Olympic Media Apartments Were "Very Likely" Built on a Historic Slave Graveyard

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A new report alleges that an apartment complex set to house journalists during the Olympics was built on a mass slave burial ground using labor conditions classified by Brazilian law as “analogous to slavery.” Rio On Watch reports that the construction of Olympic Media Village 3, located just blocks from the Olympic Park in Rio’s West Zone, has desecrated a historic site and caused significant damage to the land. The allegations come from Quilombo do Camorim, which occupies the land surrounding the new development and has claimed the land of the apartment complex since 2004 . The term quilombo refers to communities established by escaped slaves between the 16th and 19th century and subsequently occupied by their descendents. The Brazilian government recognizes four quilombos in Rio, including Camorim, affording them titles and access to preservation and sustainable development.

Representatives of Camorim claim Media Village 3 was built on top of the burial ground used by their community since its establishment in the 19th century. No archeological excavation of the specific site was conducted, though an archeologist who participated in an excavation of the church adjacent to the complex insists that the community’s claims that it served as a slave cemetery are “highly likely.” The community also criticized the use of slave-like conditions of the construction process, referring to an operation conducted by the Public Ministry of Labor to rescue eleven workers from the deplorable and illegal working conditions. Further grievances include the destruction of over 1,000 trees and diversion of water from the community, resulting in restricted access to water within the community.

These allegations represent the latest entanglement of Mayor Eduardo Paes with questionable Olympics construction projects. The real estate development firm responsible for Media Village 3, Cyrela, donated R$375,000 to Paes’ re-election bid in 2012. Paes was also heavily criticized after his administration gave Cyrela the rights to develop the Olympic golf course and adjacent luxury condominiums in an environmentally protected reserve.

Cyrela told the Guardian that “the acquisition of the property by Cyrela took place in a regular and lawful manner.”