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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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Studies, statements & references -> Terra: The Photography of Sebastião Salgado 16 resources (Archive edited by Else R P Vieira. Photographs © Sebastião Salgado)

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Sebastião Salgado


Rural migration to the big cities

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Lyrics - Retirantes' procession

Rural migration to the big cities

The sertão is no longer able to hold its inhabitants. Its agricultural structure, rigid and feudal, excludes on principle the possibility of the sertanejo (man of the sertão) having at his disposal even the smallest parcel of land for subsistence farming. In turn, deforestation of the area continues to spread, aggravating the phenomena of drought and desertification in the northeast. The inhabitants abandon the countryside, seeking survival in the large cities and heightening the problem of the rural exodus. For example, Fortaleza, the capital of Ceará, saw its population quadruple in only a few years, transforming it into one of the great shantytown cities of the Americas. Ceará, 1983.

Salgado, Sebastião. Terra: Struggle of the Landless. Preface by José Saramago. Verses by Chico Buarque. Translated by Clifford Landers. London: Phaidon Press, 1998: 74 (photo), 140 (caption). Thanks to Sebastião Salgado for providing free use of his photographs and captions on this web site. For further information about the photographs and captions contact


November 2002

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