If you’re in the mood for something different in Rio de Janeiro — something “down and dirty” — you may want to check you Vila Mimosa (or VM, as it’s known to most). VM is a small section in the old downtown area (not far from the soccer stadium, Maracanã) that is home to some very seedy and inexpensive brothels. VM is a classic local institution that primarily serves locals. The original Vila Mimosa was demolished in 1966 when the land it sat on was deemed useful by developers. Shortly thereafter a new VM sprung up in its current location. It can get a bit rough, so if you do not look like a local and speak Portuguese, you may not want to wander in here on your own. Go with a group and/or book the services of a guide.
It is said that Eastern European women fleeing World War I, poor and without their husbands, settled in this red light district of Rio de Janeiro. The first location was the area of the Mangue, what is today Avenida Presidente Vargas, in downtown Rio de Janeiro. The Polish, as they were known, commingled with the native over the years, until they disappeared. The Vila Mimosa began to decline when the mayor, Pereira Passos, began his project to modernize the city, at the beginning of the twentieth century. The red light district was moved nearly a dozen times a street, as the city was modernized. The city of Rio needed a new red light district, and ended up moving all street prostitutes to Sotero dos Reis in the Flag Square. Initially written with ‘z’ due to the Portuguese, the prime address for punters on the lookout for street prostitutes was the street Pinto de Azevedo, located in the Mangue district of Statius in Rio de Janeiro. But the site was demolished to build a new administrative center for the mayor. The red light district was transfered to the street Miguel de Frias.
The Vila Mimosa is a group of establishments located in the same space (streets) and linked by the activity of prostitution. Despite having the name of a town, its beginning was in a large shed, with about 2500 square meters, a building constructed in the form of a square, where the front is open and facing the main street (Sotero dos Reis). In the other three lines of the square and in its central part there are prostitution establishments. The passage between the two sides of this square is paved, narrow and covered. The two entrances of the house are identified by yellow and blue awnings placed on the balconies of establishments along the main street. The bars are located at the bottom and the rooms for the realization of the sleazy business are located on the second floor. It appears to be a shopping arcade, in which a store would be side by side, however, it is bars. In this kind of corridor, the sex trade is intense. There are informal vendors who expose their goods on the floor, the window of a business, and others roam the streets.
Rio revamps poor infrastructure surrounding city in anticipation of the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics. The current project proposed by the Brazilian government is a 510 km high-speed train that is proposed to run through Vila Mimosa. The project would link the financial capital of São Paulo with Rio, a $22 billion dollar project was promised in the Olympic bid.
The Vila Mimosa was the birth place of several of Rio’s adult film actresses. The most famous was Natasha Lima, who came to attend one of the episodes of the series Mike in Brazil.
There are just 70 houses in the Vila Mimosa village, each one is at least 10 quarters. Almost all the facilities operate 24 hours. According to the Association of Condominium Residents and Friends of the Vila Mimosa (AMOCAVIM), on the nights of Friday and Saturday there are about 4,500 people (around 3,000 men and 1,500 women) traveling in the complex of Vila Mimosa. For the safety of Rua Sotero dos Reis an internal security staff is paid by the homeowners. Transvestites and male prostitutes are not permitted to work at the site, to preserve the tradition, only women are accepted.
For the Brazilian law, maintaining sex establishments and prostitution are a crime. Therefore, the Vila Mimosa is an illicit business. The houses of prostitution located in front of the warehouse are old houses that were turned into commercial ventures. Each of these bars work with a legal registration of trade.
The route of the original design of the bullet train that will connect Rio de Janeiro to São Paulo, passes through the Vila Mimosa. Residents, small businessmen, and prostitutes of Vila Mimosa and 150 traders from the streets Sotero dos Reis, Ceara, Hilary and Lopes Ribeiro de Souza, where restaurants, shops and businesses generate one thousand direct jobs and move $ 1 million per month, would be displaced with the construction of the railroad. The design of the new Vila Mimosa, already dubbed the “City of Girls” by prostitutes, is divided into two complexes with five modules, a total of 1,825 square meters. There are spaces for theaters, fashion parades, rooms for training courses, day care for 50 children, parking for 70 cars, health centers and offices. It was designed by the architect William Robinson Ripardo, who was inspired by the works of Oscar Niemeyer.
The transfer of Vila was obtained by an indemnity given by the Municipality amounting to approximately 300,000 dollars. However, some say that the money was stolen by the former president of the neighborhood association. Despite the detour, madams and prostitutes were able to raise 100,000 reais and bought the shed in the Flag Square, where they remain today.
VM has its own website, which set records for number of hits in a day in Brasil after it was featured in a newspaper article, but it appears to have lost all its useful content (maps, photos) recently, having been taken over by an NGO that supports prostitutes. VM is located on Sotero dos Reis, near the São Cristovão metro station. Do not plan to walk from the metro station after dark; the surrounding neighborhood is quite dangerous.
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