I met the students of Rápo-Táxo last year shortly after I'd moved to Portugal. They are members of a university social group, called a república, comprised of both men and women, living together in a house, helping each other and the community. They throw all-inclusive parties, participate in services to the community and school, and maintain and renovate their home, all while attending classes, taking tests and doing homework. They are some of the most active and motivated people I've ever met. Recently I had the opportunity to photograph them as they remodeled their kitchen: painting, ripping out and replacing the ceiling, cleaning up the yard, and drawing up plans for the design of the new kitchen.
As far as I could gather, the members have paid for all or most of the cost of the renovations out of their own pockets. Part of being in a república involves being responsible for the upkeep and maintenance on the building, which has housed generation after generation of members over the decades. Past generations - students who have long since graduated - are still a part of the república and take part in some of the decisions. Each year there is a gathering of all current and past members of a república to make decisions regarding the direction it will take in the future. This year it is likely that the topic of the house of Rápo-Táxo will be discussed in detail, because of recent changes in the law.
I learned that the laws which have kept Coimbra University's Republicas rent-controlled for hundreds of years – allowing students of limited economic means to live there and attend school – have been recently rescinded. Just like so many other sectors of Portuguese life that have been chipped away at during these dire economic times, as Portugal (and other countries) struggle through austerity.
When the law was eliminated, many landlords who owned buildings that had been rented to repúblicas immediately started pushing for rents to be raised astronomically. Since the students can no longer afford the cost of living there, several of the buildings' owners have decided to put them up for sale. Rápo-Táxo is one of these houses. They were crowdsourcing to raise the money needed to purchase their historical building and save the years of culture and art within it and preserve it for future generations. However, when the fund closed, the students remained far from their goal despite their efforts. If they start another crowdfunding endeavor, I will be sure to post a link in my blog.