What influence does a neighborhood party have on the sense of autonomy of a community?
When we make a party in the streets of our neighborhood, we spend more time in it, we clean it, improve it and decorate it. We look at the space from a different perspective, notice things we didn’t notice before, learn new things. We are more available to interact with our neighbors, we meet new people, get to know each other better.
We take ownership and make decisions. The streets become ours.
As part of the discovery of this neighborhood’s history we set out to find about any local celebrations and learned about a bygone festivity that happened during the 90’s and early 2000’s.
The “Dia da Abóbora” (Day of the Pumpkin) party has a peculiar story. It starts with a bored group of children looking for a bit of fun and deciding to go pick some sweet corn, though the season was too early and the only thing they found was a pumpkin. Feeling not discouraged they put together the little money they had, got some candy to share between themselves, a bright yellow cardboard where they crafted a poster, and for decoration they lifted up the pumpkin on the water tower standing over the square. The rest of the day was filled with games, general silliness, and sugar. The parents and neighbors, moved by the kids' initiative joined in and in the next few years the party grew into a full blown street party with concerts, dancing, food, sports competitions and anything that people wanted and were willing to make happen.
We’re not sure why it didn’t continue, maybe it went in the same direction of other celebrations like this, slowly losing its novelty and with the instigators coming of age and moving away for studying or work.
The ending of this celebration coincides with the ending of the community sense of this neighborhood. The last generations that spent time outside, living the streets. When our homes with all its comforts and the access to digital entertainment started replacing our will to be outside. And with this change the streets became this austere space made to accommodate the coming and going of people and the storing of cars. And no place to be.
This project - RUA+ - started because we want to change this.
We want a safer place for spending time outside, playing, meeting, being. A healthier neighborhood, with clean streets, plenty of green and conditions for social activities. We understand the problems the city has and the capacity of the municipality to turn this around and we believe that everyone has a responsibility in making the public spaces - our spaces - into better places. So our aim is to promote the autonomy of the inhabitants in improving their streets, by creating the capacity for initiative, organization, and implementation.
A new context where we have an active participation in the shaping of the places we inhabit with a renewed sense of responsibility, ownership and a good spoon of optimism.
A neighborhood party, especially one made by those who come, is in many ways a great narrative to encourage this participation. More than just entertainment, it is an exercise in awareness, involvement, agency.