 and left the scene. However, its CEO got together with members of some other property development companies and founded Moon Brigade. The new company renewed the contract with the council to install a new shopping centre in shipping containers.
The failed Fusion Marker transformed itself into Martim Moniz Market
The space would have private security and would be sealed off at night
In no time, protest movements arose and other ideas were put forward for the future of the square.
[We don’t want Martim Moniz rented out to private companies]
[Martim Moniz Gardens now!]
A movement was established to plant Martim Moniz Garden with the support of the inhabitants, neighbourhood associations and the parish council.
The owners of the joint venture reacted
“You want a garden? You’re crazy!”
“It’ll be a den of prostitution and drugs!”
“There’s a car park under the plaza. You can’t plan tanything!”
“This area is dangerous. Vandalism everywhere!”
“I have a lot of money invested here. You can’t annul the contract”
“I’m the one who’s bringing true social integration”
The municipal assembly stopped the project and grilled the president of the city council about the controversy
“That isn’t good or bad. It’s shit but it’s better than what was there before.”
“What is this going to become in the end?”
In 2019, 73 years after the first demolitions to make way for Martim Moniz Plaza, the interventions continue…”
* = The word “entulho” can mean an abundance but also seems to mean the rubble from demolition so this seems like it might be a pun…?
** = I think the words he uses are a bit more deprecatory than these simple descriptors but I’m not about to try and find english words with the same weight for fear of over-egging it.
*** = Portugal’s largest trade union federation: Confederação Geral dos Trabalhadores Portugueses
**** = No, I don’t know who that guy is either.