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The Sights and Voices of Dispossession: The Fight for the Land and the Emerging Culture of the MST (The Movement of the Landless Rural Workers of Brazil)


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Emerging culture by categories -> Settlements: Agro-Villas 5 resources (Cultural categories devised by & © Else R P Vieira)

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Settlements: Cooperatives and production


MST, São Paulo
(Editor of the archive: Else R P Vieira. Translator: Bernard McGuirk. Reproduced with the permission of the MST, São Paulo.)


The Future of the Land


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1. "The political pressure strategy of the MST is to bring together families of country workers in encampments at the side of the roads.
In the case of the inhabitants of the 30 of May Settlement it was no different. Living in bad conditions and accompanied by their small children, these families spent about three years camped at the side of various roads and more than two years in the settlement itself, before building their houses.
It was a difficult period which remains alive in the memory of all."

2. "I have no good memories about the camp. It reminds me of the hunger that I suffered, and illness.
But I find that it was worthwhile because today we are still here. We have land, we are studying,we can think about the future. I think that if we needed to go to another encampment, I think that I would do so again to achieve what my mother and father have achieved.
This is the patio of the State School of Itapuí, state of Rio Grande do Sul, where, at the pupils’ own initiative, memories of the camps are kept alive.
This school is different from the others because it is a settlement school. Thus, people make every month of October an encampment in the fields of our school as a symbol of this settlement.

On receiving their plots the landless families have thus got land for planting but that was not the end of their difficult times."

3. "Charqueadas, state of Rio Grande do Sul.
This is the 30 of May Settlement.
This area of 850 hectares was destined to be a Rural Penal Colony but, in 1990, 49 landless families were settled there.
These families confronted the initial difficulties by forming a cooperative of production.
They did not mark out the various plots. Instead, they turned to working the land as a collective. After the first two years living in huts, without water, without light, today they can be proud of the exceptional living conditions that they have achieved, as evidenced when we look at the children of the settlement. The older ones study until the end of secondary school; the younger ones can play freely."

4. "Everyday those responsible for the workgroups meet to plan the following day, coordinated by the General Secretariat. There is one group for the vegetable garden, one for the pigs, one for milking and so on.
After breakfast, each group heads for its own area in order to carry out the day's tasks."

5. "Every year the families settled in Charqueadas produce 255 thousand litres of milk, 530 tons of rice, 120 tons of corn, apart from vegetables, eggs and honey. On average, the settlement is responsible for almost all the agricultural and livestock production of the municipality. Today, in view of the demand, those settled there are building their own market where they will sell directly the products of the settlement."

6. "According to INCRA, 4,870,000, hectares have already been distributed amongst 159,770 families of landless rural workers. There are still 530 million hectares of land which can be disappropriated for Agrarian Reform. The successful experiences of Charqueadas and Itapuí show what men and women are capable of when they have the opportunity to work the land, produce food and take care of the future with their own hands. For the children of these families, the times of deprivation are in the past."

The Future of the Land
This film shows the system of social organization and work of the settlements of Agrarian Reform, more specifically the Settlements of Charqueadas and Itapui, in the state of Rio Grande do Sul.
In a flashback of montage taken from the works of the internationally renowned photographer Sebastiao Salgado, dramatic photos, in black and white, unveil the nightmare daily existence of the Landless in their encampments, built at the side of the road as a strategy of political pressure. The old photographs capture unvanishing memories, as in the statement of a child about its experience of hunger and illness. The bonfire kindled every year in the month of October in a school commemorates the encampment as a symbol of the struggle for the land.
Already in the settlements, some of the difficulties remain in those initial period when the Landless had just been given the land but had not yet built their dwellings. The collective organization of production and work, the construction of schools result in relatively exceptional qualities of life and a significant agricultural and livestock production. New stages include the establishing of channels of communication with towns and cities close to the camp, aimed also at the distribution of production.
After showing various components of life in the settlements, followed by a series of statements containing personal impressions and life stories, mainly on the part of children, the film ends with statistics on the land still liable to be disappropriated so that the benefits of Agrarian Reform and of the settlements might be shared by many citizens, as in the successful example of Charqueadas and Itapui.
The film was produced on the basis of research done by Sinara Sandri, in 1987, in Porto Alegre, state of Rio Grande do Sul, directed by Werner Schunemann, with the support of various bodies and trade unions, such as that of the Engineers, and of CUT (Central Unica dos Trabalhadores).

Films : Films


November 2002

Resource ID:


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Landless Voices hosted by the
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Project Director & Academic Editor: Else R P Vieira
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Web Site created: January 2003
Last updated: July 5th 2016