Lisbon, ex-capital of culture in 1994, has a glossy side it proffers to its visitors. However, beyond the city’s outskirts it conceals an inconvenient truth: the decades-long ghettoization of immigrants who came to Portugal from its colonies in the 1970s. Around this time, poor urban planning, large scale migration from the countryside and from the former Portuguese colonies pushed African immigrants into abject conditions which forced these communities to build their homes illegally on the outskirts of Lisbon. In 1993, the wide-scale public intervention program, PER (Programa Especial de Realojamento) was implemented in Portugal. The aim of this program was to demolish and replace the slums with housing estates, but this move only ended up creating places where exclusion, segregation, racism and hierarchization prevailed.
Dentu Zona is a Creole saying which means "In the hood". The aim of this project is to discern, observe and document the the process of gentrification in the Portuguese capital, which highlights a strong link between urban design, housing issues and structural racism in the metropolitan area of Lisbon.
In recent years, Lisbon has been metamorphosed by both gentrification and tourism. These processes have coincided with the fact that certain areas of Lisboan suburbia have become potentially alluring for real estate investors. The growing appetite for speculation has spurred and accelerated the demolition and re-housing processes. Local and national media have thrown shade on these areas, branding them notoriously dangerous places, rife with young, black second-generation Portuguese rebel-rousers. The slums were bulldozed brutally and ruthlessly, often with only a day’s forewarning. This ferocity was seemingly fuelled, legitimized, and justified by the idea that there was an indissoluble link between territory management, ethnicity and criminality.
What is happening in the Lusitanian capital underscores a dangerous connection with, and survival of, the colonial legacy.
Translation: Marco Torriti
All images © Jacopo Papucci