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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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The Struggle for land: Dispossession, journeys, occupation, eviction


Lyrics: ZĂ© Pinto
(Translated by Bernard McGuirk)


Laments and dreams (1)

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One day we left Minas (2)
Heading north
We went to try our luck elsewhere
My father, mother, brothers, sisters,
All they had there
Was the dream of planting a little patch

Mamma, lamenting, left behind
Month of 'May, her rosary to say,
Coronation, feast, and auction
Another plot to dig from scratch
Father from afar now searched the slopes
For the coffee plants he'd once seen thrive
Now pining for his soil from the back of a truck(3)
For in this land he'd never more have such luck

Only the kids weren't complaining
'Cos for children only fun's at stake
Only my eldest brother lamenting
That his pet canary he couldn't take
And so the cage door he opened
For the little bird to fly through
But as it always used to do
First it swooped then back it flew
How sad, how sad, how sad

Farewell singing canary
Farewell ring o'roses
If only our dream of land
Won't have to wait for another era
Let it happen now

It was carrying our cacai(4)
That we lost our "uai"(5)
It was only after so much fighting
That we reaped our ears of corn
Today there's even singing
For the feast of the month of Mary
But we've never forgotten
Our Minas Gerais

1 Editor's note: The song describes a family of migrants leaving the state of Minas Gerais, heading toward the Amazon region. Traditionally, the term retirante (migrant) is used in the context of those people from the northeast who leave the sertão for the coast or the south, especially São Paulo, because of the prolonged droughts. In the song, retirante thus points to new waves of internal migration resulting not from climactic conditions but from the problem of landlessness. The regionalisms of the state of Minas, notably the uai, begin to mix with those of the north, like cacai The author attempts to record the speech of rural people in Brazil.

2 Editor's note: Minas [Gerais] is a central state in Brazil, whose predominant economic activities are farming, stockraising, and mining. The mineiros (lit. miners), or people from Minas, are considered attached to their cultural traditions and loyal in their affective relationships and friendships. The state's colonial past has left strong influences of religion in the culture, as can be seen in the song.

3 Editor's note: Back of a truck: The term used in Portuguese is "pau-de-arara", literally a stick for macaws to perch on. The term metaphorically describes the trucks used for the transportation mostly of the retirantes/migrants from the North-East. The truck has got rustic and very uncomfortable wooden seats and a canvas covering. The long and inhumane travels on the pau-de-arara from the states of Paraíba or Pernambuco to Rio de Janeiro or São Paulo could last some 20 days. The famous São Cristóvão fair emerged as a meeting point and farewell for those using this means of transportation. The term pau-de-arara is also used in the southern states as a pejorative reference to those who migrated from the North-East. (

4 Editor's note: Cacai: in the north of Brazil, a bundle tied to one's back to carry food into the bush.

5 Editor's note: Uai/why!: regionalism, especially in Minas Gerais, expressing surprise, astonishment, or wonder.

This song is from the CD A chat about us

 to CD


November 2002

Resource ID:


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