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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 -> History: Marches, defining moments, congresses 48 resources (Cultural categories devised by & © Else R P Vieira)

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Children's compositions


Juliana Santos do Nascimento
(10 years old, third grade, Ouro Verde School, Ouro Verde Settlement, Lagoa Grande, state of Pernambuco.) Reproduced with the permission of the MST São Paulo


The MST Changed My Life
(Little brother had died of malnutrition. Migrating from the dry and poor Northeast was increasingly inevitable. The MST changed the fate of otherwise migrants.)

When I was a little girl and lived in Cariri(1) and was really hungry,
I looked but only saw grass.
I gazed afar and in that vastness saw a great endless drought.
My father spoke to my mother like this: Tereza, this will be our end, the only thing to do is leave Cariri(2).
I could not hear these words without my eyes filling with tears. I knew that I would leave there but never return.
And my nightshade? I loved to play on it. My God, make it rain on this place.
But then I thought of my brother Antoninho, who had died there because he had nothing to eat.
One day our problem was solved. A man arrived in a truck and spoke to daddy. He spoke of the MST, but I wasn’t close by and couldn’t hear.
After the man left, my mom and I asked what he had talked about. My father said: of the MST.
MST! We were surprised, what the heck is that? Daddy explained it to us. Two weeks later we left that place and occupied a farm.
Goodbye Cariri. We endured the tents. We faced sun, rain, the police, we were evicted, we went this way and that.
But one day this changed, we got some land, we began to plant. Such happiness that I no longer remember that other place, much less the nightshade.
Here we have everything, fields, school, day-care centers, health center, and even a park to play in.
But if the reader doubts the strength of the MST
Only by entering the struggle will you see,
Everyone very happy with a reason for living.


1. Town in the very dry backlands of the state of Ceará in the north-east of Brazil.
2. The child refers here to the typical situation of the migrant from the north-east, known as retirantes

Children's compositions : Organized by Else R P Vieira. Translation © Thomas Burns.


November 2002

Resource ID:


Life Projects: The Brazil we want.
The children’s texts included here come from a collection of prize-winning essays of the National Contest for Essays and Drawings organized by the MST Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra [Movement of the Landless Rural Workers], in 1998, when the Movement was fifteen years old. The contest included elementary schools of the encampments and settlements all over Brazil.

The winning essays were published in an anthology titled Desenhando o Brasil [Drawing Brazil], organized by Alípio Freire, Silvana Panzoldo and Emílio Alonso (São Paulo: Editora Lidador, 1999). The data on the authors were obtained from the same anthology. All the essays originally had the general title "The Brazil We Want." The specific sub-titles added were derived from the texts of each author. The texts are here republished with the authorization of the MST of São Paulo.

Else R. P. Vieira. Translated by Thomas L. Burns

See also: The compositions and poems of the little landless: history under revision

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