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Intendente is one of Lisbon's oldest neighbourhoods. The area is strongly gentrified, with a lot of tourists wandering the streets. But behind the new bars and investment banks that have forced longtime residents to the edge of the city exists a very different reality that the government seems determined to hide. In the s, Intendente became famous for its extremely liberal vibe. First came the bars, then the sex workers and finally the crackdown.
On the 8th of August , the newspaper A Capital reported that 1, sex workers between the ages of 16 and 24 had been arrested in Lisbon in the first half of the year alone. The crackdown eased over the following decades, and the number of sex workers in the area started to rise again. In the early s, however, police introduced anti-drugs measures in two of Lisbon's most notorious neighbourhoods: Casal Ventoso and Curraleira. Obviously this didn't stop people in Lisbon from doing drugs, but simply relocated the issue.
That's when the drug scene in Intendente really emerged, flourishing in a community with a liberal core where people were ready and willing to indulge.
Then at the end of , the local council decided to invest in the neighbourhood. That meant more police on the streets, as Lisbon was redesigned for tourists. Rent went up and longterm residents were pushed out of their homes and made to fend for themselves. Intendente was being bought, piece by piece, by luxury hotel chains and investment banks. The new life in Intendente didn't completely replace the old one, it simply pushed it out of sight.
Over the course of a year, I spent time with many of the addicts and sex workers struggling to survive in this alternate reality, to get to know them and better understand the lengths the government goes to pretend they don't exist.