Prestes Maia

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The Prestes Maia, was the largest squatted highrise building on the South American continent. Originally, 468 families, united through the Downtown Roofless Movement (Movimento Sem Teto do Centro or MSTC) of São Paulo,

The building had been closed and left in a rundown condition for years, serving as shelter for rats and cockroaches, as is the case of many buildings in downtown São Paulo. The new residents cleaned out tonnes of rubbish and litter (200 trucks to be exact), organized it, expelled drugs and other criminal bosses, turning it into an exciting and lively human dwelling. It contained a free library, workshops, and hosted autonomous educational, social and other cultural activities. In the last few years of the squat it was a major laboratory of experiments in organizing a real human renewal of downtown São Paulo. People of all ages and upbringings, of all Brazilian states and other nationalities, including artists and students, all worked together to create a new understanding of how the city should and can work. The families comprised more than 1600 previously homeless people, including children, elderly and disabled.

The building was to be returned to its legal owner, who in the previous 15 years had accumulated a debt in municipal taxes of some 5.5 million reais (approx. 2.2 million U.S. dollars / 1.4 million euros), which is close to the amount the...
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